COMBAT IN PANAMA : Soviets Scoff as U.S. Explains Its Motives : World reaction: Western allies and East Bloc countries divide along predictable ideological lines.


The Soviet Union said Thursday that American attempts to explain why the United States intervened militarily in Panama were little more than a “propaganda smoke screen” that could not disguise Washington’s gross violation of the norm of humane relations between countries.

Elsewhere, reaction to the American military initiative divided along ideological lines, with Western allies expressing understanding while East Bloc and nonaligned nations generally condemned the attack.

The Kremlin released a statement calling the U.S. military intervention in Panama “a challenge to the international community, which is striving to base its relations on principles of respect for the sovereignty and honor of other nations.”


“It is in flagrant contradiction to the positive tendencies that are today gaining ground in world politics, and to dialogue and political diplomatic methods of resolving difficult problems . . . (and) a flagrant violation of the fundamental principles of the United Nations Charter and norms of relations among states,” the statement said.

“The American action runs counter to the numerous efforts to achieve a political settlement in Central America. The security of Soviet citizens also is being endangered in Panama,” the government declared. The statement did not specify how many Soviet citizens live in Panama.

The official Tass news agency, in a separate commentary, said attempts to justify American actions in Panama “do not mislead anyone.”

“Few people have doubts that the main goal of the action is to revise the U.S.-Panama Canal Treaties in order to perpetuate U.S. control over the canal and the American military bases on Panamanian territory.

“One can imagine what kind of place the world will become if the ruling of a court in one country can give just cause for armed aggression against another country,” Tass said.

And the Communist Party daily Pravda said: “The propaganda smoke screen cannot conceal the nature of this action. The need to protect the lives of American citizens and restore democracy in Panama is no more than an attempt to camouflage the ominous fact of armed interference.”


Soviet media for the last several months have reported that drug allegations against Gen. Manuel A. Noriega are unfounded and that the United States has targeted Noriega because of his nationalistic views and because of American interest in gaining control over the Panama Canal.

Tass also reported Thursday that, during a meeting between U.S. Ambassador Jack F. Matlock Jr. and Deputy Soviet Foreign Minister Alexander A. Bessmertnykh this week, “the Soviet side resolutely demanded a halt to the intervention . . . and demanded that the American armed forces urgently pull out of the territory of the sovereign state of Panama.”

In Italy, Prime Minister Guilio Andreotti, who met Thursday with the American ambassador to Italy, expressed understanding for the U.S. intervention but stopped short of giving his complete support.

“President Bush’s decision on Panama came after a long attempt by the Organization of American States to restore legality in the Panamanian republic after the disconcerting annulment of elections which the (pro-Noriega) government lost,” Andreotti said. “The motivation of the struggle against drug trafficking adds another element of understanding for the President of the United States.”

Britain was still the only member government of the European Community to have given wholehearted public support to the U.S. action.

No other European Community government has come out behind the American President’s decision. Apart from Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s unqualified declaration of support, the only other high-level comment on the events in Panama came from the Spanish prime minister, Felipe Gonzalez, who said in Madrid that his government “condemned outright all foreign intervention.”

None of the other EC member states has any sympathy for Gen. Noriega nor seriously doubts that the results of the general election last May were in favor of the Panamanian opposition. But in most EC capitals, there was barely disguised embarrassment at the timing of the American military action, which is seen as diverting attention from the repression of the Ceausescu regime in Romania.

Bulgarian Foreign Minister Boiko Dimitrov said U.S. intervention in Panama “awakens associations with gunboat diplomacy, with what happened in the Dominican Republic, in Lebanon and on Grenada.”

China, angry with Washington because of its condemnation of the bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in June, condemned the U.S. action and urged the United States to “immediately stop the military invasion.”

Official Vietnamese Radio said the U.S. attack was motivated by a desire to retain control of the canal. Hanoi Radio, monitored in Bangkok, Thailand, also said: “The United States falsely accused Noriega of drug trafficking.”

India condemned the intervention and called for a swift pullout of U.S. forces. The government reaction, read to both houses of Parliament, then triggered a walkout in the upper house by the opposition Congress Party, which deemed the official response “unsatisfactory.”

Iran called the U.S. action a bloody Christmas gift that pleases the Devil and said it raises questions about Washington’s real intentions.

Accusing Washington of “a blatant breach of all internationally-accepted principles,” Iran said the United States has never been happy with the treaty pledge to delegate authority over the canal to the Panamanian government.

“Washington never hid its reluctance to abide by the accord it, itself, signed with Panama,” the Iranian news agency said. “President Bush, your Administration has presented a bloody gift for the world’s Christians. Very bloody indeed, that it saddens Christ--peace be upon him--and makes Lucifer chuckle with joy,” said the agency monitored in Nicosia.