Secretary of State George P. Shultz, intensifying the Reagan Administration's campaign to resume military aid to rebels fighting Nicaragua's leftist government, said Tuesday that opponents of the assistance seem to want to "enact the Brezhnev doctrine into U.S. law."
"I don't think we should put up with that. . . . I think we have to support those who are fighting for freedom and democracy in their own country," Shultz told the House Foreign Affairs Committee. "I don't think we should slam the door on someone just because he has been taken behind the Iron Curtain."
The Brezhnev doctrine, named for the late Soviet President Leonid I. Brezhnev, claims a right for the Soviet Union and its allies to intervene to protect Communist governments against external pressure or internal rebellions that threaten to change that form of government.
'What's Mine Is Mine'
The Administration interprets the doctrine to mean that once a nation becomes Communist, it can never be anything else. Shultz paraphrased it: "What's mine is mine, and what's yours is up for grabs."
His comments, on the heels of President Reagan's militant radio broadcast Saturday, constituted the clearest statement to date of the objective of the Administration's Central America policy: the ultimate overthrow of Nicaragua's Sandinista government.
"I think what we have in Nicaragua is a government that is bad news," Shultz said. "How can that be changed? We'd like to see them see the error of their ways, (but) they don't seem to be disposed to do that.
"A Communist totalitarian regime any place is bad news for the people concerned, is bad news for the (countries in the) neighborhood and is bad news for our own security interests--particularly if it is nearby," he said.
Shultz's remarks drew heated rebuttal from two committee members, Reps. Michael D. Barnes (D-Md.) and Gerry Studds (D-Mass.). They complained that the policy is shortsighted and that the anti-government forces in Nicaragua, known as contras, are unreliable allies.
"There really is a logical alternative which was not explored by the Administration at the outset," said Barnes, chairman of the panel's Western Hemisphere subcommittee. Barnes did not spell out his alternative, however.
Studds said: "Hasn't the President got any more to ask of us than that we support a mixed group of mercenaries and thugs and--(long pause)--democrats who are trying to overthrow the government of a wretched country that has known nothing but repression? Aid to the contras is dead."
Congress cut off aid to the contras last year.