Presence of Malice
The Defense Department has just declassified information that shows how glasnost works in real life. The documents describe Soviet assaults on U.S. military personnel in Europe, and strongly suggest that future Soviet behavior will not depart substantially from the brutality of the past.
In March 1985 U.S. Army Maj. Arthur Nicholson was shot and left to bleed to death by Soviet troops while he was on a routine military liaison mission in East Germany. The response from Soviet Gen. Mikhail Zaitzev was to denounce the murdered liaison officer as a “spy.”
Last month, Soviet soldiers again fired on two American servicemen in East Germany while they were engaged in similar official business, supposedly protected by a 1947 agreement between the U.S. and Soviet armies. Their vehicle was riddled with gunfire and one man was slightly wounded. Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shavardnadze grudgingly apologized for the violence, though not without accusing the Americans of “gathering radio and electronic intelligence” near a restricted area.
The Defense Department information, declassified at the request of Rep. Jim Courter, New Jersey, shows the assaults on Maj. Nicholson and the two GIs last month were neither unique nor accidental. “Since the March 1985 incident in which a Soviet soldier shot and killed . . . Arthur D. Nicholson there have been five incidents in which USMLM (U.S. Military Liaison Mission) personnel or vehicles were struck physically by Soviet or East German personnel,” writes Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense John Maresca in a letter to Mr. Courter. [SIC]
The five incidents include the wounding in September of Master Sgt. Charles Barry [ed. USAF] by a Soviet bullet fragment that struck his arm. The other four involve what appear to be deliberate Soviet or East German attempts to detain U.S. military personnel on official business or run their vehicles off the road.
In addition, “there have been several other occasions during which USMLM tours have been temporarily stopped and detained by Soviet military personnel and subsequently released,” as well as “other incidents in which personnel from Warsaw Pact countries have struck or fired upon U.S. military personnel in Central Europe.” Rep. Gerald Solomon, who has sponsored a resolution condemning the Soviets for their mayhem, recounts several similar incidents from the early 1980s in a letter to his colleagues last month. Mr. Maresca writes that “We consider incidents such as these serious, with the potential for even graver consequences.”
This view evidently isn’t popular in Foggy Bottom. “The State Department types,” a Defense official told Washington Times reporter George Archibald a few weeks ago in the wake of the attack on Sgt. Bradley, “[SIC, Barry]. . . don’t want to step on the Soviets’ toes at a time when high-level talks are going on.”
But it does not take Sherlock Holmes to detect a pattern: The Soviets are deliberately impeding legitimate U.S. liaison activities protected under the 1947 agreement and by a 1986 compact intended to prevent assaults on U.S. troops after the Nicholson murder.
Mr. Courter says “It’s a challenge to us to accept the injury without responding in kind, and then to continue with things like arms control as if it never happened.” He compares the pattern of attacks with the recent Soviet missile tests off Hawaii. The Soviets’ persistent contempt for agreements they have signed and their continued assaults on U.S. soldiers raise serious questions about their willingness to abide by other diplomatic commitments. As the administration pursues an INF [Intermediate Nuclear Forces] treaty, Mr. Gorbachev, is now saying no summit meeting without concessions on SDI. But Soviet behavior suggests we need a missile defense and our men in East Germany need bullet-proof vests.