Shevardnadze Warns Of New Arms Race
BONN, West Germany (AP) _ Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze warned today that the Kremlin might have to consider developing a new nuclear missile if NATO upgrades its short-range rockets.
After a meeting with Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher, which Shevardnadze described as reflective of a ″new stage in our relations,″ the Soviet diplomat berated U.S. resistance to talks on short-range nuclear weapons.
″What is to be feared by talking?″ Shevardnadze said at a news conference. ″No one can be forced in negotiations to do what he does not want to do.″
He described NATO plans to replace its current arsenal of Lance missiles with new rockets of longer range as ″development of a new weapons system,″ and said the Kremlin would not want to have to take a similar step.
″This would have to be considered, but it would not be by our own choice,″ Shevardnadze said.
He likened the new missiles NATO plans to develop to the Soviet SS-23s that are being removed and dismantled under the superpowers’ December 1987 treaty on the elimination of medium-range missiles.
NATO plans to replace the Lance rockets, which have a range of less than 75 miles, with missiles capable of reaching as far as 300 miles, or the upper limit of the short-range category.
The Soviets contend the NATO plan, known as modernization, violates the spirit of the INF agreement and would spoil the atmosphere at other arms control talks.
That view is shared to a large degree by West Germany, which has called for U.S.-Soviet negotiations to remove the short-range rockets. Most of NATO’s arsenal is deployed in West Germany.
Genscher is the driving force behind West Germany’s recent insistence that the negotiations be opened soon, in conflict with NATO’s position that such talks aimed at elimination of short-range forces be made contingent on a balance of East-West conventional arms.
President Bush again rejected the Soviet call for short-range negotiations after Secretary of State James A. Baker III, visited Moscow on Wednesday.
The question of how to proceed on the short-range missiles has resulted in a situation where the Soviet and West German positions are closer than those among the NATO allies.
West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, joining other alliance leaders, said after his talks with Shevardnadze on Friday that scrapping the weapons was out of the question as long as the Warsaw Pact had superior numbers of conventional forces and tactical nuclear weapons.
But Kohl held firm on West Germany’s position that negotiations should be held promptly to reduce the short-range forces.
Shevardnadze and Genscher also discussed plans for the June 12-15 visit to West Germany of Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev, although those details were not immediately disclosed.
Bonn’s insistence on short-range arms negotiations has split the alliance before a crucial NATO summit scheduled at the end of May.
Shevardnadze arrived in Bonn one day after Gorbachev announced a new arms reduction initiative during a meeting with Baker.
Gorbachev reiterated his call for negotiations on short-range nuclear weapons, and also announced a proposal to withdraw 500 Soviet battlefield nuclear weapons from Europe unilaterally.
Baker rejected the call for talks on short-range nuclear arsenals, and said the other part of the initiative was a public relations move.