President Bush is determined to pursue modernization of short-range nuclear weapons in Europe despite West German-led opposition that is dividing the NATO alliance, his spokesman said.
Preparing for the NATO summit at the end of this month in Belgium, Bush is resisting pressure from some members of the alliance to begin negotiations with the Soviet Union. Bush is insisting that talks on cuts in the number of missiles be tied to reductions in Eastern conventional forces in Europe."It's the president's view that the maintenance of short-range missiles in Europe is essential to the strategy of flexible response, and such systems must be kept up to date," spokesman Marlin Fitzwater told a White House briefing Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Kenneth L. Adelman, who was the Reagan administration's arms control director, told the Associated Press that the United States should never negotiate a reduction in short-range nuclear missiles with the Soviet Union.
"For two reasons," Adelman said Wednesday in an interview. "They have been an essential element in deterrence since the early 1960s. No. 2, there is no way to verify whether the missiles will have nuclear or conventional or chemical munitions."
Fitzwater said Bush reinforced his view in an Oval Office meeting Wednesday with Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, who acknowledged she and the president had not agreed on the question of the U.S.-Soviet talks over the short-range missiles.
Brundtland met with Bush for more than an hour to promote her general support for West Germany's quest to delay U.S. modernization of the Lance short-range missile, which the administration has said it is willing to do, and to prod the administration into negotiating missile reductions with the Soviets.
The prime minister, whose meeting was scheduled to last only 20 minutes, said afterward, "The American position is strongly presented and clearly argued. We didn't find the solution today, but we're hopeful we will find common ground."
The nuclear arms are at the center of NATO's policy to offset the superior numbers of conventional Warsaw Pact forces. However, West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl is trying to relieve domestic political pressure by promoting an early removal of the weapons - and the disagreement has divided NATO.
Brundtland conceded Bush and his advisers "feel they have been taken somewhat by surprise by the German position." After the administration agreed to delay a Lance modernization decision until after West German elections, Kohl was expected not to push for the early negotiations.