Gorbachev Ties Cut in A-Arms to NATO Action
Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev today offered additional and rapid cuts in his country’s nuclear arsenal if NATO accepts negotiations on tactical nuclear weapons.
Gorbachev’s proposal, contained in a speech to the Council of Europe’s assembly in this eastern French city, appeared designed to increase pressure on the United States to agree to the talks, an issue that caused a deep rift in the Western alliance that was patched over last month.
“If it became clear that NATO countries are ready to join us in negotiations on tactical nuclear weapons, we could, naturally, after consulting our allies, carry out without delay further unilateral reductions in our tactical nuclear missiles in Europe,” Gorbachev told the assembly, which contains parliamentarians from 23 Western European democracies.
Gorbachev did not say how many missiles the Soviets would cut.
In Washington, White House Press Secretary Marlin Fitzwater said the Gorbachev statement had been anticipated.
“We welcome any unilateral reductions” in the Soviet’s nuclear arsenal, Fitzwater said. But he added that the Bush Administration will stand by its own proposal on East-West force reductions in Europe.
NATO last month agreed to link any future negotiations on tactical nuclear arms to results obtained at the Vienna talks seeking Europe-wide reductions in conventional weaponry, a step the Soviets have said will cause delay.
Gorbachev’s announcement, made from the podium at the ultramodern Palace of Europe, seemed designed to force a break in that link.
In his 45-minute speech, Gorbachev also said the social and political order in Europe could change, the farthest he has gone in suggesting that the Kremlin would one day be ready to tolerate multiparty democracies in its Eastern allies.
He also proposed a series of projects both Eastern and Western Europeans could take part in, including a high-speed railway spanning the Continent, an all-European TV satellite system and a program for processing and storing nuclear wastes.