In an unprecedented appearance, Marshal Sergei F. Akhromeyev, the Soviet Union's pre-eminent military figure, told a House committee today that U.S. reluctance to negotiate reductions in its naval forces is a serious obstacle to arms control in all other areas.
Akhromeyev was welcomed to the Armed Services Committee by Chairman Les Aspin (D-Wis.), who told him: "Never has so high-ranking a Soviet official appeared before a congressional committee. Through the years we have seen many uniforms sit at that table--but never one like yours."
Akhromeyev, who retired last year as chief of the Soviet general staff, is chief military adviser to Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev.
Akhromeyev said the Soviet Union suspects that the United States is interested in large cuts in conventional land forces in Europe in order to gain overall military superiority over Moscow.
Specifically, he said, the Kremlin fears that after such a conventional arms reduction agreement, the United States would build up its naval forces "without any constraints, especially its carrier battle groups."
Thus, he told the House Armed Services Committee, the United States would "gain military superiority in order to dictate its will to the U.S.S.R. from a position of strength."
"We regard reaching agreement on starting the talks to reduce our naval forces and limit military activities at sea to be a major prerequisite for further improvement of Soviet-American relations and switching them on to really peaceful rail tracks," Akhromeyev said.
The Soviet marshal, his olive brown uniform trimmed with stripes of red and more than a dozen rows of military ribbons, testified in a hearing room decorated with the portraits of former Armed Services Committee chairmen and flags of the U.S. military services.
Aspin invited Akhromeyev to testify as one of a series of appearances before the committee by Soviet military officers and defense experts.
Some conservative members of the committee and other lawmakers have called it inappropriate that the Soviets be given such a sounding board, but Aspin has said such witnesses provide a unique window into official Soviet thinking.
Soviet Military Spending
Akhromeyev offered what appeared to be a detailed accounting of Soviet military spending and troop and weapons strength.
He said his country will spend 8.4% of its gross national product--77.3 billion rubles--on its military forces. He said the United States will spend 5.4% of its GNP during the same period.
In a lengthy statement, read with the aid of an interpreter, Akhromeyev returned to the subject of naval forces several times.
He said the Kremlin believes that reducing land forces while maintaining the size of naval forces or actually increasing them is "unjust."
"If you follow this line, no drastic reductions of the armed forces and armaments in the world will be possible," the Soviet marshal said.
He said naval reduction talks should be started, first by the Soviet Union and the United States and later by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Warsaw Pact.