BONN — American industrialist Armand Hammer, who has close personal contacts with the Soviet leaders, said Saturday that the fate of 72 West German missiles remains a major stumbling block to a superpower agreement on medium-range nuclear arms control.
"This is exactly what could torpedo the whole negotiations for an arms control contract and a summit (between President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev)," Hammer said of the missiles.
Both U.S. and West European arms control specialists believe that the 72 aging Pershing 1-A missiles owned by West Germany were effectively removed as a major barrier to an arms control agreement last month when Chancellor Helmut Kohl announced that his government would scrap them after U.S. and Soviet intermediate nuclear forces are dismantled.
After Kohl's statement, the United States--which controls the warheads on the Bonn-owned Pershing 1-As--said it would remove the warheads but has not yet committed itself to destroying them.
Speaking to reporters here, Hammer, 89, whose contacts with Soviet leaders go back to V.I. Lenin, said he believes that Moscow would refuse to sign an arms control agreement with the United States unless Kohl agrees to dismantle the West German missiles at the same time that U.S. and Soviet intermediate missiles are being removed--not afterward.
"It's an emotional issue, not a military one," Hammer said. "I explain it purely on emotional grounds."
The Pershing 1-As, deployed more than two decades ago, would be at the end of their serviceable life in the early 1990s in any event, barring a major overhaul.
Hammer said that he had a 30-minute telephone conversation Saturday with Anatoly F. Dobrynin, chief of the international department of the Soviet Communist Party Central Committee and former Soviet ambassador to Washington. He said Dobrynin told him, "That's exactly what the problem is," in reference to Kohl's Aug. 28 statement that the West German Pershings would go, but only after American and Soviet intermediate nuclear forces are gone.
Hammer also referred to comments by Alexander A. Bessmertnykh, a deputy foreign minister, as reflecting Moscow's concern about timing in the dismantling of the West German missiles.
Hammer said that in discussions with Kohl and West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher, he had proposed that the West Germans agree to an earlier removal of the Pershing 1-As.
Unaware of Soviet Opposition
Arms control specialists in Washington have said that they were unaware of significant Soviet opposition to the proposed timing of the removal of the Pershing 1-As.
Differences remaining with Moscow over these missiles, they believe, centers on a Soviet demand that the U.S. commitment to withdraw the missiles' warheads be written into a superpower arms control treaty.
The United States has resisted the demand on grounds the intermediate nuclear forces treaty under negotiation deals with missiles and launchers, not with warheads, and also that it does not embrace missile systems that are part of cooperative agreements with third countries.