U.S. officials meet with Soviet attaches
March 29, 1985
WASHINGTON (UPI) -- The Reagan administration called three Soviet military attaches to the Pentagon on Thursday to discuss the killing in East Germany of a U.S. military observer by a Soviet sentry, officials said.
A State Department spokesman said "certain steps" have been taken in response to Sunday's shooting of Army Maj. Arthur Nicholson, but they do not constitute "retaliation."
A State Department spokesman said three meetings related to the case were conducted at the Pentagon on Thursday morning. He declined to characterize the meetings, but said the Soviets "are in no doubt about our sense of outrage."
Vice Adm. James Lyons, deputy chief of naval operations, met with Soviet naval attaché Ivan Sakul'kin; Lt. Gen. William Odom, Army deputy chief of staff for intelligence, met with Soviet military attaché Maj. Gen. Grigoriy Yakovlev; and Maj. Gen. John Shaud, Air Force director of plans, met with air attaché Col. Sergey Smirnov.
A Pentagon spokesman said the meetings were at the administration's request.
The administration has also discussed the matter with the British and French governments.
He said those two governments "share our concerns" because they have missions in East Germany similar to the one to which Nicholson was attached.
A State Department spokesman said Wednesday that the administration was breaking off a West Coast tour by Sakul'kin, the senior Soviet military attaché in Washington, and he was being called to the Pentagon to receive a protest of the shooting "in the most uncertain terms."
Oleg Solokov, the No. 2 official in the Soviet Embassy, was summoned to the State Department late Wednesday for a 40-minute meeting with Richard Burt, assistant secretary for European affairs.
("I will not discuss the meeting," Solokov told an Associated Press reporter after the half-hour session with Burt, who heads a panel of State Department, Pentagon and National Security Council staff members weighing actions to be taken in retaliation. State Department spokesman Brian Carlson also refused to discuss the meeting.
(Speaking of the prospects of improved U.S.-Soviet relations under new Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, the AP said, Burt told the committee: "If Gorbachev wanted to send a signal to the United States that the Soviet Union is ready for an improved relationship, this would be one area for a signal to be heard loud and clear.")
White House spokesman Larry Speakes said Wednesday that the administration was "considering some steps involving U.S.-Soviet relations" in response to the shooting, but declined to be specific.
The State Department spokesman said Thursday:
"We have taken certain steps in response to Soviet actions and have the situation under continuing review. I do not plan to discuss specific steps or to speculate as to future actions. I would not, however, characterize them as 'retaliation.' We have made clear to the Soviets how strongly we feel about this and are seeking ways to make such incident [sic] do not recur."
The Soviets have charged Nicholson and the sergeant who accompanied him were conducting an "espionage mission" at the time of the shooting at Ludwigslust, East Germany.
But the administration says he was monitoring Soviet military activities, the normal and recognized function of the U.S. liaison mission in Potsdam, East Germany.
Administration officials acknowledged Wednesday Nicholson was photographing Soviet military equipment before he was shot by a Soviet sentry but insisted there was no justification for the killing. "They had a right to detain him, but not to shoot him," said one official.
(The Associated Press reported that the Soviets have called the episode regrettable, but have maintained that Nicholson was illegally taking photographs through the window of a storage building on a restricted Soviet military installation. They also said he ignored the guard's orders to halt.
(But Pentagon officials rejected that account, carried by the Soviet news agency Tass, as "designed to justify the killing of Major Nicholson," the AP said.
(The AP quoted Pentagon officials as saying the area was not restricted and "he had the right of access, of free transit."
(Burt told a House subcommittee that the Soviet version "in some cases is distorted, in other cases it is deceptive and in other cases it is just flatly wrong," according to AP.)
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