President Bush will tell Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev at their summit conference this weekend that the deployment of surface-to-air missiles in El Salvador "is a dangerous escalation" of the conflict there, the Administration said Monday, suggesting that Central American conflicts threaten improved superpower relations.
At the same time, the President's spokesman indicated that because of reforms in Eastern Europe, the President would be prepared to discuss even deeper cuts in East-West troop strength in Europe than he had previously recommended.
As Bush began his final days of preparations for the weekend meeting aboard Soviet and U.S. warships in the Mediterranean off the coast of Malta, his Administration is tugged in opposite directions: U.S. officials are upbeat as they look at the dramatic movements toward democracy in Eastern Europe, but they are speaking harshly about the impact that leftist operations in Central America are having on U.S.-Soviet relations.
On Saturday night, a senior Soviet diplomat was summoned to the State Department, where Robert Kimmitt, undersecretary of state for political affairs, delivered a protest over the alleged shipment of missiles from Nicaragua to El Salvador, State Department spokeswoman Margaret Tutwiler said Monday.
And, she said, Bush would raise the issue with Gorbachev "in the strongest terms," telling him, in effect, "you obviously have influence with these people (in Nicaragua)--use it."
A Cessna airplane carrying anti-aircraft missiles, most of them Soviet-made, crashed in El Salvador on Saturday. The U.S.-supported government of El Salvador says that the flight originated in Nicaragua and was intended to supply leftist guerrillas.
White House Press Secretary Marlin Fitzwater raised the possibility that Bush would propose that the United States and the Soviet Union embark on deep cuts in the number of troops they have stationed in Europe. He said that in preparation for the summit, as well as for the budget recommendations he will make early next year, "the President and his top advisers are considering a wide range of military options that involve a number of different force levels and a number of different estimates of budgetary reductions."