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Treaty Fears Groundless, Reagan Says : He Insists Pact Does Not Deprive Europe of Nuclear Protection

December 15, 1987|PAUL HOUSTON | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — President Reagan acknowledged Monday that there are concerns in Western Europe that the new U.S.-Soviet arms control treaty will be damaging to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, but he said such fears will prove to be groundless.

In a speech enthusiastically promoting the treaty as "a remarkable breakthrough," Reagan asserted that the United States still has a strong commitment to NATO defense and that the treaty eliminating ground-launched, medium-range nuclear missiles will not deprive Europe of crucial nuclear protection.

"I know that some in Europe and in the United States--perhaps some in this room--view the treaty with anxiety," the President told an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. But he said he expects the Senate hearings on the treaty to "lay anxieties to rest" and build a consensus for ratification.

In Moscow, Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev, in his first remarks to the nation since returning from Washington, suggested in a televised address that a struggle to scrap the treaty was already under way in the United States and urged the U.S. Senate to ratify the pact quickly.

Pledge on Europe Defense

Reagan, in his speech, pledged to keep large contingents of U.S. troops in Western Europe and to commit long-range U.S. nuclear weapons to the allies' defense as part of the NATO strategy of "flexible response" to Soviet Bloc aggression.

He also vowed to resist "any further reductions in the nuclear forces committed to NATO" until the Soviet superiority in conventional forces and chemical weapons is reduced. He said the imbalances will be addressed by means of NATO buildups and negotiations with the Soviets for reductions.

The President hailed the treaty as "a new departure in East-West relations, an effective, verifiable treaty that will lead not just to arms control but to the first nuclear arms reductions in history."

'Stringent' Verification

Reagan also said that the verification procedure laid out in the treaty is "the most stringent in the history of arms control negotiations, with far-reaching implications" for U.S.-Soviet talks on reducing long-range nuclear weapons.

"For the first time," he said, "the Soviets will permit on-site inspections, including inspections at short notice." He spoke of "our ability to simply think or suspect something and say, 'We're coming over.' " And the Soviets, he said, "can do the same to us--it's a remarkable breakthrough in itself."

He said that deployment of U.S. medium-range missiles in Europe was never intended to be permanent. It was done, he said, in line with a two-track NATO strategy: to offset Soviet deployment of such missiles and to induce the Soviets to bargain for reductions.

Reagan recalled that the strategy sparked sharp protests in Europe.

"I remember speaking in Bonn in 1982," he said. "Across a river, thousands of demonstrators chanted and marched. And I couldn't help thinking: 'What irony!' For it was to secure the peace they sought that NATO decided to deploy the missiles they protested."

In any event, he said, the NATO strategy worked.

Only "when we showed strength, when it became clear that we would not be intimidated . . . did the Soviets finally begin to negotiate in earnest," he said.

Gorbachev, reading a 15-minute prepared statement on the main evening news program Vremya, said that only three days after his return to Moscow, "circles in the United States and other Western countries are already rising to prevent a change for the better."

Support from Americans

"One can hear increasingly louder voices urging the leadership of the United States not to go too far, (to) halt the disarmament process," he said.

But he added: "We felt this very keenly in America--that the American people back the treaty."

Gorbachev said some in the West are demanding that "urgent measures" be taken to make up for the elimination of intermediate and shorter-range missiles by bringing other nuclear forces into Europe or modernizing weapons already there.

"I will frankly say that these are dangerous tendencies and they should not be underestimated," Gorbachev said.

As for his visit to Washington, he asked rhetorically whether there were now basic changes in the relations between the United States and the Soviet Union, and answered:

" . . . Standing on the ground of facts and without exaggeration, it is so far early to speak about a drastic turn in our relations. Nevertheless, I want to point out that the dialogue with the President and other political figures of the United States was different than before--it was more constructive."

Times staff writer William Tuohy, in Moscow, contributed to this article.

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