Allies Caution U.S. on SALT : Reject Any Change That Could Hurt Arms Talks
Secretary of State George P. Shultz cabled President Reagan on Wednesday that America’s allies are concerned about Soviet arms treaty violations but are opposed to any U.S. response that might sabotage the Geneva arms control talks.
Shultz sent the message on the basis of private talks even before today’s formal beginning of the semiannual North Atlantic Treaty Organization foreign ministers’ meeting.
The ministers’ discussions are expected to be dominated by the pending U.S. decision on whether to continue to comply with the unratified second strategic arms limitation agreement and by President Reagan’s “Star Wars” missile defense plan.
In Washington, the Senate, in approving a $232-billion defense spending bill, also called for continued compliance with the SALT II agreement if the Soviets also comply with it.
A senior State Department official with Shultz said the allies are sensitive to U.S. charges that Moscow breached the pact by encoding missile test data, starting two new strategic missile projects instead of the one permitted by the 1979 agreement and building an apparently illegal anti-ballistic missile radar station in Siberia.
“We don’t want, on the one hand, to altogether ignore Soviet violations but, on the other hand, you don’t want to damage the prospect for future arms control,” the official, who declined to be identified by name, said. “It is no secret at all that the allies are supportive of arms control . . . but at the same time they recognize that the President confronts a difficult problem, a problem of Soviet violations, and they recognize the need for us to do something about that.”
Sources in the European delegations said they urged the United States to continue to abide by the spirit of the second SALT pact despite possible Soviet violations.
Several European sources said Shultz hinted that the United States will stop short of a total repudiation of the agreement, probably deciding instead for a middle course that would not result in wholesale U.S. violations but would put the Soviets on notice that the United States will not ignore Soviet breaches.
‘Gray Area’ Compromise
Such a “gray area” compromise is reportedly acceptable to the Europeans.
A West German source said Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher had indicated Monday that he was ready to tell Shultz that Bonn opposes any action that would undercut the treaty. But the source reported that Genscher said he met with Shultz here and that the issue appears to be on the way to an acceptable solution.
A British source said that Shultz, who is against abandoning the pact, seemed to be “soliciting” strong opposition to a total break with the agreement in order to strengthen his own position within the Reagan Administration.
Shultz also was reported to have urged the allied leaders to endorse continued U.S. research on the “Star Wars” program, officially known as the Strategic Defense Initiative, although some of them have strong reservations about it. A senior NATO official said it would be “unthinkable” for the alliance to fail to support the U.S. position just when the second round of the Geneva talks is getting under way.
Sources on all sides said the objective is to draft a statement that will be strong enough to satisfy the Americans without offending the French or the Danes, who are highly skeptical of the program.
Expiration of Pact
Reagan has promised to tell Congress on Monday his plan for future compliance with the SALT II pact, which expires at the end of this year. Even though the agreement was never ratified by the Senate, the Carter and Reagan administrations have continued to abide by its terms, promising not to “undercut” the agreement as long as the Soviets do the same.
However, some U.S. officials are demanding tit-for-tat violations of treaty provisions by the United States in retaliation for Soviet violations.
The White House said Monday that Reagan wanted Shultz to sound out the allies before the final decision is announced.