Helms Asks CIA to Check if Soviets Cheated on Accord
Sen. Jesse Helms, leader of the Senate’s Republican right wing, accelerated his campaign against the U.S.-Soviet Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty Saturday by sending to CIA Director William H. Webster data he called “highly sensitive material,” which Helms said discloses a major Soviet violation of a treaty provision.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to open hearings Monday on ratification of the treaty, signed Dec. 8 by President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev, to eliminate ground-launched medium-range missiles from the superpowers’ nuclear arsenals.
Helms’ letter to Webster, made public without the enclosed “classified” material, requested the CIA chief to confirm the accuracy of the violation charge before Secretary of State George P. Shultz presents the Administration’s case to the committee, as he is scheduled to do Monday.
The North Carolina senator said that if Webster confirms a Soviet violation, Helms will ask the committee’s chairman, Sen. Claiborne Pell (D-R.I.), to summon Webster to testify in a closed-door session as early as Monday afternoon.
Helms aides said they could not comment on the nature of the material sent to Webster or say what part of the treaty is alleged to have been violated. Administration and Democratic leaders say they have enough votes for ratification of the treaty, but his aides predicted that Helms’ opposition campaign could persuade the Senate to shelve the accord.
Helms, the ranking minority member of the Foreign Relations Committee, also issued a 180-page analysis of the treaty addressed to the eight other Republicans on the panel. The analysis charged that the agreement would require the destruction of Soviet intermediate-range vehicles but not the corresponding nuclear warheads.
It contended that the Soviets could shift the warheads to other vehicles and thus maintain a threat against the North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies in Europe with rebuilt devices that would not fall within the treaty’s definitions of outlawed weapons.
The same option would not be open to the NATO allies, the analysis said, because the elimination of Pershing 2 and cruise missiles under the treaty would leave them with no alternative vehicles in their territories.
Helms’ memorandum cited a paper by Gen. Bernard W. Rogers, who retired last year as supreme allied commander in Europe, to assert that the ratification of the treaty would weaken NATO.
In a published essay, Rogers declared that NATO’s power to deter Soviet attack rests on Western European nuclear weapons with the ability to “hold at risk--with certainty--militarily significant targets deep in the Soviet homeland.”
Helms went on to dispute an unnamed “high White House official” for saying in defense of the new treaty that the Soviets would gain “no militarily significant advantages” through cheating, possibly by hiding SS-20 missiles.
“Unclassified estimates for years have assumed that the SS-20 force was close to and even over 1,000,” the analysis said. “Yet the Soviets in the Memorandum of Understanding accompanying the INF Treaty have declared that they have only 650. . . . If U.S. intelligence is correct, then the Soviets are already violating the treaty obligations and we can assume they intend to cheat on a massive scale.”
Hidden SS-20s could be used for a “surprise party,” Helms said, a sudden disclosure of nuclear force aimed at coercion of the NATO allies; to carry chemical or biological warfare agents, or to create a “dome of light” masking a nuclear first strike.
A Helms aide, speaking on condition that he not be identified, declared that there is “a sea change under way in the Senate, enough that the treaty may be dead on arrival.”