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Early Missile Pullout Set, Soviet Aide Says

February 23, 1988|WILLIAM J. EATON | Times Staff Writer

MOSCOW — Defense Minister Dmitri T. Yazov said Monday that the Soviet Union will start this month to withdraw nuclear missiles from East Germany and Czechoslovakia, even before ratification of the Soviet-American treaty on eliminating intermediate nuclear forces.

Yazov said the removal of SS-12 missiles and their supporting personnel would constitute a "display of good will" by the Soviet Union in the field of disarmament.

Speaking at a reception on the eve of Armed Forces Day in the Soviet Union, Yazov said that the missiles and launchers withdrawn from Eastern Europe will be moved to sites where they will be destroyed after the treaty has been approved by the U.S. Senate.

According to Western specialists, the Soviet Union has 107 SS-12s, which have a range of about 550 miles, stationed in East Germany and 39 others in Czechoslovakia.

Soviet officials have said they plan to pull back some of their missiles even while the Senate is debating the treaty, which was signed last December in Washington by President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev.

Soviet Ratification Expected

The Supreme Soviet, the nominal parliament, is also going through a ratification process. Officials said there is no doubt that it will approve the treaty.

Yazov, who is an alternate member of the Politburo, spoke at a meeting attended by representatives of the Moscow garrison and the public.

"This is the first--and for this reason especially important--step along the road of genuine nuclear disarmament," Yazov said of the treaty. "In a display of good will, and striving to implement the provisions of the treaty, the Soviet Union will begin late in February to withdraw from the territory of the German Democratic Republic and Czechoslovakia missile units armed with OTR-22 missiles. . . ." OTR-22 is the Soviet designation for the missile that is known in the West as the SS-12.

Yazov said they were placed in the two Warsaw Pact countries to counter American Pershing 2 and cruise missiles deployed in Western Europe. The U.S. missiles were deployed to counter medium-range Soviet SS-20s targeted on countries in the West.

Liquidation of Missiles

"The Soviet missiles and launchers will be sent immediately to the sites where it is planned to liquidate them after the ratification of the treaty," Yazov said.

He said too that the number of Soviet troops stationed along the border with China has been "substantially reduced," but he provided no figures.

"The Soviet Union has not built up its ground forces in the Far East for a number of years," he said, adding that "positive changes" have taken place in Soviet relations with China.

He said there is concern in the Soviet Union because "imperialism's reactionary circles" are trying to nullify the results of the December meeting in Washington at which the treaty was signed.

"Calls are being made to accelerate the 'Star Wars' program," Yazov said, referring to President Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative. "If such actions are not contained, the entire strategic situation will be destabilized."

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