MONS, BELGIUM, JUNE 26 -- Gen. Bernard W. Rogers retired today as commander of allied forces in Europe, declaring that he still believes "the risk is high" in a prospective nuclear arms control agreement between Washington and Moscow.
Rogers, who turned the command over to U.S. Gen. John R. Galvin, has criticized U.S.-Soviet proposals to eliminate most intermediate-range nuclear missiles from Europe, but today he declined to respond to a remark by Secretary of State George P. Shultz that Rogers is "out of touch" and that his warnings on an arms settlement are "ridiculous."
Rogers, who handed over command of U.S. forces in Europe yesterday, defended his "perception of what is occurring" and said he is "aware of what's going on probably more than many people who have not lived here."
Rogers, 65, who has served for eight years in the NATO post, has argued that medium-range nuclear missiles based in Europe and capable of striking targets in the Soviet Union are necessary under NATO's defense doctrine of "flexible response."
Referring to agreement by most western governments on the so-called zero option -- elimination of the Pershing II and cruise missiles from NATO countries in exchange for the removal of Soviet SS20 missiles -- Rogers warned that "we can't go back and say we were wrong" about the need for the missiles once they are removed.
"Arms reduction and arms control offer us the opportunity to enhance alliance security. But we must ensure that in our rush to achieve agreements we do not sacrifice the long-term credibility of our deterrent on the altar of short-term political expediency."
Denuclearization could lead, Rogers said, to making "Western Europe safe again for conventional war, or more likely, neutralization."
He suggested without elaboration that Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev might attempt to apply pressure in northern Norway, eastern Turkey or a West German city such as Berlin or Hamburg in order to prompt the NATO allies into making some kind of new military move.