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US To Inspect Soviet Army Maneuvers

August 28, 1987

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The United States will carry out an on-site inspection of Soviet army maneuvers near Minsk in a confidence-building gesture arranged by the two superpowers, a spokesman for the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency said Thursday night.

It is the first such U.S. inspection of Soviet military maneuvers under a broad, 35-nation Stockholm agreement reached in September 1986 that seeks to lessen tensions between East and West by ensuring against surprise attack or miscalculation.

Four U.S. military inspectors on Friday will watch about 16,000 Soviet troops on maneuvers under the agreement, which gives the Soviets a corresponding right to inspect NATO maneuvers in Western Europe, said the spokesman, Sigmund Cohen. The agreement covers the territory from the Atlantic Ocean to the Ural Mountains in the Soviet Union.

Cohen described the inspection as ″very routine″ and not controversial.

In March, NATO observers, including two from the United States, watched as the Polish army conducted war games in northwestern Poland. That was the first time in 11 years that Westerners had been allowed to attend such activities.

The Soviets, under the 1986 Stockholm agreement, gave the United States at the beginning of the year a schedule of maneuvers they intended to carry out, Cohen said.

On Wednesday, the United States notified the Soviets here and in Moscow that American inspectors would be sent to watch the maneuvers near Minsk, and the Soviets readily agreed, he said, adding that U.S. allies in Western Europe also were informed.

The spokesman stressed that under the agreement, the country carrying out the maneuvers must acceed to an inspection request by the other side. ″There is no right of refusal,″ the U.S. official said.

Under the 1975 Helsinki agreement, Western and Warsaw pact observers are invited to watch maneuvers by the other side. But the Stockholm accord operates not by invitation but by the right of demand to carry out inspections. This is supposed to guard against permitting the side carrying out the maneuvers time to disguise its operations.

The two sides, in principle, have agreed also to on-site inspection of their nuclear facilities as part of a treaty being prepared by negotiators in Geneva to eliminate U.S. and Soviet intermediate-range missiles.

Earlier this week, U.S. negotiators presented new proposals to make the inspections of the Soviet facilities less intrusive and less frequent. The offer, designed to ease concerns of U.S. intelligence experts who wanted to limit Soviet monitoring g limits on underground nuclear explosions for civilian purposes such as water-diversion experiments, but the treaty never was ratified by the U.S. Senate.

A number of experts are concerned that the threat of nuclear war is posed not by intended aggression, but by a mistaken interpretation by one side of military moves taken by the other that were not intended to be threatening. In this regard, the Reagan administration reached agreement with Moscow to strengthen the so-called ″hotline,″ a communications system between Washington and Moscow providing quicker access to explain questionable moves on either side.

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