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Dutch To Drop Two Nuclear Tasks As Price For Cruise Deployment

December 3, 1985

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) _ Dutch Defense Minister Job de Ruiter told his NATO colleagues today that his country will abandon two of its six nuclear tasks in exchange for deploying 48 nuclear cruise missiles.

De Ruiter made the announcement as U.S. Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger and 13 other NATO defense chiefs began two days of talks on improving the alliance’s conventional forces through better cooperation in research and development.

One NATO source, calling the Dutch move ″unparalleled,″ said the other NATO ministers ″were profoundly unhappy″ with it and asked De Ruiter to reconsider.

He said the Dutch decision, in the view of the allies, undermined the notion of sharing the burden of the defense of the West.

The NATO source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said De Ruiter told the defense chiefs the Netherlands ″will go ahead with its intention″ to do away with nuclear-capable F-16 aircraft and nuclear depth charges used by the Dutch navy.

The source said Weinberger spoke against the Dutch move as did the defense ministers from Britain, Italy, Belgium and West Germany. Those four governments had already agreed to deploy new U.S.-made medium-range missiles on their soil but Netherlands only did so last month.

NATO is deploying a total of 572 U.S.-made medium-range nuclear missiles in the five West European nations. The Netherlands is scheduled to receive 48 cruise missiles.

″The other (deployment) countries feel a deal was made (for the Netherlands) that was not made in their case,″ said the NATO source.

But Dutch officials say scrapping the two nuclear tasks is a small price to pay to gain approval for the cruise missiles in a country with an active anti- nuclear movement.

The Netherlands currently has six nuclear tasks, two of which - Nike anti- aircraft missiles and nuclear land mines - are being phased out with NATO approval. The mines are becoming obsolete and the Nikes are being replaced by non-nuclear Patriot missiles.

Last week NATO Secretary General Lord Carrington asked Dutch Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers not to unilaterally drop the nuclear F-16s and depth charges from the NATO-assigned responsibilities for the Netherlands.

Officials said in addition to attending the regular meeting, Weinberger also will meet separately with the defense ministers of Spain, Italy, Britain, West Germany, Portugal and Belgium.

On Monday, NATO’s 12 European defense ministers met separately and pledged to continue their efforts to improve conventional forces through better arms cooperation.

In a statement, they also ″welcomed the results achieved by President Reagan in his talks with (Soviet leader) Mikhail Gorbachev″ in Geneva last month.

They issued a list of major weapons systems to be introduced in the coming year, including 500 main battle tanks, 250 jetfighters and an aircraft carrier.

The European ministers also said Congress’ recent decision to set aside $250 million for allied cooperation in weapons research and development will result in ″a positive and constructive response,″ but they did not elaborate. U.S. General Bernard W. Rogers, NATO’s top military commander in Europe, has warned that he would have to use atomic weapons within days if a war begins unless the alliance improves its non-nuclear defenses.

NATO officials say there has been some progress toward joint weapons procurement, although they acknowledge there is still much wasteful duplication in arms production.

This year, France, Britain, West Germany and Spain agreed to co-produce a European jetfighter for the 1990s.

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