Weapons in Former USSR Top List of Security Problems

November 08, 1992|By JACK MENDELSOHN

President-elect Bill Clinton ran and won his electoral campaign on the strength of his coherent -- and arguably expensive -- plans to respond to America's urgent domestic economic and social needs. But when he takes the inaugural oath in January, his agenda will also contain arms control and national security issues which will require urgent, and potentially costly, action.

Most importantly, Bill Clinton's administration will have to ensure that the new, nuclear-armed, non-Russian states of the former Soviet Union -- Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan -- abandon their nuclear arms as quickly as possible. As time goes on, the political situation in these states is likely to become more confused, and resistance to denuclearization is likely to increase.

Thus, number one on the new president's action list will be to spur -- by carrot, by stick or by both -- these new nations to abide by commitments undertaken earlier this year to join the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and eliminate all nuclear weapons from their soil.

Equally high on the agenda, but dependent on the success of our denuclearization policy toward the three non-Russian nuclear states, is completion of the second strategic arms reduction treaty, agreed to in principle by the United States and Russia last June, promised by the current administration for September, but not yet formally concluded.

The denuclearization of the three non-Russian republics and conclusion of the second strategic arms treaty with Russia are just two aspects -- albeit critical ones -- of the larger, longer-term question of securing and destroying the huge inventory of surplus nuclear, chemical and conventional weapons in the former Soviet Union.

The U.S. Congress has wisely appropriated money to assist in this process -- $400 million each in fiscal years 1992 and 1993 (about the size of the annual National Basketball Association payroll). But more money will be needed, as will an aggressive, coherent and comprehensive policy, to help Russia and new Commonwealth republics move toward eliminating their enormous military stockpiles -- an outcome of vital concern to the United States and the entire world.

H. James Lynch, regional director of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 27, which represents Chesapeake employees, said that the plant's closing did not surprise him.

"It's a sad situation, but it's just been getting progressively worse up there," he said.

He said the union would talk with its attorneys about possible arbitration, and "get in line as creditors."

News of Chesapeake's closing troubled Harford County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann, a spokesman said.

"The county executive is very concerned about this because 110 jobs are at stake," said George Harrison, county government spokesman.

Mrs. Rehrmann hopes another operator takes over the plant so the jobs can be preserved, Mr. Harrison said.

"But things are so complicated, we don't know how much of a real possibility that is," he added.

Jack Mendelsohn, a former senior foreign service officer and member of the U.S. SALT and START delegations, is deputy director of the Arms Control Association.

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