Defense Secretary Richard B. Cheney said yesterday he opposes U.S. economic aid to the Soviet Union unless the rival superpower imposes greater cuts in military spending and ends subsidies to the governments of Cuba, Afghanistan and Angola.
"The Soviets have a long way to go before I would accept the notion of economic assistance to the Soviet Union," Cheney told a group of Washington reporters.
Cheney added his concerns to the growing list of demands by top U.S. officials wary of providing financial assistance to the economically troubled Soviet Union. The issue, which has become increasingly controversial since France and Germany proposed economic aid plans, is expected to become a major debate at the economic summit in Houston next month.
Cheney also said he is concerned that because the dismal economic situation in the Soviet Union has fueled much of the reform effort in that nation, he would be hesitant to support financial assistance without guarantees that the money would be properly spent.
U.S. financial assistance could "impede the progress of reform," Cheney said.
The defense secretary, who has been more pessimistic about Soviet reform efforts than any other member of the Bush Cabinet, said that while Soviet military spending decreased in 1989, the nation continues to pump tremendous amounts of money into strategic programs.
Cheney also commented on other issues:
The list of U.S. military construction projects he proposed eliminating last week is a prelude to more extensive program cancellations he expects to recommend in coming months. Cheney said the Navy's program to add new home ports for warships "is still an open question," adding that just because the service has built several expen-sive new bases "doesn't necessarily mean they will stay open."
In response to reports that the Soviet Union is removing some of its nuclear weaponry from regions of political instability inside the country, Cheney said "at this point I don't believe there is any reason for concern" that the weapons would fall into the hands of rebel or belligerent forces. Cheney said he believes the Soviet Union maintains adequate command and control over its nuclear forces and could protect them in the event of internal disturbances.
The defense secretary said he is "disappointed" that the Navy did not reveal serious technical problems with its new A-12 attack plane until after he submitted a reportedly comprehensive review of major aircraft to Congress, but he said the problems would not have changed his decision to support the program.
The services now are conducting similar reviews of Navy submarine and ship programs and the Strategic Defense Initiative that are likely to be heavily influenced by reports of Cheney's displeasure over the Navy aircraft report.
"Everybody is sensitive to the problems of the A-12," Cheney said. "The services may bend over backwards the other way and raise warning flags where they are not justified."