Greece has not withdrawn its military forces from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, as an article reported yesterday. Greece has refused to participate in NATO maneuvers in the Aegean Sea because of a dispute with Turkey but remains a full member of NATO's Defense Planning Committee.
Ten members of the Senate Appropriations Committee have written President Reagan expressing concern that the administration is seeking to gain Western allies' approval to begin producing binary chemical weapons without proper authorization from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
The senators, led by Committee Charman Mark O. Hatfield (R-Ore.), charged in a Tuesday letter that the administration was attempting to bypass a congressional directive requiring the North Atlantic Council approval before going ahead with production of the controversial weapons.
"While some of us support renewed production of chemical weapons and other of us oppose it, we are unanimous in our objection to such an obvious attempt to flout the congressional directive," they said.
The directive, an amendment to the 1986 defense appropriation bill, requires the administration to obtain NATO approval of its plan to begin production of binary chemical munitions and have it adopted as a "force goal" of the alliance. Specifically, it requires the North Atlantic Council, NATO's highest governing body, to approve the decision. The council's next meeting is in Halifax May 28.
The senators' letter was written on the eve of a meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels starting today at which the U.S. decision to resume production of chemical weapons, including binary ones, after a 17-year lapse is expected to be discussed and approved over the objections of several members.
Last Friday, NATO's Defense Planning Committee, which is made up of alliance ambassadors, approved the decision.
A State Department spokesman insisted that, despite the language of the legislative rider referring to the North Atlantic Council, the NATO defense committee was the only body authorized to approve a military "force goal" decision on chemical weapons, since the council deals now only with political matters. This is because France and Greece have withdrawn their forces from NATO but are still members of the council.
At least three NATO members, the Netherlands, Norway and Denmark, have already expressed strong objections to the U.S. plan, and Greece is also believed to oppose it.
The Dutch have sent a letter to several congressmen stating that the NATO defense committee's approval of the U.S. plan "can in no way be construed to mean or to imply that the Netherlands government supports or adopts a decision to produce chemical weapons."
Hatfield has also written Lord Peter Carrington, NATO secretary general, expressing strong opposition to the way the administration is handling the issue. In a May 13 letter, Hatfield said he understood that the defense ministers, meeting in a ministerial session, would merely be asked to "note" the adoption of a chemical weapons force goal by the Defense Planning Committee.
"Noting the adoption of a force goal by NATO defnese ministers is not an acceptable substitute for formal approval by the North Atlantic Council," Hatfield told Carrington. "Congress views the decision to proceed with the production of chemical weapons as one which demands approval by the highest decision-making body of NATO."