On the eve of a summit meeting of Western leaders next week, the Bush Administration has proposed to its allies the eventual withdrawal of the U.S. arsenal of nuclear-tipped artillery shells from Western Europe, senior U.S. and diplomatic officials disclosed Saturday.
The unilateral withdrawal of a stockpile of nearly 1,400 U.S. nuclear weapons from West Germany and four other countries would occur as virtually all the enemy targets for such weapons disappear from Eastern Europe. This would come as a result of the expected withdrawal of Soviet troops and recent democratic political reforms that have crippled the Warsaw Pact military organization, the officials said.
The U.S. proposal, which parallels a vigorous appeal from the Dutch and strong expressions of support by the West Germans, Italians and Belgians, is partly aimed at easing Soviet concerns about potential membership of a united Germany in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The London summit meeting of 16 Western heads of state Thursday and Friday will look for ways to reassure the Soviets that their interests will be best served by continued German participation in NATO.
(The Times reported on May 2 that the Administration was readying a proposal to eliminate short-range nuclear weapons from Europe.)
Most of the nuclear-tipped artillery projectiles are now deployed in West Germany and are incapable of hitting targets more than 18 miles away. With the political unification of East and West Germany later this year, the weapons will be widely viewed as militarily obsolete, officials said.