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Moscow Condemns U.S. Test, Says ‘Nuclear Rubicon’ Has Been Crossed

Times Staff Writer

The Soviet Union said Thursday that the United States had crossed a “nuclear Rubicon” with its latest nuclear test and cast doubt on its reliability as a summit partner.

Tass, the official news agency, reacted within minutes after the latest U.S. underground test in Nevada with a severe condemnation of the American decision to continue nuclear testing.

But there was no official indication whether the Soviet Union would now resume its own nuclear testing program. Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev suspended nuclear testing last Aug. 6 and as recently as last month offered to continue the moratorium indefinitely as long as the United States did not detonate any nuclear device.

However, a commentator on the nightly Soviet television news program, Vremya, said the U.S. test will force renewed Soviet nuclear testing.

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‘Cannot Waive Security’

“We regret this but we shall have to do it as we cannot waive our own security and the security of our allies,” the commentator said, according to United Press International.

“The explosion in Nevada is another demonstration of the (Reagan) Administration’s criminal contempt of the calls of the U.S. and world public to join in the Soviet Union’s moratorium on all nuclear explosions,” Tass stated.

“The April explosion . . . can be seen as the U.S. crossing of the ‘nuclear Rubicon,’ which, unlike the historical precedent, attests not to the present Administration’s resolution but to its moral and political weakness and its unwillingness to take the first step to bridling the arms race in the past five years.”

The reference is to Julius Caesar’s irreversible decision in 49 BC, against the orders of the Senate, to cross the Rubicon River and push ahead toward the forces of Gen. Pompey--a resolve to conquer or to perish.

Tass military news analyst Vladimir Bogachev wrote that the Reagan Administration defied world opinion by conducting Thursday’s nuclear test.

Contradiction Charged

“The latest U.S. blast made it clear that this Administration, contradicting the joint Soviet-American statement issued after last November’s summit meeting, is still chasing the will-o'-the-wisp of military superiority,” he wrote.

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“This is why the test in Nevada cast doubt also on the U.S. Administration’s reliability as a partner at talks,” the Tass report added.

However, even knowing that Thursday’s test was about to happen, the Soviet Union agreed to have Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze meet in mid-May with Secretary of State George P. Shultz to discuss preparations for a second summit conference this year.

Tass said the latest nuclear explosion was a “dangerous destabilizing step” taken with “haughty disregard” of both American and international opinion.

Lives of Nouveaux Riches

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“The geographical name Nevada once evoked associations with the dolce vita of U.S. nouveaux riches living it up in the casinos and night spots of Las Vegas and Reno,” the Tass statement said. “Now the state of Nevada is associated by millions of people across the world with a nuclear war, nuclear testing and incumbent U.S. leaders.”

The harsh reaction came after Gorbachev had proposed a special summit in Europe to deal with his nuclear test ban proposal and President Reagan’s counterproposal on verification of nuclear blasts.

Reagan immediately rejected Gorbachev’s plan, arguing that any meeting between the two must cover a wide range of issues beyond nuclear testing.

Gorbachev has agreed to go to the United States this year to a second summit conference with Reagan but he has said that any such session must be productive in terms of arms control agreements.

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Another Period Ended

Tass said that although the test ended another period in the history of efforts to achieve a comprehensive nuclear test ban, the stakes are too great to give up the quest for a halt to nuclear testing since the survival of mankind was at stake.

Soviet officials have sought to maximize the propaganda advantages of being the superpower willing to stop nuclear testing indefinitely. To that end, it had laid great emphasis on persuading the Reagan Administration to accept its offer.

Delegations of Soviet citizens began dropping by unexpectedly at the U.S. Embassy this week in what appeared to be a new form of pressure on the nuclear testing issue.

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U.S. diplomats accepted petitions from the groups but refused to allow them inside the chancery, citing security regulations that bar visitors without appointments from entering the building.

The petitioners, including some well-known journalists, immediately charged that the refusal to hear their pleas showed American obstinacy on the issue.

Their complaints were aired on the main evening television news show, with film provided by camera crews who arrived with the Soviet visitors, and were printed in the leading official newspapers.

“We have seen the Iron Curtain, and it is stamped ‘Made in America,’ ” said Henrik Borovik, a political commentator and author.

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An embassy spokesman said, however, that it was no accident that the groups arrived with photographers and reporters from the Soviet media.

“We don’t think it’s an effort to get into a serious dialogue--it’s just propaganda,” the spokesman said. “We can’t allow people to drop in without notice.”

In the past, ordinary Soviet citizens have been denied access to the U.S. Embassy by uniformed Soviet policemen who stand outside the only entrance for pedestrians. Embassy officials make a practice of meeting most Soviet citizens outside so they can escort them past the police guards.

Confined to Small Area

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But members of the four Soviet delegations with petitions that came this week were allowed to enter the embassy door without any check of credentials. Once inside, however, they were confined to a small area where a U.S. Marine guard controls an electronically operated inner door from behind bullet-proof glass.

A group of trade union officials who came Thursday morning, crowding into the narrow passageway, virtually stopped embassy officials from going in and out the door.

Under tighter security regulations adopted recently, American diplomats and visitors, as well as Soviet employees of the embassy, must wear identification badges to gain admission.

On one occasion, former President Jimmy Carter’s daughter, Amy, was refused admission until she showed her passport. Now all visitors, American and otherwise, must identify themselves and wear a pass while in the embassy compound.

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The Soviet drop-ins marked a departure from past “unofficial” protests when groups of people demonstrated on the sidewalk outside the U.S. Embassy building without interference from the Soviet police.


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