U.S. to End Arms Embargo on 3 Nations
President Bush ordered an end to the 20-year-old arms embargo on Czechoslovakia, Poland and Hungary on Friday, opening the way for U.S. sales of military equipment to the former Warsaw Pact countries.
The action came after senior Administration officials determined that the Soviet Union could no longer guarantee those nations’ defense needs, U.S. officials said.
The officials said the Administration did not yet plan to send high-tech weapons to the Soviet Union’s former allies. But with the United States seeking to guarantee the shift toward democracy in the region, they said Defense Secretary Dick Cheney would discuss details of projected U.S. sales of radar and military vehicles when he visits the nations next week.
With his steps Friday, Bush eliminated a barrier that has existed since 1961, when the John F. Kennedy Administration banned sales of weapons and other defense materials to the Warsaw Pact.
In each case, Bush declared that the “furnishing of defense articles and services” to the East European governments would “strengthen the security of the United States and promote world peace.”
With the Warsaw Pact disbanded, there is no longer reason for concern that the weapons might be used against the United States, Administration officials said. They also expressed concern about the threat to the three nations’ security if they no longer could obtain basic defense goods, especially with the Soviet Union, their former benefactor, crumbling. “These countries have some legitimate defense needs,” an Administration official said, “and the Soviet Union is no longer a reliable supplier.”
The White House announced the step in suburban Los Angeles, where Bush delivered two speeches on a brief stop as he traveled to Pearl Harbor for ceremonies marking the 50th anniversary of the Japanese attack there.
In an address at Mag Industries, a flashlight manufacturer in Ontario, Calif., Bush suggested in retrospect that World War II may have been “a blessing” because it marked “a turning point in the peace and history of the world.”
The change in U.S. policy toward Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary still leaves in place the long prohibition on arms sales to Romania and Bulgaria, whose political orientation remains considerably less clear. But Administration officials said the embargo on sales to those nations is now under review. A separate embargo on U.S. arms sales to Yugoslavia was reimposed at the beginning of civil war there and remains in place.
The determination by Bush needs no ratification by Congress, officials said.