Crowe: Soviet Strength Doesn’t Prove Conversion to Defensive Posture
MOSCOW (AP) _ Despite its unilateral cuts, the Soviet military’s ″overwhelming numbers″ still make it the world’s biggest war machine and don’t back up Kremlin claims about a switch to defensive strategy, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff said Tuesday.
″Speaking candidly, it is rather difficult for Americans - and those in many other countries - to see how such a massive array of power is mandated by the legitimate needs of defense,″ Adm. William J. Crowe Jr. told students and instructors at the Voroshilov General Staff Military Academy in Moscow.
Crowe, on an 11-day official visit to the Soviet Union, also suggested that instead of announcing more unilateral reductions, the Kremlin join the United States in negotiating mutual cuts, even of modest scale - a step he said would best promote progress in arms control.
″You’d be surprised at the effect it would have, and pave the way for more dramatic steps in the future,″ Crowe told his Soviet audience.
The 64-year-old admiral, accompanied by an entourage of top U.S. brass and Gen. Mikhail A. Moiseyev - his official host and head of the Soviet general staff - also visited once secret military installations outside Moscow to examine weaponry.
It was the latest in a series of high-level military visits designed to dispel mistrust between the superpowers. The visits began in July with one to the United States by Marshal Sergei F. Akhromeyev, then Soviet chief of staff. In August, then-Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci visited the Soviet Union.
In a heavy rain, Crowe and top U.S. military officers who accompanied him were shown a training version of a snub-nosed SS-19 missile in its silo at the Balabanovo base, where officer cadets are taught how to launch the ICBM the Pentagon says can carry six nuclear warheads up to 6,200 miles.
At the Kubinka air garrison, Soviet warplanes painted in camouflage, including the MiG-29 fighter and Su-24 attack aircraft, were parked on the tarmac for the admiral and his entourage to inspect.
Like Carlucci, Crowe also clambered up a metal ladder to board the Soviet Union’s newest long-range strategic bomber, the needle-nosed Tu-160, better known in the West by its NATO designation of ″Blackjack.″
After viewing the aircraft, Crowe said he was very impressed. ″We’re talking world-class aviation here,″ he said.
Gen. Monroe Hatch, deputy chief of the U.S. Air Force, said all 10 Soviet warplanes and helicopters on display already had been seen by Westerners, some at international air shows or during Carlucci’s visit last year. ″But to say many people have seen the Blackjack is an overstatement,″ Hatch said.
In a Dec. 7 speech to the United Nations, President Mikhail S. Gorbachev announced the Soviets unilaterally would cut their armed forces by 500,000 men, to 3.7 million. Last month, during a session of the Congress of People’s Deputies, he also pledged defense spending would be cut by the equivalent of $15.3 billion by the end of 1991.
Soviet officials say the reductions are in line with the new military doctrine, announced by the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact in May 1987, of ″reasonable sufficiency,″ which stipulates that a country needs enough military might to repel an assailant, and no more.
Crowe, in his speech at the academy on relations between the U.S. and Soviet militaries, welcomed Gorbachev’s U.N. declaration as an ″important step,″ but played down its overall significance.
″As we see it, these drawdowns will affect only the margins of Soviet military power,″ Crowe said. ″Even after the anticipated reductions, you will still possess the world’s largest active military establishment, as well as a larger inventory of military hardware than all of NATO combined in many categories of equipment.″
In a question-and-answer period, a Soviet Army lieutenant general who identified himself only as Krebyshev asked Crowe if the Americans intended to reduce their military forces ″to a defensive level as we are trying now to do.″
Crowe reacted with skepticism to the officer’s assessment of his own country’s military posture. ″I base my judgment on whether policy is offensive or defensive on the total strength and weight of forces that can be brought to bear,″ he said. ″When I’m facing overwhelming numbers, I can’t conclude anything else but that it’s offensively oriented.″
Moiseyev, seated in front of the lecture hall, objected to Crowe’s assessment. He listed weaponry the Soviet Union has announced it will withdraw from service, including 10,000 tanks, 8,500 artillery pieces and 850 warplanes.
″This is not a propaganda campaign,″ Moiseyev said.