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Western Europe Could Get More U.S. Missiles, Despite an Arms Pact With Soviets

May 12, 1987|ROBERT C. TOTH | Times Staff Writer

BRUSSELS — Under virtually any medium-range missile agreement negotiated with the Soviet Union, new U.S. nuclear missiles are likely to be stationed in or around Western Europe to compensate for those that are eliminated.

This has been made clear in interviews over the last week with military and diplomatic officials of the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

In fact, a senior U.S. arms control official acknowledged, "It may be necessary to add more nuclear missiles than are removed, depending on the details of the new agreement."

And beyond any new U.S. missiles that are introduced on the Continent, West Germany will want more and better nuclear-capable aircraft able to penetrate Soviet defenses, a senior official of the West German Defense Ministry said.

In Washington, West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher said Monday that no decision has been reached on U.S.-German differences over the removal of medium-range missiles from Europe. Genscher, after meeting with Secretary of State George P. Shultz, told reporters: "We have not decided. We have discussed."

Discussions to Continue

A State Department spokesman said that "consideration of this issue will continue" in the United States and West Germany.

The irony of anticipating demands for new weapons even while negotiating the elimination of present weapons has not been lost on officials here at NATO headquarters. Yet they see as virtually inevitable the need for new weapons to cope with Soviet conventional and nuclear forces that will still be superior after agreement on any of three probable variations of a new Euromissile agreement:

-- If all medium-range (1,000 to 3,000 miles) ballistic missiles are eliminated from Europe, sea-launched cruise missiles on surface ships and improved fighter-bombers are envisaged for possible deep strikes against armies massing in the western Soviet Union as well as in Eastern Europe.

-- If all shorter-range missiles (300 to 1,000 miles) are eliminated, improved nuclear artillery and bombs as well as new battlefield nuclear missiles (up to 300 miles in range) are expected under a 1983 NATO decision that has not been fully implemented.

-- If West Germany persuades NATO and the United States to keep a small number of these shorter-range missiles (thereby rejecting the Soviet offer to eliminate these weapons as well as medium-range missiles from Europe), the United States would probably develop a new missile of this range to strike within Eastern Europe, and would either deploy it or sell it to the West Germans.

1983 Protests

West Germans and other West Europeans may balk at any new deployment of nuclear missiles in their countries, sparking the same kind of protest rallies that occurred in 1983, when the Pershing 2 and ground-launched cruise missiles of medium range began arriving on the Continent to balance the Soviet SS-20 missile, which was deployed beginning in 1977.

But some European and U.S. military officials, citing the success of those deployments in achieving Soviet agreement to eliminate all such missiles from Europe, believe that the people of Western Europe can be persuaded to see the wisdom of modernizing existing nuclear weapons or introducing new weapons in light of the new military situation that will exist after any missile agreement.

West European politicians, particularly in West Germany, are far less certain that a new "education campaign" will work. They are looking for ways to avoid any new nuclear deployments.

But the Reagan Administration has told the NATO governments that if they wish to reject the Soviet offer of zero short-range missiles in favor of some low number of such missiles on both sides, the NATO nations must commit themselves to deploying that number of missiles in the near future, according to officials who attended a recent U.S. presentation to the alliance here.

Pluses and Minuses

As analyzed by NATO, West German and Reagan Administration officials, the various possible arms agreements and their consequences are a complex set of pluses and minuses. The advantages, they said, outweigh but do not overwhelm the disadvantages.

The greatest plus, already agreed to by U.S. and Soviet negotiators, is the elimination of all triple-warhead Soviet SS-20s from Europe and most of them from Asia--1,223 warheads all told--in exchange for the removal of 316 U.S. warheads from Europe.

The Soviets would retain 100 warheads of this type in Asia, and the United States would keep 100 warheads on its territory.

But to compensate for the missiles eliminated from Europe, the United States will have cruise missiles on surface ships off Western Europe, according to a West German defense official. These will be similar to the 400 U.S. warheads on 40 Poseidon missiles in submarines committed to NATO.

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