Soviet Nuclear Cuts Come amid Rethinking of Defense Doctrine

Article excerpt

RESPONDING to President Bush's challenge to "make this a safer world," President Mikhail Gorbachev unveiled his own blueprint for arms control Saturday.

Mr. Gorbachev announced "reciprocal radical measures leading to the elimination of tactical weapons." (See box, Page 3). He also called for "the earliest possible ratification of the treaty on strategic offensive weapons," and proposed further radical cuts in these arms, by as much as 50 percent. This issue, he said, will be discussed by the first session of the Supreme Soviet of New Convocation.

The Supreme Soviet, originally scheduled for tomorrow, has been delayed until Oct. 21 because of power struggles between the Moscow center and the republics.

Gorbachev promised to draw up plans for production of a small mobile strategic missile, as well as other nuclear modernization. He emphasized that, in addition to proposed US and Soviet disarmament, the other major nuclear powers - France, China, and Britain - should also make the commitment.

He called for a US Soviet summit to discuss the dramatic plans to reduce nuclear arms.

"George Bush's proposals continue the drive started in Reykjavik," Gorbachev said, referring to the site of the 1986 US-Soviet summit. "This is my opinion," Gorbachev continued. "I know that {Russian President} Boris Yeltsin and leaders of other republics share this opinion."

The eight days it took Gorbachev to respond to Bush's plan reveal just how complicated the defense decision-making process has become here, Soviet analysts say.

The approval of the Defense and Foreign Ministries is no longer sufficient. Any military decision, whether they involve nuclear arms control or conventional matters, must have the support of the remaining 12 republics.

A top US military official visiting Moscow through the weekend notes that while the Bush plan was warmly received, Soviet counter-proposals were slow to develop.

United States Air Force Chief of Staff Merrill McPeak says he found the Soviets "a bit overwhelmed with the pace of change in this country - of all kinds."

Soviet observers say the delay was not simply a matter of analysis, but also paralysis. "Now, in this country there's no single command. No one can give a response without consulting many people," says Igor Sedykh, a veteran political analyst for the Russian Information Agency.

Though Gorbachev has announced the Soviet proposals for international consideration, he still faces domestic obstacles. Ministries on the union and the republic levels remain at odds over jurisdictional issues, ranging from conventional forces to control over nuclear facilities. …