Nordic enthusiasm for nuclear-free zone pleases USSR, but not US
The enthusiasm of the Scandinavian response to Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev's latest proposals for a Nordic nuclear-free zone is not being matched in the US.
Mr. Brezhnev hinted in a Finnish newspaper recently that the Soviet Union might be prepared to include its own territory as part of the proposed nonnuclear zone that would otherwise take in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Finland.
He said the Soviets would guarantee the nations in the zone that Soviet nuclear weapons would not be aimed at their territory.
The Soviet territory affected includes the Kola Peninsula bordering northern Norway as well as Murmansk, principal base for the huge Russian submarine fleet. It also includes territory bordering the Baltic Sea, believed to house a number of medium-range missile sites.
Still more vital from the Swedish viewpoint, would the inclusion of the Baltic Sea itself, ruling out Soviet submarine patrols. Swedish naval experts claim these patrols are armed with nuclear weapons.
The Nordic area is, in fact, already free of nuclear weapons, but both Norway and Denmark exercise an option to use such weapons in the event of war.
But peace campaigners see the official declaration of a nuclear weapon-free zone as the first step toward disarmament and a lessening of tension in Western Europe.
A statement by all five Swedish political parties earlier this year supported the idea of such a zone. And Prime Minister Thorbjorn Falldin described Brezhnev's statement as "a welcome new element."
Finland's foreign minister, Paavo Vayrynen said: "The suggestion gives a new impulse to discussions. This must be seen as a constructive and positive contribution in the discussion concerning a Nordic area free from nuclear weapons."
Official reaction in Norway and Denmark, both members of NATO, was predictably more guarded.
Norwegian Foreign Minister Knut Frydenlund said there was little new in Brezhnev's statement but it was "in line with the debate in Norway on a nuclear weapon- free zone."
Danish Foreign Minister Kjeld Olesen said: "The Nordic area is in fact free from nuclear weapons now but we are not secure against attack from outside with nuclear weapons."
Lawrence S. Eagleburger, head of European affairs for the US State Department , said earlier this year that the US regarded with concern discussions of a Nordic area nuclear weapon-free zone. He said the debate was "unbalanced" and did not take into account the massive buildup of nuclear weapons in the Kola Peninsula and in the Baltic area. Mr. Eagleburger said the Nordic area was one of "increased strategic importance."
His words were given added impetus recently with sightings from Lofoten in northern Norway of a new Soviet bomber known in Weste rn military circles as the "Backfire."