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NATO Must Preserve Economic Superiority, U.S. Official Says

March 2, 1986

MUNICH, West Germany (AP) _ NATO nations must preserve their economic and technological superiority over the Soviet bloc or they will fall back militarily, a U.S. Defense Department official said Sunday.

″The stronger the Soviet economy relative to ours, the easier it will become for the Soviet leaders to overtake us militarily,″ Fred Ikle, assistant secretary of defense for policy, told a North Atlantic Treaty Organization seminar in Munich.

″I disagree threfore with the view sometimes expressed by European officials that we should help the East to modernize its economy and that our help toward improving the economic development of the Soviet bloc contributes to European stability. Such help will do the opposite,″ he said.

About 150 top NATO officials attended the 23rd annual Wehrkunde seminar that ended Sunday.

″Our security demands that we maintain overall economic superiority,″ Ikle said. ″To recognize this imperative is not to advocate economic warfare.

″But what should be adhered to is the Wests’ technologcial and economic lead.″

Ikle was challenged from the floor by Christopher Mallaby, an aide to the British Cabinet.

″When we trade with the Soviets, they see that things from our so-called bankrupt societies are actually things they can’t prodcue, and it discredits their propaganda about us,″ Mallaby said.

″Increased contacts are the best way to encourage change in the Soviet ideology,″ he added.

Ikle also claimed the Soviets would never settle for parity in weapons arsenals.

He said the Soviets had pursued military superiority while negotiating arms control pacts with the West over the past 25 years.

Since 1969, the Soviets have added 8,000 strategic missile warheads to their arsenal, a 500 percent increase, and launched a huge construction effort for underground command posts, Ikle said. ″Our bourgeois goal of stability invited the Soviet military planners to surpass us.″

He told the delegates the Soviets are building a system to shield their leaders from nuclear war and a broad program to bolster air and missile defenses despite the 1972 anti-ballistic missile treaty that generally ruled out strategic missile defenses.

The U.S. ambassador to West Germany, Richard Burt, called on the West Europeans to play a greater international role.

″The United States should not bear all the burdens and risks (in dealing with Third World nations) ... while the Europeans persist in provincialism,″ he said.

Conservative Bavarian Gov. Franz Josef Strauss agreed with Burt. He urged the Europeans to support the United States ″in all of its responsibilities in the world.″

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