The United States should serve notice that a Soviet thrust in a distant part of the world may be parried, not only on the spot, but also in other regions where American forces have the advantage, Gen. David C. Jones, chairman of the Pentagon's Joint Chiefs of Staff, said yesterday.
Jones advocated this global retaliatory policy in acknowledging to the Senate Armed Services Committee that the United States is not strong enough today to repel a Soviet invasion of Iran.
"We should respond there," he said of Iran, but we should also "keep them uncertain where else we might respond. . . .They shouldn't feel there's no other risk around the world."
Jones would not say where the United States might retaliate for an attack in the Persian Gulf, but he indicated it might try to sink the Soviet navy.
"At sea," Jones told the committee, "there are areas where we could do quite well in clearing the seas of Soviet naval capability."
Another U.S. military leader recently said that the United States might have to sacrifice its 82nd Airborne Division to make a stand against superior Soviet forces in the Persian Gulf but could retaliate by smashing the Russian brigade in Cuba.
If President Reagan formalizes Jones' military advice into national policy, any U.S.-Soviet military confrontation in one place could generate another thousands of miles away. Jones believes such a global tit-for-tat policy would help deter the Soviets from moving against American interests in the first place.
At another point in the hearing, during which no senator challenged his retaliatory concept, Jones indicated he saw the strategy as the only way to combat the Soviet geographic advantages in the Persian Gulf.
"In a simplistic way," he said of the Soviets, "they are ahead. Clearly, they have more advantages in the world today in power projection because key areas are close to them and far from us."
Former president Carter directed the Joint Chiefs to organize existing forces into a Rapid Deployment Force to combat threats to Persian Gulf oil 10,000 miles away. Secretary of Defense Caspar W. Weinberger said Yesterday that the U.S. military "is not yet at the stage where we can defend the Persian Gulf against all enemies, foreign and domestic. We need to do more."
Army Gen. Volney F. Warner, commandor of the U.S. Readiness Command headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base at Tampa, Fla., told The Washington Post in October that the 82nd Airborne Division and a Marine brigade would not be "too big a force to lose" to make a stand against the Soviets in the Persian Gulf.
"I'm not sure," Warner replied when asked if such a loss of American troops would not lead to World War III. The American people, he said, "might say: 'Let's go drown the Soviet brigade in Cuba.' . . . The average American is just as damn bloodthirsty, if not more so, than anybody else in the world."
Jones' tough talk about retaliating against the Soviets comes as some conservatives are pressing Reagan to fire him as chairman of the Joint Chiefs rather than let him serve out the remaining 18 months of his term. Jones' future may be cleared up at Reagan's press conference today.
Jones and Weinberger sat side by side at the committee witness table in this first joint appearance. Weinberger said he was still reviewing the fiscal 1981 and 1982 defense budgets left him by the Carter administration and had not decided how much they should be raised.
"They are underfunded," Weinberger said, partly because they assume unrealistically low rates of inflation. He said he will recommend "substantial" additions to Reagan, predicting the administration's revised defense budget totals would go to Congress by Feb. 26.
The additions, Weinberger said, would finance higher production rates of weaponry, especially aircraft, and make up for the gap created by underestimating inflation.
Surveying the government's entire budget landscape, Weinberger said some non-defense programs "that have been considered sacrosanct" will have to be cut and others eliminated to prevent "a ruinous amount of inflation . . . . Are anti-poverty programs reducing poverty or are they enriching consultants?" Weinberger said that is one of many questions that must be addressed as the Reagan administration reviews "the whole priorities of the nation."
Weinberger said at his confirmation hearing and again yesterday that he opposes fixed percentage increases in defense spending, a position that drew private protests from Pentagon professionals.Asked yesterday if he is willing to settle for the yearly increases of less than 3 percent after inflation pledged by North Atlantic Treaty Organization countries, Weinberger said that is not his intent. "I hope we and our allies make substantial increases," he said, still steering clear of any fixed percentage.