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A Soviet Plea for Ending Moscow's Military Accord With Eastern Europe : Alliance: A Russian political scientist sees solid reasons for scrapping the Warsaw Pact. 'The old paradigm of national security is hopelessly outdated.'

May 06, 1990|Vladimir A. Saveliev | Vladimir A. Saveliev, a political scientist affiliated with the Soviet Academy of Sciences in Moscow, is the author of five Soviet books on government and politics. He has been visiting the United States with an Earthwatch delegation

WASHINGTON — Today, when Eastern European governments are falling and economies are being turned inside out, when the superpowers are finding it harder to flex their military muscle, many of us in the Soviet Union are wondering why we still maintain the Warsaw Pact.

How can this bloc, established after World War II in the context of an East-West face-off, be relevant to the national security interests of the Soviet Union today? What is the purpose of a Cold War alliance whose most visible recent troop maneuvers have been trains leaving Czechoslovakia and Hungary?

Despite the pace of change in the East, some senior members of the Soviet political and military leadership argue for preserving the Warsaw Pact in some form. And they have gotten some ammunition from their North Atlantic Treaty Organization adversaries.

Last December, NATO ministers issued a communique saying: "In the midst of change and uncertainty, the alliance remains a reliable guarantor of peace. It will provide an indispensable foundation of stability, security and cooperation for the Europe of the future."

Some Soviet military experts perceive the pact as a brake against aggression, pressure or interference from the West, which remains a very real fear to many. Marshal Sergei Akhromeyev, former chief of the Soviet general staff and currently an adviser to Mikhail S. Gorbachev, summarizes the view of Soviet doomsayers: U.S. and NATO armed forces "are not being reduced"; the United States and NATO continue to affirm the 20 year-old strategy of "flexible response" that entails preparation for a nuclear first strike on Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, and U.S. leaders continue to speak of dealing with the Soviet Union from a "position of strength."

This is not only the viewpoint of marshals and generals in Moscow. My father, now 74, is a retired lieutenant colonel living in Ulianovsk on the Volga River. He remembers World War II firsthand, and has often repeated Oliver Cromwell's saying: "Put your trust in God, my boys, but keep your powder dry." He and many other Soviet citizens vividly recall the losses and sacrifices of the Great Patriotic War and see the Warsaw Pact as an important guarantee against the threat of a new war from German territory.

But for all the force and sincerity with which many Soviets cling to these traditional views, others, including myself, see more solid arguments for scrapping the Warsaw Pact.

For one thing, it doesn't take a cynic to wonder why many Western leaders paradoxically are more interested than the Soviets in keeping the Warsaw Pact going. Behind the talk of "aid to Gorby," continuity, stability and so forth, is there not a wish to protect NATO's raison d'etre? If there is no "present danger," who will want to spend taxpayers' money to finance a Western military alliance?

The need to find a rationale for NATO is made even more pressing by the historic changes taking place in all six of the Soviet Union's Eastern European allies: Principles of equality and freedom of choice in relations among the countries, and developing political and economic pluralism within each, make the bogyman of a Soviet tank attack against Western Europe seem more remote than ever.

Disbanding the Warsaw Pact would ease tensions between the Soviet Union and its East European neighbors. The pact seems likely to die on its own--even more quickly than NATO. But the sooner it is put to an end, the sooner the Soviet Union will be able put relationships with its former satellites to the west on a sound footing.

Finally, the Warsaw Pact should go because we can't afford it anymore. Americans have complained for years that they're footing too much of the defense burden for their allies, while Japan and Germany have been freed up to outstrip them in trade. We Soviets have the same problem.

From 50% to 60% of the Pentagon budget is devoted "to protect Europe." Soviet expenditures related to the Warsaw Pact are not published, but could account for at least as large a share of the Soviet defense budget. Political developments in the other pact countries are likely to cause them to reduce their financial contribution to the alliance. But why should the Soviets have to pay the bill? The prospects of German unification, for instance, should remind the Poles and the Lithuanians that they may need Russian protection in the future for land that was ceded to them after World War II.

Hungary, Poland and other Eastern European countries, driven by economic imperatives and political changes, are now starting to cut down the size of their armies and develop new national defense doctrines. Shouldn't we Soviets be doing the same?

Currently, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, the Soviet Union contributes about 80% of the Warsaw Pact's fighters and bombers, 90% of its armored personnel carriers and 70% of its tanks. So Soviets are struggling under an even heavier burden than the United States is for its allies.

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