The Soviet government proposed today the establishment of a corridor at least 311 miles wide along the East-West divide in central Europe that would be cleared of all tactical nuclear weapons.
A statement issued by the official news agency Tass said the proposal may be included in the agenda of the Vienna negotiations, which resumed today, on limiting East-West conventional forces in the central European theater. The talks are separate from negotiations in Geneva on intermediate-range nuclear missiles and talks on long-range, or strategic, nuclear arms.
Tass said the Soviet proposal came in response to a Swedish request that the Warsaw Pact and North Atlantic Treaty Organization consider a report by an East-West panel recommending the establishment of a nuclear-free zone.
The panel, chaired by the present Swedish premier, Olof Palme, recommended in June that all battlefield nuclear weapons, including short-range tactical missiles and nuclear-tipped artillery shells, be removed by both sides 150 kilometers (93 miles) from the border between the two blocs. This would create a corridor 186 miles wide along West Germany's border with East Germany and Czechoslovakia.
In its reply to Sweden--which is a member of neither bloc--Moscow said the original proposal did not go far enough. Tass said the Soviet government suggested that the corridor should be 500 to 600 kilometers (311 to 373 miles) wide.
The Soviet proposal would eliminate the presence of battlefield nuclear arms from most of the West German territory, with the exception of its far western and southwestern areas, and East Germany, except for a small area east of Dresden. The northern part of Czechoslovakia would also be affected.
Today's proposal was seen by western diplomats as part of continued Soviet efforts to influence public opinion in Western Europe, and particularly in West Germany just prior to its election March 6.
NATO officials in Brussels told Reuter that they wanted more time to study the Soviet proposal, but said the plan was unlikely to be accepted as long as the Warsaw Pact enjoyed big superiority in conventional arms.
Tass said the Swedish proposal "would not result in any substantial reduction in nuclear danger" because "nuclear munitions withdrawn from that zone could be brought back within a short time." Moreover, newer weapons have greater ranges and technical sophistication than in past decades.
The statement also said that a 186-mile zone would not restrict "the potentialities of tactical aviation," which it said is one of the "basic components" of the battlefield nuclear arms.
"In view of that, the Soviet side believes that the proposed zone can be genuinely effective in reducing the nuclear threat if its width is not 300 kilometers but 500-600 kilometers," the statement said.
Although both NATO and Warsaw Pact tactical nuclear arms are primarily located in the central European theater, the Soviets proposed to extend the nuclear-free corridor to the north of Europe and to the Balkans in the south.