President Carter later this week will be presented by his national security advisers with a new defense strategy that secretly concedes one-third of West Germany to a Soviet invasion rather than seek increased defense spending, which these advisers say would provoke Moscow and divide Washington.
[For the Carter administration's comments on this column, see the news story on page A12.]
PRM-10, the Carter administration's top-secret strategic study, suggested that this policy could be made platable to Western Europe by simply not admitting its implications. This course was wholly adopted in high-level meeting July 28 and 29 by Zbigniew Brzezinski, the President's national security adviser. There was dissent from the senior officials assembled.
The strategic policy paper to be given the President (about three pages of single-spaced typing) makes no mention of surrender or duplicity in central Europe but talks of a commitment to a "minimum loss of territory" in NATO. To achieve a broader perspective Carter ought to look at the minutes of the July 28-29 meetings of his Senior Coordinating Council (SCC) on national security.
The SCC agreed on a 3 per cent annual increase in defense spending, fulfilling Carter's promise to his NATO allies earlier this year. But, according to verbatim notes taken by one of the participants, Brzezinski declared: "It is not possible in the current political environment to gain support in the United States for procurement of the conventional forces required to assure that NATO could maintain territorial integrity if deterrence fails. Therefore, we should adopt a 'stalemate' strategy. That is, a strategy of falling back and leaving the Soviet to face the political consequences of their aggression."
Brzezinski went on to declare that these "political consequences" - world opinion, U.N. disapproval, U.S. mobilization - would help deter a Soviet invasion. There was no dissent from those present, including Vice President Mondale, CIA Director Stansfield Turner, Chief Disarmament Negotiator Paul Warnke, Deputy Defense Secretary Charles Duncan and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. George Brown.
Brzezinski continued: "We agree there must be a gap between out declared strategy and actual capability. We cannot for political reasons announce our strategy." Again, there was no dissent, though some officials voiced the opinion there would be hell to pay if the Germans learned what was happening.
All this follows the script of the June 20 draft of PRM-10, which lists four options for lower-range defense spending. Each would stop a Soviet offensive at a line formed by the Weser and Lech Rivers, surrendering about one-third of West Germany (including Saxony and most of Bavaria).
These four options, according to PRM-10, do not "plan" to stop "a determined Warsaw Pact conventional attack . . . If the Soviets persist in their attack, a U.S.-NATO conventional defeat in Central Europe is likely." Yet these options are certainly not rejected out of hand.
"Many of the adverse political implications" of the reduced defense options (such as independent German rearmament or, conversely, European accommodation to Moscow) "probably could be avoided if the U.S. continued to publicly support" present strategy. Adverse reactions by Western Europe "could be significantly softened . . . if the U.S. were to avoid any statements to the effect that a loss of NATO territory would be acceptable."
PRM-10 also proposes these political steps, accompanying defense reduction, that could help forestall a Russian attack: "The U.S. might pursue armscontrol initiatives more vigorously to obtain reductions in threats and opposing force levels, thereby minimizing the risks of unilateral U.S. reductions. With respect to the Soviet Union, the U.S. might undertake a broad program of economic assistance to the U.S.S.R. on trade, credits, food, and technology, thereby lowering political tensions and reducing the risks of war."
The four options calling for increases in defense spending, says PRM-10, would be intended to roll back a Soviet invasion but "may provoke adverse Soviet and allied reactions." This "might provoke a similar Soviet counter-buildup or even a preemptive attack," and therefore "might actually undermine deterrence."
Arms-control negotiations would be disturbed by "strategies requiring a visible and rapid increase in the size of U.S. and allied forces, particularly in Europe. . . . Soviet suspicions of U.S. motives would make it more difficult to conclued meaningful arms-control agreements, either SALT [Strategic Arms Limitation Talks] or MBFR [Mutual Balanced Force Reductions]."
PRM-10 predicts any increase in defense spending would generate "divisive debate" adn warns an across-the-board hike in defense capability "is likely to find little domestic support." In general, the option callings for decreased strength are seen as casuing less trouble; in particular, the option calling for approximately the present military level but with less sustained power in Europe is described as "probably the most anodyne [option] in terms of its domestic impact, unless it were only described as a lowering of our sights."
These views were implicitly accepted last week by Brzezinski and the other senior officials. So the President is about to adopt a policy boiling down to this: Instead of seeking greater defense spending to defend central Europe, rely on political pressures to deter Moscow while secretly conceding a military defeat. Whether this reflects a "political evironment" as claimed by Brzezinski, it certainly reveals the enviroment within the Carter administration.