NATO Proposes Ceilings on Combat Aircraft
VIENNA, Austria (AP) _ The West made a new proposal Thursday on reducing conventional arms in Europe, acting two months ahead of schedule in an attempt to hasten agreement. A Soviet delegate said it contained nothing new.
In Moscow, the Kremlin welcomed the effort to speed negotiations and said a deal might be possible within six months.
″We have no intention of delaying this important matter of reducing the level of military confrontation,″ said Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennady I. Gerasimov. He added, however, that it might be difficult to meet a Bush administration proposal to make the actual cuts by 1992.
He said the NATO ideas, in general, ″are viewed by us as serious and constructive proposals, meeting our own proposals halfway.″
Negotiators for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization offered the proposal on the last day of second-round talks on reducing conventional forces, giving the Warsaw Pact an eight-week recess to study it.
This provided ″further evidence of ... our desire to achieve early results,″ Michael Edes, head of the British delegation, told a news conference on behalf of the Western alliance.
Oleg A. Grinevsky, head of the Soviet delegation, said agreement by 1990 ″seems quite possible ... if all sides are agreeable.″
He welcomed the NATO plan, but said he was ″sorry″ it did not go further.
″At first glance the proposal tabled by NATO today has no new elements,″ Grinevsky said. ″Rather, it is a more detailed elaboration of the positions that were stated in Brussels, and only in respect of aviation and helicopters at that.″
The Western suggestion is based on a blueprint for deep reductions in conventional forces in Europe presented by President Bush at the NATO summit in May and endorsed by the alliance.
Including combat aircraft and helicopters met a longstanding demand of the Warsaw Pact.
Edes said the West initially opposed including aircraft because their mobility posed verification problems in a zone stretching from the Atlantic to the Ural mountains.
Because of NATO’s concession on the point, he said, its ″political will to achieve agreement can’t be doubted.″
Bush’s proposal in Brussels would put a ceiling on U.S. and Soviet troops in the reduction zone of 275,000 each. NATO said that would mean removal of 30,000 American soldiers and a cut by the Soviet Union of 325,000.
It also called for deep cuts in armaments, with equal limits on tanks, personnel carriers and artillery.
The proposal submitted Thursday also includes limits on the number of combat aircraft and helicopters, and provides for destruction of equipment withdrawn. Edes said destroying the hardware was a new element and would require detailed verfication procedures.
Secretary of State James A. Baker III revealed the figures to journalists Wednesday in Budapest. NATO proposes equal ceilings of 5,700 on combat aircraft and 1,900 on combat helicopters. According to NATO, the Warsaw Pact has about 9,600 combat aircraft and the Western alliance about 6,700.
Edes said the new levels would ″adequately safeguard defensive needs of either side.″
Western delegates would not give the precise numbers of various armaments that would have to be removed from Europe.
″Precise figures will emerge in the course of negotiations,″ Edes said. ″The numbers game is not very fruitful at this stage.″
Accompanying the Western proposal were definitions of types of NATO aircraft included in the proposal.
Stephen J. Ledogar, the chief U.S. delegate, said NATO wanted comparisons on the basis of aircraft capabilities, which he called a ″look alike, count alike″ policy.
Grinevsky criticized the NATO idea of reducing all combat aircraft. He said the suggestion that defensive systems be included was ″totally at odds″ with an agreement that first-stage reduction cover only offensive armaments.
Asked about Western concern that defensive aircraft could be modified for strike capability, he said the Soviet Union would be ″ready to invite inspectors″ and even to have ″permanent inspector teams to verify that there is no cheating.″
The Warsaw Pact has a proposal on the table to reduce six kinds of weapons 10 percent to 15 percent by 1994, with a further 25 percent reduction by 1997 and a move to purely defensive forces three years later.
Grinevsky complained about the lack of verification procedures in the NATO proposal. Western delegates said measures on verification and related issues remained to be worked out.
Ledogar said NATO ″will will be working hard ... to have the full proposal on the table at the next round,″ scheduled to begin Sept. 7. He called Bush’s original one-year timetable for an agreement ″perfectly realistic.″