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Soviet Radar Site No ABM Violation, U.S. Visitors Say

September 09, 1987|JOHN M. BRODER | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — A top-secret radar installation being built in the central Soviet Union does not violate the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty at this time, a congressional delegation said Tuesday after returning from a Soviet trip that included a four-hour visit to the site.

The giant Krasnoyarsk radar facility has been at the heart of a long-running conflict over compliance with the ABM treaty. The Reagan Administration has charged that the facility is a clear violation of the pact's limitations on anti-missile defensive systems.

The Administration contends that the facility, known as a "phased-array radar," is part of a larger system to track incoming missiles and direct anti-missile defenses to destroy them. Deploying such a "battle management" system would be a violation of the ABM treaty.

But the congressmen and their technical advisers found the radar installation to be shoddily built, at least two years from completion and unlikely ever to be usable as part of a missile defense. The Soviets told the group that the radar was simply a system for tracking satellites, the congressmen said.

State Department spokesman Charles Redman played down the significance of the delegation's findings and suggested that the visit may have been no more than a Kremlin propaganda ploy.

"We see no evidence in the information available now which would alter our conclusion that the radar under construction at Krasnoyarsk constitutes a violation of the ABM treaty. It has been our position that this is prohibited by the ABM treaty and that it can be resolved only by dismantlement of the radar," Redman said.

Warns Against Conclusions

"I would caution against reaching any conclusions on the basis of a single visit at a time when the Soviets appear to be seeking to generate maximum positive publicity" before next week's meeting in Washington between Secretary of State George P. Shultz and Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze.

Shultz and Shevardnadze are expected to discuss, among other things, a pending agreement to eliminate both nations' intermediate-range nuclear missiles. The question of on-site verification of treaty compliance is one of the central issues still to be resolved before a new missile pact can be signed.

At a press conference, Rep. Thomas J. Downey (D-N.Y.) called the congressional visit--the first time Westerners have been on the Krasnoyarsk site--an "extraordinary step in confidence-building" by the Soviets. He and others in the delegation urged the Administration to reciprocate by allowing Soviet experts to visit similar U.S. installations and to monitor weapons tests here.

The delegation said that the access to the site allowed by the Soviets indicates that the Kremlin may be willing to negotiate the dismantling of the radar in exchange for U.S. concessions on President Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative, the space-based missile defense system known popularly as "Star Wars," or other strategic programs.

The Administration says it is not willing to trade any U.S. radar or weapons system for the Krasnoyarsk facility because it violates the treaty.

The U.S. delegation, which included three congressmen, four staff members and two outside scientists, was invited to the Soviet Union by the Soviet Academy of Sciences and top Kremlin officials. The trip grew out of contacts between Soviet scientists and the Washington-based Natural Resources Defense Council, an independent environmental and arms-control group.

'A Welcome Step'

Downey said that the trip marked a "dramatically important week for arms control and arms control verification." He said that "a precedent has now been set about verification (of arms control treaties) that cannot be undone."

Despite his note of caution, Redman called the Krasnoyarsk visit "a small but welcome step toward increased openness in Soviet military affairs." But, he added, "these kinds of tours are no substitute for effective verification in an arms control agreement."

The congressional delegation, which included Downey and Democratic Reps. Bob Carr of Michigan and Jim Moody of Wisconsin, was allowed wide but not unlimited access to the two buildings that constitute the Krasnoyarsk site.

They were accompanied by four congressional staff members: Anthony Battista, an electronics expert on the staff of the House Armed Services Committee; Jeffrey Moore, a Soviet expert on Downey's staff; Christopher Paine, an arms control analyst on the staff of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), and Robert Sherman, an arms control adviser to Downey and Carr.

Also on the eight-day trip were Charles Archimbeau, a University of Colorado seismologist and Thomas Cochran, a nuclear physicist and the chief scientist of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

They visited several floors of the radar receiver building and two floors of the transmitter building. They took about 1,000 still photographs and more than two hours of videotape of the installation.

In addition, they brought home samples of the concrete used in building the facility and many photographs showing what they called the "cheap" materials and methods used on the buildings.

"This would be . . . condemned . . . in the United States," Downey said.

The group's report noted that the construction is inconsistent with a radar installation that would be part of an anti-missile facility. It showed no evidence of "hardening" against a nuclear blast with reinforced concrete walls, the report said.

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