NATO leaders tell Moscow, republics to control arms

November 09, 1991|By New York Times News Service

ROME -- The Western alliance ended a two-day summit meeting here yesterday with a warning to the Soviet Union and its restive republics to bring their nuclear arsenals under central control, observe international disarmament agreements and curb the spread of conventional forces.

The warning reflected what Chancellor Helmut Kohl of Germany described as a sense that the Soviet Union's disintegration created an "explosive situation" as conventional and nuclear weapons slipped beyond control from Moscow.

For the last two days, the 16 leaders of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization have been meeting in a hotel on Rome's outskirts to try to redefine the alliance's role in a rapidly changing Europe from which its one-time adversary, the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact, has disappeared.

The meeting has produced some of the commitments demanded Thursday by President Bush to a continued U.S. military presence in Europe. And it has yielded a new military doctrine, supported by all 16 leaders, envisioning leaner and more mobile NATO forces supported by smaller nuclear arsenals.

But it has also illuminated marked divergences on attitudes toward both the Soviet Union and European plans to create a European army.

President Francois Mitterrand of France, for instance, refused to subscribe to yesterday's warning to the Soviet Union because, a member of his delegation said, he felt its tone resembled that of a "preaching friar."

Mr. Mitterrand himself, a close supporter of Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev, told reporters that NATO should not "try to enter the internal affairs of countries or dictate policies."

"For countries outside the alliance, we are not their rulers," he said. "We do not have an evangelical mission."

What prompted his annoyance was an official NATO document, "Developments in the Soviet Union," issued yesterday, that sought to address concerns about independent-minded Soviet republics, notably the Ukraine, where many nuclear weapons are stationed and which plans to create its own army, raising the prospect of an unpredictable nuclear force on the borders of Eastern Europe's new democracies.

"It is critical that the Soviet Union and the republics take all necessary actions to ensure that all international agreements signed by the U.S.S.R. are respected, ratified and implemented," the document said, referring specifically to treaties dealing with nuclear, biological and conventional arms controls.

"We call upon all authorities to refrain from any steps that could lead to proliferation of nuclear weapons or other means of mass destruction," it said.

"We urge restraint in the development of conventional military forces that by their size and character could exacerbate political tensions," the statement declared, asking that the Soviet republics define their future relationships with one another without "threats, intimidation, coercion or violence."

Prime Minister John Major of Britain said that with winter coming and food shortages looming, the Soviet Union should "stop wasting its resources with vast military programs." He hinted that European food aid could be jeopardized by military buildups in the Soviet republics. "It makes no sense economically and no sense politically for the republics to build up their own forces," he said.

Mr. Bush told reporters in the gardens of the U.S. ambassador's residence here yesterday that there had been differences over how a proposed European army should relate to NATO's U.S.-led command.

He was referring to a debate on a proposal by France and Germany to create a European army ultimately answerable to the European Community, rather than to NATO.

But Mr. Major, who has advanced a counterproposal with Italy, said that Britain did not see a European army as "being subordinate to the European Council and taking orders from the European Council."

"Britain will not accept that," he said. "No one has argued for that over the past few days." Rather, he said, Britain foresaw a European force as "strengthening the European pillar of the alliance" without duplicating NATO's command.

NATO officials said that the European allies seemed to have postponed a decision on the nature of the proposed force until a European Community summit in Maastricht, the Netherlands, next month that is to advance the process of European political and monetary union.

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