July 3, 1986
The most recent round of the mutual and balanced force reduction talks (MBFR) has just concluded in Vienna. Regrettably, the Warsaw Pact participants continued to display a disinclination to respond constructively to the far-reaching NATO offer of December 5, 1985.
In order to make headway toward our goal of reducing conventional forces in Europe in an equitable manner, the Western proposal of last December accepted the East's own framework for a first-phase agreement of limited duration. Under such an approach, there would be initial United States and Soviet reductions followed by a no-increase commitment on the forces in the area of all of the participants to the agreement. Most significantly, in the interest of meeting stated Eastern concerns, the West offered to set aside its longstanding requirement that East and West reach prior agreement on the levels of the forces which would be subject to an agreement. Unfortunately, the draft agreement which the East introduced on February 20, 1986, was woefully inadequate, particularly with respect to the vital issue of verification. Despite the recent assertions of Eastern leaders that their governments were willing to agree to reasonable verification measures, the East fell back on old proposals which had previously been rejected by the West as incapable of ensuring compliance with treaty obligations. Indeed, the East even backtracked from its earlier position on certain verification measures.
The United States and its allies will continue to make every effort to reach an equitable agreement in MBFR, as well as in other arms control areas. A significant move by the Warsaw Pact in the direction of the West in the Vienna negotiations would be an excellent first step in demonstrating whether the Warsaw Pact is indeed seriously interested in strengthening European security.