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Cold War’s ‘Peace Dividend’ Is in Jeopardy, Cheney Warns

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A day after warning lawmakers of the potential costs of waiting to wage war in the Persian Gulf, Defense Secretary Dick Cheney said Tuesday that if war should erupt in the Middle East, it would probably come at the expense of the “peace dividend” that many had hoped to gain from the end of the Cold War.

Cheney, speaking en route to Poland from Washington, said that hostilities between U.S. and Iraqi forces “probably would at least in the short term” make impossible the budget reductions planned by the Defense Department for the coming five years.

“It’s entirely possible that depending on what happens in (Operation) Desert Shield, there will have to be changes and modifications made in that plan, in force levels, etc.,” Cheney said.

Cheney’s comments came as the Pentagon chief was readying instructions to guide the military services in their preparation of the 1992 budget and a long-term spending plan extending to 1996. That classified “guidance” document is to reach the services late this week, and Cheney’s comments Tuesday are his first on this year’s controversial defense budget process.

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An agreement between the White House and Congress struck last year would force reductions of $243 billion, between 1990 and 1995, from the Pentagon’s April, 1989, spending plan, Cheney said.

Pentagon officials have said that such deep cuts are expected to force the cancellation of several weapons, including the F-16 Falcon fighter aircraft, the closing of dozens more military bases and a reduction of thousands of service personnel.

Many officials also have fretted, however, that if the United States and its allies initiate a war to push Iraqi troops from Kuwait, hundreds of aircraft, tanks and other weapons would be destroyed and most would have to be replaced.

Also on Tuesday, Cheney acknowledged for the first time officially that U.S. armed forces will be ready to fight in the gulf soon. Cheney said that the second wave of Operation Desert Shield deployments--as many as 200,000 new troops being dispatched to the gulf--will be completed in mid-January.

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The defense secretary traveled to Poland to meet with Polish military, economic and political leaders in an effort to open a new relationship with Poland.


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