Denmark became the first NATO member to break with alliance plans to modernize its nuclear arsenal yesterday when the Danish parliament voted to suspend payments for deployment of 572 Pershing II and cruise missiles in Western Europe late next year.
The decision, bitterly opposed by the country's minority center-right government, was seen as a victory for antinuclear groups in Europe who have vowed to block installation of the new missiles. A similar proposal was narrowly defeated in Norway's parliament last month.
Although Denmark pays only a small proportion of the deployment scheme and will not receive any missiles because it bans nuclear weapons on its soil, the parliament vote is likely to have important repercussions in other NATO countries where the missile plan has exacerbated antinuclear protests.
The motion, sponsored by the opposition Social Democrats, says that Denmark will cease paying "until further notice" the remainder of its $8.8 million contribution to the NATO infrastructure fund that covers costs of stationing the new missiles, news agencies reported.
Deployment is scheduled to begin next December in Belgium, Britain, West Germany, Italy and the Netherlands unless negotiations in Geneva between the United States and the Soviet Union to limit intermediate nuclear forces in Europe produce results.
Secretary of State George P. Shultz, who arrived in Bonn yesterday at the start of a 13-day trip through seven allied European countries, said that while there has been no substantive shift in positions at Geneva, there has been a greater tendency recently by both sides to "emphasize that we would like to see these negotiations succeed," Washington Post staff writer Michael Getler reported from Bonn.
Shultz said these increased signs of a mutual desire for agreement had emerged "most noticeably in recent weeks," meaning after the death of former Soviet president Leonid Brezhnev and the rise to power of Yuri Andropov.
Shultz plans to leave Bonn today for the semiannual meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels, where the Geneva arms talks and the repercussions of the Danish vote are likely to be major topics on the agenda.
While the financial impact of the Danish decision seems minimal, NATO officials are worried that the measure could reinforce Soviet intransigence at the Geneva bargaining table.
The Soviets would undoubtedly prefer to see antinuclear sentiment undermine the planned deployment rather than make negotiating concessions that might involve dismantling some of the 324 SS20 missiles targeted on Western Europe.
The Danish vote also could influence countries like Belgium, the Netherlands and West Germany, where the prospect of violent demonstrations at the planned missile sites has caused grave concern among government leaders.
West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, whose conservative government is mobilizing for elections in March, said last weekend that he believes the missile debate will be the dominant concern in Europe next year.
Kohl's government has firmly backed the NATO plan to proceed with deployment of the missiles if the Geneva negotiations do not succeed. But the governments in Belgium and the Netherlands, which are tenuous center-right coalitions, have wavered in their commitment.
West Germany, along with Britain and Italy, is expected to receive the first batch of missiles in December 1983, but the Belgians and the Dutch are not scheduled to begin deploying their allotment of 48 cruise missiles each until 1985-86.
Denmark's Prime Minister Poul Schlueter criticized the parliament action but said his four-party coalition could abide by the decision, because it left open the possibility for a resumption of Danish payments depending on the outcome of the Geneva negotiations.
"The Danish left has just shown that they are a bunch of free-riders," said a U.S. diplomat. "They want to benefit from NATO protection but would not even pay their share of the risks run by others."
Getler added from Bonn:
During his current swing through Europe, Shultz will visit all five countries where the new Pershing II and cruise missiles are due to be stationed.
At a press conference yesterday following a 2 1/2-hour meeting with West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher, Shultz said the key to better relations with the Soviet Union would be Moscow's willingness to behave in a more conciliatory fashion.
Asked to assess Soviet intentions, he called reporters' attention to his just-completed trip to South and Central America and the "effects of arms flowing into democratic regimes and destabilizing them. We don't regard this as a contribution to peace in the world."
Asked about speculation that the Polish authorities may ease or lift martial law as the first anniversary of its imposition last Dec. 13 draws near, Shultz counseled the West to take a wait-and-see attitude before reacting. "We will want to examine what the reality is" of greater freedom and openness in Polish society no matter what the official announcement might say, he added.
A West German diplomatic official told reporters here that during recent visits to Moscow, Bonn officials had detected hints that the Soviets were looking for ways to pull out of Afghanistan. But Shultz and other top West German officials said it was too soon to judge what Soviet intentions are and that substantive developments are what count.
Shultz also met for an hour here tonight with Chancellor Kohl, a strong supporter of improved ties with Washington and of the NATO plans to add new missiles in Europe if negotiations with Moscow fail.
According to U.S. officials, Shultz told Kohl that he had "no quarrel" with Bonn's policy of holding an "outstretched hand" to Moscow if the Soviets begin taking actions to improve relations. That policy, Shultz said, should also be based on adequate strength and a clear understanding of Soviet behavior.
Kohl also offered his "help and support in attempting to ease any misunderstandings" between Washington and Paris over trade sanctions and policy toward Moscow, officials revealed.