There is a very important side issue to the controversial SALT treaty which may soon be signed by President Carter and Soviet President Brezhnev. The SALT II pact, if approved by the U.S. Senate (no easy task) will set the groundwork for the U.S.-Soviet strategic relationship for the next few years. But the treaty does nothing to curb the growth of Soviet nuclear might targeted on Western Europe.

   The Soviet buildup in Eastern Europe and the western part of the U.S.S.R in support of its Warsaw Pact policy is proceeding, according to an official NATO source, "on a scale well in excess of defensive requirements, and are unprovoked by any NATO developments."

   The Soviets are deploying monstrous SS-20 ballistic missiles in western Russia that could not reach U.S. targets without the addition of a third stage, but will easily flatten British, French or West German cities. The Kremlin is also building a fleet of medium-range Backfire bombers that are tailor-made for intra-European warfare. SALT II in no way affects these developments.

   The defense ministers of Europe's NATO powers have been meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary Harold Brown and other Pentagon officials in Florida the past few days in an attempt to get NATO in general and the U.S. in particular to modernize the aging medium-range nuclear weapons stationed in Europe, either through deployment of ground-launched cruise missiles (GLCM's), or an extended-range version of the already deployed Pershing missile.

   The sparring inside NATO is very reminiscent of the debacle fifteen months ago when President Carter abruptly decided not to build the neutron bomb for NATO's defensive use, after Europe's NATO partners thought the issue had already been positively resolved.

   As in that case, the U.S. does not want to appear that it is acting solely on NATO's behalf. Yet U.S. leadership is essential because most European governments can't politically afford to appear that they are pushing the issue — when in effect they are. The Netherlands, for instance, was a hot-bed of resistance to the neutron warhead. Norway and Denmark remain opposed to having any nuclear weapons stationed there.

   West Germany's Helmut Schmidt has to be cautious of his party's influential left-wing, which actually wants greater accommodation with Moscow. Therefore Schmidt would like to have one other NATO country accept the modernized weapons (Germany is the sole host to NATO's present tactical nuclear array).

   The solution to the dilemma is a definitive U.S. stand that would attenuate European timidity. Yet there is a danger. That danger, in the words of a Los Angeles Times editorial, is "the alliance may be in for a replay of the neutron-bomb controversy."

   One senior European delegate to the NATO talks at Homestead Air Force Base in Florida adds his concern: "Suppose we get everything lined up with our defensive ministries and our parliaments and our cabinets and then the Administration suddenly decides that it doesn't want to build a special medium-range missile for Europe, or it doesn't think that the Europeans should get the cruise missiles after all. It would be disastrous for the alliance both politically and militarily and we can't be sure yet that it won't happen that way."

   If Washington turns down the European NATO members a second time, confidence in the United States would plummet to a new low, and the momentum in some quarters to seek an arrangement with MOSCOW, with Europe moving into a more "neutral" stage, would certainly accelerate.

Gene H. Hogberg, News Bureau

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Pastor General's ReportApril 30, 1979Vol 3 No. 15