The Atlantic Alliance today put forward a draft treaty calling for cuts in Eastern and Western ground forces in Central Europe to a ceiling of 700,000 for each side. The reductions would come in four stages within a seven-year period.
The proposal, initially outlined by President Reagan last month during his European visit and approved by NATO, represents an attempt to put some vigor into stalled talks on reducing Eastern and Western conventional forces in Central Europe. It is one of a series of new arms control initiatives launched by the administration in the face of strong American and European grass roots campaigns for disarmament.
Western officials, explaining the plan after its formal presentation here to Communist representatives, said it builds on past Atlantic Alliance proposals but includes a significant concession to the East.
Its most important feature is that the proposed treaty would spell out from the start the reductions required of members of both blocs to reach a common ceiling on ground forces. A 1979 Western proposal that specified only U.S. and Soviet reductions as the first part of a vaguer two-part plan was rejected by the East as lacking guarantees for troop cuts by other Western countries.
Western officials said the fact that the plan was presented in draft treaty form--the first time that the West has offered such a formal draft in these negotiations--should be taken as a sign of the seriousness of the proposal.
"I would like to emphasize," U.S. delegation spokesman Harlan Moen told reporters, "that the West in tabling this new initiative in the form of a draft treaty underscores Western seriousness of purpose to provide new impetus to and further progress in these negotiations, and Western willingness to bring about militarily significant reductions in Central Europe."
The Eastern side, while agreeing to study the plan, showed little enthusiasm for it. Valerian Mikhailov, the Soviet ambassador to the talks, was quoted by a spokesman as saying the draft did not appear to represent "any movement forward" on one of the key obstacles of the negotiations, namely agreement on the actual size of Warsaw Pact forces in Central Europe.
Western military officials have put the pact total at 962,000 troops while the East asserts it has only 805,000. Without East-West consensus on such data, an agreement on future troop reductions remains elusive. There is little disagreement that Western ground forces in Central Europe number 790,000.
At a news conference in Washington, Eugene Rostow, director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, said the major obstacle that remains unsettled is what he called the "data base" problem, the wide difference in views on how many troops the Warsaw Pact forces now have, United Press International reported.
Mikhailov also criticized the Western draft for taking the talks backward in some ways, notably by focusing only on troop cuts and leaving out reductions in conventional armaments in Central Europe.
Now well into their ninth year, the Mutual Balanced Force Reduction (MBFR) talks here involve the 12 members of NATO that have ground forces in Central Europe and representatives of the seven-nation Warsaw Pact.
Western officials said cuts in conventional arms were excluded from their draft this time to simplify the plan and because past efforts to include them met with a negative Soviet response.