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Pact to Free Troops, Save $80 Million, Soviet Military Says

February 19, 1988|Associated Press

MOSCOW — The Red Army's chief of staff said today that the superpower missile treaty will free "tens of thousands" of his soldiers from their present duties, and a general said it would save the country more than $80 million.

Marshal Sergei F. Akhromeyev, the military chief of staff, and Maj. Gen. Vladimir I. Medvedev were among top officials called to speak before a special panel of the Supreme Soviet parliament considering ratification of the pact.

The treaty to ban superpower medium- and shorter-range nuclear missiles was signed by Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev and President Reagan on Dec. 8.

All of the those who appeared at the two-hour hearing inside the Kremlin endorsed the treaty, but Akhromeyev said the Soviet military is worried about NATO moves to compensate for the weapons slated for destruction by the pact.

"The idea of compensation is wild," First Deputy Foreign Minister Yuli M. Vorontsov told the panel. "A doctor who operates on a person to cure him of an ulcer does not then say, 'What can I put in to compensate for the ulcer?' "

Passage Assured

On Feb. 9, the foreign relations commissions of the two houses of the Soviet legislature created a special 10-member subcommittee to seek the opinion of experts and ordinary Soviet citizens about the treaty.

The treaty must be ratified by the Supreme Soviet's Presidium to become law. But because it already has been approved by the ruling Communist Party Politburo, passage is assured.

Today's two-hour hearing in a chandelier-lit hall at the Presidium building seemed designed to assuage the fears of some Soviets that their leaders made too many concessions under the treaty. A small group of foreign reporters was allowed to attend.

In contrast to the U.S. Senate hearings on ratification of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, only a handful of the 29 people at the subcommittee session asked questions, and none was critical of the pact.

"Those against are few," Chairman Georgy M. Korniyenko said, summing up Soviet public opinion. "Those who are against just don't trust the imperialists . . . but then there are not a few who have concerns."

Under the pact, the Soviet Union must destroy 1,752 missiles, compared to 859 for the United States.

Losing Fewer Modern Missiles

Akhromeyev said his country would actually eliminate fewer "up-to-date" medium-range rockets than the Americans.

Under the agreement, the Soviets will eliminate 650 modern medium-range missiles, while the Americans will destroy 689 new weapons, he said.

"Some of our missiles are old," Akhromeyev said.

Moreover, the Soviet marshal said, U.S. missiles based in Europe that are now earmarked for destruction "can reach Moscow in 10 minutes, or even less."

In contrast, the Soviet rockets to be destroyed under the pact banning nuclear missiles with ranges between 300 and 3,000 miles cannot strike U.S. territory, Akhromeyev said.

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