NATO Secretary General Lord Carrington warned today about the risks of succumbing to the "dazzle" and "sex appeal" of new technology while neglecting more basic needs in western defense.
In a major address on military strategy before a meeting of North Atlantic Treaty Organization legislators here, Carrington stressed that the allies must fortify conventional defenses if they are sincere about reducing their reliance on nuclear weapons to thwart a Soviet attack.
But Carrington also questioned efforts by the U.S. Congress to force Europeans to comply with such aims by threatening to pull American soldiers out of Europe.
"I wonder whether it is really helpful to talk of withdrawing American troops," Carrington said. "Does it not give the wrong signal to the Soviet Union?"
The possibility that Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) might soon revive his bill, calling for the return home of up to 90,000 U.S. troops if the Europeans do not boost defense spending, struck many of the legislators as a potential NATO crisis.
The European allies have contended that their economies are still recovering from recession and thus cannot afford to pay for the 3 percent annual increase in defense spending that NATO countries are pledged to carry out.
A report by Carston Voigt, foreign affairs spokesman for West German's opposition Social Democrats, shows that European defense budgets are not likely to rise by more than 1 percent over the next five years.
In Britain and France, any increase in defense allocations will be earmarked largely for modernization of nuclear deterrent forces, the report concludes. In West Germany, extra defense money is to be spent on manpower, the report says.
The conclusions in the Voigt report imply that there will be little if any room left for substantial investments in upgraded fuel depots, ammunition supplies and airfields that Nunn is seeking for the American troops stationed in Europe.
European members of NATO are also concerned that the impact of massive research projects in the United States, such as the $26 billion to be spent this decade exploring the feasibility of a space-based missile defense system, will cut U.S. military commitments in Europe.
Carrington echoed Nunn's call to bolster basic military infrastructure and voiced caution about pouring resources into unproven technology.
"There are many ways of improving conventional defense and the exploitation of new technology is only one of them," he said. He suggested that the enormous costs of some programs, however enticing they may be, could damage NATO's long-term defense interests by undermining the budgets for the alliance's basic military needs.
"We must not allow the dazzle of new technology to distract us from seeking improvement in less exciting but equally significant areas," Carrington said. "It is not only in Europe that new airplanes have been found over the years to have more sex appeal than hardened hangars."
Carrington endorsed plans to enhance conventional weapon systems that could strike enemy reinforcements more than 100 miles behind the front lines. "We have never suggested that Warsaw Pact territory would be a sanctuary if Warsaw Pact forces were to invade us, and I can see no reason why we should do so now," he said.
Carrington said that stronger conventional forces would enhance NATO's strategy of "flexible response" by lengthening the period before which nuclear weapons might have to be used in reponse to an attack. He dismissed calls for a "nonnuclear defense strategy," saying it would amount to giving the Soviet Union a nuclear monopoly.
"There is no earthly reason to believe they would give that up," Carrington said. "We would be left without the means to deter a nuclear attack or to counter nuclear blackmail."
Carrington contended that a policy of no first use of nuclear weapons would increase the risk of conventional war because "a potential aggressor, instead of the uncertainty he faces at present, would be invited to calculate that a conventional attack, however massive and destructive, would be met only by conventional means."