MOSCOW, JAN. 9 -- The Soviet military is shifting thousands of tanks and other weaponry east of the Ural Mountains to avoid having to destroy them as part of a planned conventional-arms agreement with the West, a conservative newspaper here said today.
An international-affairs expert quoted by the newspaper, Sovyetskaya Rossiya, said the military, in an attempt to "repair the errors" of the Foreign Ministry under Eduard Shevardnadze, has organized the transfer of hardware beyond the zone covered by the unratified Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty.
Presidents Bush and Gorbachev signed the treaty in Paris in November, but neither the U.S. Congress nor the Soviet legislature has yet ratified it. The Soviet military leadership is reportedly dissatisfied with what it views as disproportional concessions by Gorbachev and Shevardnadze in various diplomatic and arms-control negotiations with the West.
The quoted expert, economist V. Litov, has no known role in the Soviet government and it is unclear to what degree his comments on arms movements are authoritative. U.S. officials have expressed concern in recent weeks that to preserve some hardware forbidden under the treaty, the Soviet military had moved or would move it eastward beyond the boundaries of the agreement.
About a month before the treaty signing, Shevardnadze provided details of some Soviet arms transfers to Secretary of State James A. Baker III. However, U.S. officials were surprised when Soviet data later indicated that the transfers were of far greater magnitude than revealed by Shevardnadze.
U.S. officials have accused the Soviets of understating the number of treaty-covered weapons in the zone designated by the pact and have complained that the transfers appear to have continued after the treaty signing -- an action the accord does not permit.
Baker has stated that arms transfers prior to that date raised only a political issue, not a question of legal compliance, because of concerns about the transfers that may be expressed during a congressional review of the accord.
Litov told the newspaper that the conventional-arms pact would cut deepest into Soviet tank forces, the mainstay of the army, and said that military leaders resent what he called the Foreign Ministry's urge to accelerate the signing date of the treaty.
At the recent session of the Soviet Congress of People's Deputies and in other public forums, military leaders have made clear that they believe Gorbachev and Shevardnadze did not consider national and military interests when they allowed Eastern Europe to spin out of the Soviet orbit, the two Germanys to unify and the United States to demand drastic arms cuts from Moscow.
Shevardnadze, who resigned last month, warned in his resignation speech against an approaching dictatorship and made clear that he had grown weary of constant criticism from the military leadership.
Although Soviet spokesmen have said that Moscow wants the scheduled February summit here to take place on time, there is concern both here and in Washington that delays on the arms treaty, as well as the crises in both the Persian Gulf and secessionist Soviet republics, could force a postponement of the meeting.
White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater has expressed the Bush administration's concern that Gorbachev's order to send thousands of paratroops to the Baltics, Transcaucasus region and the Ukraine to round up draft resisters will escalate tension in the Soviet Union. Staff writer R. Jeffrey Smith in Washington contributed to this report.