Calling the Persian Gulf the "Achilles' Heel" of the US and free world, where "a fatal blow" could be struck by the Soviet Union, former US Secretary of Defense James R. Schlesinger said last week that the Reagan administration should consider publicly announcing the deployment of a Poseidon ballistic missile submarine to the Indian Ocean.
The presence in that area of such a submarine -- armed with 16 Poseidon missiles, each with 10-to-14 independently targetable nuclear warheads that can strike targets some 2,800 miles away -- would, in Mr. Schlesinger's view, "underscore the political investment and the vital interest" of the United States. "B-52s from Nebraska do not carry the same political weight as the presence of a Poseidon submarine," he told a Washington conference May 5.
Schlesinger stressed that a Poseidon sub in the Indian Ocean would would represent "force on the scene." Such "force presence," he observed, "affects calculations."
But Schlesinger, who was addressing a seminar sponsored by Georgetown University's Center for Strategic and International Studies, listed other measures he would like to see taken for the defense of the Gulf: an "American ground presence in the region" to provide "the kind of plate-glass window deterrence that we have, for example, in Berlin," creation of a US Indian Ocean fleet, and "employment, or the threat of employment, of tactical nuclear weapons."
Unless there is a "major shift" or "existing US military assets" into the Gulf region, said Schlesinger, "the sheer weight of Soviet military power in the region will ultimately lead to political developments -- even without Soviet invasion -- that will be disastrous for the free world."
On another issue, Schlesinger said the case for reviewing the 1972 US-Soviet antiballistic missile treaty is "highly impressive." The threat to land-based strategic forces "is here [and] will grow worse," he said, and ballistic missile defense would "probably se rve to inhibit Soviet activism."