The new Soviet commander of Warsaw Pact forces said Friday that the East Bloc’s planned troop cuts and reorganization would put it on a purely defensive stance within two years so that it would pose no threat to the West.
Gen. Pyotr G. Lushev, who was appointed commander in chief of Warsaw Pact forces a month ago, said in the Soviet armed forces newspaper Red Star that the East Bloc’s move would be unilateral but intended to create a climate for further arms reductions by both the Warsaw Pact and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
“By 1991, the Soviet forces stationed in Eastern Europe and the armed forces of the other Warsaw Pact states will adopt an unequivocally defensive character,” Lushev said, giving a detailed timetable for the alliance’s troop reductions and reorganization.
Meanwhile, Deputy Foreign Minister Viktor P. Karpov, one of the Kremlin’s top arms negotiators, disclosed Friday that the Warsaw Pact would be proposing cuts of between 10% and 15% in the declared troop strengths and arsenals of the Warsaw Pact and NATO at negotiations opening in Vienna next week.
Readiness to Pull Out
And Hungarian Premier Miklos Nemeth, concluding a day of talks on foreign policy and economic issues with top Soviet officials, underlined Moscow’s “readiness to pull out its military units from the territories of European socialist countries,” Hungary among them, if NATO and the Warsaw Pact agree upon disbanding the two alliances.
Nemeth’s comments, coming together with Soviet and East European statements, appeared to presage further diplomatic initiatives by Moscow and its allies at the Vienna negotiations, which will deal with the reduction of conventional forces in Europe.
All 35 countries that signed the 1975 Helsinki agreement on reducing East-West tensions are involved, but the actual negotiations will be conducted by NATO’s 16 members and the seven members of the Warsaw Pact.
Karpov, outlining the Soviet position to reporters in advance of the Vienna conference, said that the Warsaw Pact countries will be seeking cuts of up to 15% during the first phase of the conference in order to reduce the level of confrontation between the two alliances.
“Such an agreement would not threaten the security of either side,” Karpov said, but it could give the talks sufficient momentum to bring agreements on other, more difficult issues.
Moscow’s proposal, Soviet officials noted, called for cuts in the “declared strengths” of troops and weaponry of both sides in order to get around a fundamental dispute over what each side has in its arsenal.
“If there is interest, this might open the way to a real breakthrough,” one Soviet Foreign Ministry official said, “and we are looking for a breakthrough. Let me repeat that--we are looking for a breakthrough.”
NATO was trying to confine the negotiations solely to cuts in armaments on grounds that personnel reductions were too hard to verify, Karpov said, but even if weapons were destroyed, there would still be “the possibility of injecting new tanks and maybe other modernized combat hardware.”
Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze will put Moscow’s case to the Vienna conference and individual NATO representatives, including Secretary of State James A. Baker III, but the outlook remains very uncertain.
Moscow and its allies say that there is an approximate parity in overall forces’ strengths when Western naval and air power are taken into account; the West focuses instead on the Warsaw Pact’s ground strength, particularly its tank and artillery forces.
The basic Soviet initiative was outlined by President Mikhail S. Gorbachev, who told the U.N. General Assembly in December that his country would cut its armed forces by 10%--more than 500,000 troops, half of them from the European theater--in the next two years.
Gorbachev, for whom these negotiations are central to his overall foreign policy, also said that it will withdraw 50,000 soldiers, notably six tank divisions and all the specialized assault units, and 5,000 tanks from Eastern Europe by 1991.
He later announced plans for a 14% cut in the Soviet defense budget and almost a 20% cut in arms spending.
These Soviet initiatives have now been supplemented by planned reductions in the armed forces of virtually all the members of the Warsaw Pact, again as a unilateral commitment.
Lushev and other Soviet officials this week have provided a unit-by-unit timetable for the reductions in Eastern Europe--and pledged that Western observers will be invited to verify them.
The Soviet Union will withdraw its tactical nuclear weapons from Eastern Europe along with the units with which they are deployed, he added.
Karpov said that Moscow remains interested in talks on eliminating tactical nuclear weapons from Europe to run parallel to the conventional forces negotiations.
The Warsaw Pact’s intention, Lushev said, is to achieve a level where its armed forces could repel any attack, but with a posture that could not be regarded as offensive.
Accused of Taking a Hard Line
But Lushev accused NATO of deliberately taking a hard line in advance of the negotiations, playing down the significance of the Warsaw Pact’s unilateral moves and rejecting some undisclosed overtures.
He acknowledged, however, that the East Bloc alliance would continue to modernize its arsenal, but with the goal of making do with less rather than an upgrading of capability.
NATO’s modernization is “aimed at ‘compensation’ for the withdrawal of U.S. medium-range missiles from Western Europe and even increasing NATO’s attack capabilities,” Lushev said.
“The defense quality drive in the Warsaw treaty organization is something different--spending less on defense and at the same time having armed forces capable of repulsing any outside attack against any allied country.”