The White House has been formally notified that the banned Soviet SS-12 Scaleboard missile, delivering more clout with far greater accuracy than the Scud, is at the top of a new intelligence list of Gulf war "surprises" President Saddam Hussein may be waiting to spring on Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Making this intelligence report particularly sinister is a similar but unrelated finding just delivered to the Bush administration by the German government. Bonn has informed President Bush that 24 treaty-banned SS-23 missiles, without their nuclear warheads, were illegally turned over to East Germany in 1984 or 1985. Bonn acquired them after German unification late last year.
The link between these two dreaded intermediate-range missiles is the solemn pledge by the Soviet Union to destroy all SS-12s and SS-23s under terms of the 1988 INF Treaty. This agreement imposed an outright ban on the entire class of intermediate-range nuclear missiles and decreed their destruction. Key officials here believe these reported treaty violations by the Soviet military may have played a role in former foreign minister Eduard Shevardnadze's resignation.
If not that, continuing U.S. suspicions suggest at the very least that the Soviet general staff carefully calculated various ways to maneuver around Shevardnadze's treaty by sending SS-12 missiles to Iraq, its closest Arab ally before the Gulf war, and SS-23 missiles to Eastern Europe.
This betrays a uniformed conspiracy against civilian decision-making that may have been in vogue at the top of the Soviet military throughout the entire period of Mikhail Gorbachev's rule, not just in the aftermath of his reform era. Reneging by the general staff in the last two months on vital parts of both the Conventional Forces Europe treaty and the START strategic-arms treaty, following Gorbachev's abandonment of reform, has infuriated the Bush administration. But it is left with few options. Likewise, officials suspect secret Soviet military help for Saddam in the Gulf war but cannot prove it.
The list of unpleasant "surprises" that Saddam may be planning was prepared with help from both the CIA and its Pentagon partner, the Defense Intelligence Agency. In addition to SS-12 attacks, the report contained several other dire possibilities: the arming of Scud and SS-12 warheads with chemical and biological agents and the firing of Scud missiles at Saudi Arabia from Yemen, an Iraqi ally.
Of these unwanted "surprises," Saddam's assaulting Israel and Saudi Arabia with the SS-12, which has a 600-mile range and accuracy far beyond the Scud, is perhaps the most feared. Administration sources acknowledge they do not know for sure whether Saddam possesses the SS-12, which can be fired from Scud mobile launchers, but the more they learn about other Soviet violations of the INF treaty, the more suspicious they are.
Higher certainty on violations exists within the U.S. intelligence community with respect to the SS-23. However, long-standing White House reluctance to hit the beleaguered Gorbachev with accusations of treaty cheating has kept Bush and his men quiet.
Under law, the president is supposed to send Congress an annual report each Dec. 1 on Soviet compliance with nuclear treaties. This year the national security bureaucracy duly submitted the report to the White House in ample time for transmission to Capitol Hill by the deadline. Now, more than two months later, it remains in presidential custody. As sent to the Oval Office, it contains two-fisted, hard-hitting documentation of cheating.
Composed by an inter-agency panel, one chapter is titled "Fraud in the Negotiations for the INF Treaty," and another is headed "SS-23 INF Treaty Violations." Discussion of the alleged violations takes up almost half the entire report.
The White House has also been given explicit "documentation," dated after the June 1988 INF Treaty, that clearly established Soviet control over the East German missiles and their nuclear warheads. Bonn retrieved this documentation from East Germany and passed it on to Washington two weeks ago. It is frightening, showing that in addition to the 24 missiles, Moscow also transferred nuclear "adapters" essential to affix a nuclear warhead. But warheads were kept in Soviet custody.
Under past White House practice, the entire compliance report on Soviet adherence to its treaty obligations is never given to Congress, which receives only a terse paper titled "Findings." Now that Gorbachev appears to have joined forces so completely with anti-reform hard-liners, delaying the report makes no more sense than watering down Soviet shenanigans in complying with its U.N. Security Council obligations in the Persian Gulf.