Key Pentagon Aide Talks of Weapons Outside SALT II
A senior Pentagon official said Tuesday that the Soviet Union may produce still another long-range missile in violation of the second strategic arms limitation treaty and warned that the United States, in responding to Soviet treaty violations, may opt for military projects precluded by the agreement.
The official, Richard N. Perle, assistant secretary of defense for international security policy, also said that although the United States plans to dismantle the submarine Sam Rayburn to comply with the treaty’s missile limits, the ship may eventually be converted to carry other weapons.
President Reagan announced June 10 that for the near future, at least, the United States would continue to abide by the terms of the 1979 treaty, which was never ratified by the Senate, and he pledged to “go the extra mile” to seek a new arms agreement with Moscow.
“The President used that phrase three times. That does not mean three extra miles,” said Perle, drawing attention to the Pentagon’s concern that the White House could show too much flexibility in the face of what some officials consider clear Soviet violations of the treaty.
Perle has long taken a skeptical view of arms control agreements. His suggestion that the United States may decide to violate SALT II limitations if the Soviets continue to develop new missiles does not necessarily reflect Reagan’s position, and Perle’s views are strongly opposed by some other Administration officials.
Nonetheless, as the Pentagon’s chief arms control expert, Perle is an influential figure, within the Defense Department and in the Administration generally.
Perle told reporters that it is “ludicrous” and “rubbish” to think that the Soviets would triple the number of warheads on their SS-18 intercontinental missiles--or similarly boost their overall warhead total--if the treaty is scrapped, a course he has advocated without success in the Administration. Some critics have speculated that would be the Soviet response if the treaty were abrogated.
Each SS-18 missile is limited to 10 nuclear warheads by the treaty--and the four types of the big, modern Soviet missile vary, carrying one to 10 warheads. However, Perle said there is a serious possibility that more than 10 are already deployed on them.
Under the treaty, the United States and the Soviet Union are each limited to one new or intercontinental, or strategic, missile. The United States is developing the MX in this category.
The Soviet Union has also developed the SS-24 and SS-25. The United States contends that the SS-24, a huge, 10-warhead weapon, represents the allowable new Soviet missile and that development of the SS-25 violates the limit. But the Soviets maintain that the SS-24 is simply an updated version of a previously deployed missile.
“I will not be astonished if there are new types beyond” the SS-24 and SS-25, Perle said. “It is likely that we will see a third new type, and possibly even more than that.”
He said that while he has no “clear evidence” that the Soviets are moving in this direction, “there is enough evidence that when I say it is likely there are likely to be additional violations--that is not pure speculation.”
John Pike, associate director for space policy at the Federation of American Scientists, said U.S. intelligence has picked up evidence that the Soviets have tested missile motors and launch facilities for a new missile.
Reagan, in deciding to abide by SALT II, directed the Pentagon to prepare a report on possible responses to Soviet violations of the unratified treaty, to which both nations have pledged adherence. The President’s decision is to be re-examined after the study is completed.
Perle said there would be no treaty violation if new weapons--other than sea-launched ballistic missiles--are placed on the Rayburn. Under Reagan’s decision, the submarine is scheduled to be taken out of missile-carrying service when a new vessel, the submarine Alaska, goes to sea this summer or early autumn.
But, Perle said, in response to Soviet arms control violations, “we will also be looking at things that are precluded by the terms of the treaty.” He did not elaborate.
The Pentagon official was skeptical about the 15-ton, single-warhead Midgetman missile that the Administration hopes to build. He said he has “reservations” about the weapon, adding that “it is only right to take a good, hard look as to whether” the missile would meet the nation’s needs.