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Set for Big Conventional Arms Cuts, Soviets Say

December 20, 1987|WILLIAM TUOHY | Times Staff Writer

MOSCOW — The Soviet Union is prepared to make "cardinal reductions" in the conventional weapons of the Warsaw Pact forces, the Communist Party daily Pravda declared Saturday.

In its lead editorial, the party organ said that experiences gained by the Soviet Union and the United States at the Washington summit "should be utilized to the maximum degree on solving the conventional weapons issue."

A reduction in the imbalance of conventional forces in Europe has long been a major policy goal of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The arms disparity in favor of the East Bloc has led some Western experts to insist on keeping nuclear missiles in Europe.

Pravda Comments

Pravda said that Western opponents of disarmament "heavily exploit the difficulties involved in tackling the issue of conventional armaments and armed forces in Europe."

"This is a difficult question indeed," admitted the newspaper, which speaks for the ruling Communist Party. "But the Warsaw Pact member states are prepared to adhere to the ceilings of sufficiency necessary for defense (and) resolve the problem of asymmetries and imbalances on individual types of weapons through reducing the potential of the one who appears to be ahead.

"As for the Soviet Union, it is prepared for cardinal reductions. The ball is now in the NATO countries' court."

Pravda argued that the agreements at the Washington summit, including a treaty abolishing intermediate nuclear forces worldwide, "give mankind a historic chance to start ridding itself of the heavy burden of militarism and war."

"This chance should not be allowed to slip away," the paper said. "The Soviet Union will do everything on its part for this."

The newspaper said that the U.S.-Soviet summit meetings at Geneva, Reykjavik, Iceland, and Washington were the "three main milestones" toward negotiating a nuclear weapons-free world and that the Washington accord "clears the way" toward an agreement on a "real and drastic cutback" of long-range strategic nuclear weapons. The editorial reiterated that the Soviet Union is prepared to reduce its intercontinental nuclear arsenal by 50%.

'Train of Disarmament'

The paper said, however, that "opponents of international cooperation seek new ways and means to stop the train of disarmament."

"Allegations are heard, for instance, that the summit talks have removed disagreements on such an issue as the Strategic Defense Initiative (President Reagan's "Star Wars" program) and, hence, the implementation of this program could be speeded up." Pravda said such views are "dangerous tendencies" that could erode progress toward demilitarization.

At the same time, in the Soviet army newspaper Red Star, Col. Gen. Nikolai F. Chervov, a department head at the armed forces general staff, declared that the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty signed in Washington strengthened Soviet security.

To allay any Soviet fears, Chervov pointed out that while the Soviet Union will be destroying more missiles than the United States, "you should understand figures alone are not so very important."

"What is most important is security," Chervov wrote. "The concluding of the INF treaty did not reduce our security in any way. The treaty . . . combines the interests of the Warsaw Pact allies and the U.S. NATO allies."

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