Weinberger calls Nicholson killing 'calculated act'
April 3, 1985
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger, in the sharpest attack yet on the Soviet Union for the death of a U.S. Army intelligence officer, said Tuesday the shooting was "a calculated act" that amounts to an expression of Soviet policy.
Weinberger accepted questions about the March 24 death of Maj. Arthur D. Nicholson during a briefing at which he released a new report on Soviet military developments. He likened the shooting to the Soviet Union's 1983 destruction of an unarmed South Korean airliner and said he couldn't accept the idea it resulted from a single "trigger-happy sentry."
"You ask if that is a single act (of a lone sentry), and I have to say, 'No, I don't think it's a single act,'" Weinberger said. "There was more than one Soviet soldier involved. I think it exemplifies about as completely as you can the difference between the two systems and the brutality of this murder, as we have all called it."
Asked then if he would call the shooting a calculated act or an expression of Russian policy, Weinberger replied:
"I think you have to conclude that that is the case when you look at the fact that more than one so-called trigger-happy sentry was involved. You have to look at the number of Soviet soldiers who prevented our sergeant who was with our major from taking any kind of medical action, who refused to give any medical attention themselves. And who have only expressed regret that the man died, and presumably regret that they didn't get the sergeant."
Asked how the U.S. Army's commander in Germany should deal with his Soviet counterpart when they meet to discuss the incident, Weinberger answered:
"I think he should take the approach of waiting until the Soviets make some kind of apology that verges somewhat more slightly on civilized behavior than they've exhibited thus far.
"You have the very similar kind of mentality exhibited by the shooting down of the Korean airliner," Weinberger said. "It is the kind of approach that believes, apparently, that you should shoot first and ask some questions later."
Noting that U.S. soldiers are under orders to avoid the use of force and to merely escort Soviet liaison officers away from restricted areas, Weinberger concluded:
"You have to contrast that with the behavior of a country which had its soldier trained to shoot and then encircle the truck, preventing the sergeant who was with our major from giving any kind of medical aid; let him lie on the ground and bleed to death for 50 minutes."
Nicholson, 37, was shot near a Soviet military installation in East Germany.