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Top Arms Adviser Defends Breach of SALT II Treaty

December 4, 1986

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A top White House nuclear arms control adviser on Thursday defended President Reagan’s decision to breach the SALT II nuclear arms treaty because he said the Soviets are violating the pact.

Paul Nitze, a senior arms control adviser to Reagan, said the Soviets had violated the 1979 treaty and the limits ″turned out to be unilateral limits″ on the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

Nitze’s defense of last week’s action by the Reagan administration was met by sharp criticism Thursday from Democrats on the House Armed Services nuclear arms subcommittee, which has been holding a series of hearings into administration arms control policy.

Last Friday, the Pentagon put into service the 131st B-52 bomber which had been modified to carry nuclear-tipped cruise missiles, an action which put the United States above the numerical limits of various types of atomic arms permitted by the 1979 pact.

The treaty was never ratified by the Senate and although Reagan had criticized the pact, he pledged to observe its limits as long as the Soviets did likewise. But Reagan said earlier this year it would be breached because the Soviets were violating the treaty.

Last week’s action was criticized by U.S. allies in Europe and Democrats in Congress, who argued that it made no sense to break the treaty’s limits while the United States was trying to negotiate new U.S.-Soviet treaties. The 131st bomber had been expected to enter service late this month.

Rep. Les Aspin, D-Wis., chairman of the panel, said last week’s action was taken ″at a time when the administration needs all the help it can get″ because of controversy over the sale of weapons to Iran and diversion of the profits to anti-Nicaraguan rebels.

Rep. Norman Dicks, D-Wash., also criticized the administration for breaking the SALT II limits and said Reagan had given ″the back of his hand″ to bipartisan efforts to narrow arms control differences between Congress and the White House.

Shortly before Reagan’s October summit meeting in Iceland with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, Congress had heeded Reagan’s appeal for unity and dropped an effort, which Dicks helped lead, to require continued compliance with SALT II.

″This administration has not done much for bipartisanship,″ Dicks told Nitze. ″I think you ought to take that back (to the White House). ... Bipartisanship has failed and its the administration’s fault. Congress has gone the extra mile.″

Nitze, a veteran of more than four decades of work in the nuclear arms field, offered no specific rebuttal to that criticism, but he defended the decision to break the SALT II limits. A conservative, Nitze has long been publicly skeptical of arms control efforts.

Asked about chances the administration will mothball enough nuclear weapons to put the United States back into compliance with the treaty, Nitze said, ″I think it’s small.″

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