Soviet Union: Battening Down the Hatches

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U.S. military officials shared Reagan's assessment. Five of the U.S.S.R.'s Yankee-class submarines, each armed with 16 missiles, already patrol near U.S. shores; three ships have been stationed in the Atlantic and two in the Pacific. Adding two submarines with longer-range missiles might marginally enhance the Soviet nuclear deterrent, but it would expose the new subs to greater surveillance.

Ustinov also announced last week that if NATO continued with its plans to deploy 572 new nuclear weapons in Europe by 1988 (so far at least 32 cruise missiles and nine Pershing IIs have been installed), the Soviets would add to their arsenal of 243 triple-warhead SS-20 missiles aimed at Europe and position more tactical nuclear weapons in East Germany and Czechoslovakia. The Soviet warning was certain to heighten anxiety in The Netherlands, where a reluctant parliament is currently debating whether to fulfill an earlier pledge to take 48 of the new NATO cruise missiles.

Genscher's reception was the most frigid of the 15 or so encounters he has had in Moscow with Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko in the ten years that Genscher has been managing West German foreign policy. It was preceded by a press campaign in which West Germans were caricatured as Nazis festooned with swastikas. When Genscher protested to Gromyko about such characterizations, the veteran diplomat replied that Soviet journalists were not the only ones with misgivings about West German intentions. In their 1-hr. 45-min. session, Chernenko told Genscher that Moscow would not return to arms talks unless NATO withdrew its new missiles. The Soviet Union, warned Chernenko, was prepared for the "buildup in military confrontation." Except for a shortness of breath, probably the result of chronic emphysema, the Soviet leader seemed fit during his meeting with Genscher.

West German diplomats were struck by Gromyko's assertiveness. During the meeting with Genscher, the Soviet Foreign Minister often interrupted Chernenko to clarify a point. Gromyko's criticism of the Reagan Administration became so venomous that Genscher felt compelled to depart from the text of his luncheon address and reject the "unjust and undeserved reproaches to our American friends." Gromyko's behavior seemed to support the view of many analysts that under Chernenko, who has limited experience in international affairs, Gromyko enjoys unprecedented influence over Soviet foreign policy. "You must remember that Gromyko was trained in the Stalinist techniques of threatening and stonewalling," says an American who has dealt frequently with the Foreign Minister. "But for a quarter-century he has been tempered by his superiors."

Meanwhile, as Sakharov marked his 63rd birthday last week, there were benefit concerts, protest rallies and impassioned editorials on his behalf, as well as a flood of personal appeals to the Kremlin. In Paris, 2,000 demonstrators massed in front of the Soviet embassy, chanting "Free Sakharov!" The Italian Communist Party expressed dismay in a front-page editorial in the official daily L'Unita. West Germany's anti-NATO Green Party dispatched a telegram to Chernenko protesting "the inhumane treatment" of Sakharov.

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