Defense Secretary Dick Cheney said Thursday the prospects for arms control treaties with the Soviet Union are in doubt and warned that Soviet unrest or even civil war could create a new threat to world peace.
Cheney said there are difficulties both with the strategic arms treaty currently being negotiated and with the conventional forces pact already signed but not yet submitted for Senate ratification."The prospects for arms control are in doubt," Cheney told the House Armed Services Committee. "Until we're satisfied of their good faith, there will continue to be problems."
Cheney testified one day after Secretary of State James A. Baker III told another House committee that he had recommended that President Bush delay submitting to the Senate the conventional forces treaty, which was signed by 22 nations last November.
The defense secretary said the Soviet withdrawal from Eastern Europe was likely to continue, but cautioned that internal turmoil could lead to new dangers.
"I have to believe there will be continued economic decline. That means increased unrest, and the possibility which the Soviets frankly discuss among themselves, perhaps even civil war inside the Soviet Union," Cheney said.
"The greatest threat to the neighbors of the Soviet Union in the future may well come more from Soviet inability to control events inside the Soviet Union than from any conscious policy of trying to expand their influence by military means," he said.
Cheney said Soviet progress toward economic reform appears to be stalled.
"The economic situation in the Soviet Union today is as bleak as it has been in the past 50 years," he said. "There is no doubt that the Soviet economy is collapsing, the only question is how fast it is shrinking."