WASHINGTON — Former White House National Security Adviser Zbnignew Brzezinski said Tuesday that the United States should ratify the new treaty on intermediate-range nuclear weapons, then present a sharply focused proposal to limit conventional arms in Europe without waiting for completion of negotiations on another nuclear missile pact.
Specifically, Brzezinski told the Senate Armed Services Committee, the United States should move to eliminate the superiority that the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact countries have in main battle tanks by proposing tank-free areas and other initiatives to "thin out" their tank forces.
Estimates are that the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies have about 52,200 main battle tanks west of the Ural Mountains compared to 22,200 for the forces of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. This disparity is the basis for much of the opposition to the new treaty, which is, nevertheless, expected to be easily ratified.
Brzezinski, who was national security adviser in President Jimmy Carter's Administration, endorsed the intermediate-range nuclear forces treaty Tuesday, but without great enthusiasm.
He said he considers it less than a "historic breakthrough," and he warned that its provisions for on-site inspection of missile facilities would be inadequate for the more ambitious strategic weapons treaty now being negotiated--an agreement aimed at a 50% reduction in deployed strategic warheads.
Reagan Administration officials hope that these strategic arms reduction talks will be completed in time for the President and Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev to sign their second arms control accord at a Moscow summit meeting in late spring.
"I don't think we should wait until a START agreement is completed to set a conventional arms control proposal in motion," Brzezinski told senators, suggesting that an initiative focused on the disparity in tank forces could bring heavy international pressure on the Soviets to reach a reduction agreement.
As much as the reductions in medium-range missiles, the ratification hearings for the INF treaty in the last two weeks have focused on the imbalance of conventional forces and the question of modernizing NATO's battlefield nuclear weapons, which are not covered by the treaty.
Brzezinski and Richard N. Perle, who until last spring was the Defense Department's top nuclear weapons expert, agreed Tuesday that the INF agreement is flawed because it also prohibits super-accurate intermediate-range cruise missiles armed with conventional warheads. Perle, appearing before the Foreign Relations Committee, called the limit "a great tragedy" and "unnecessary."