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Cold War Heavy Arms Under Cutting Torch In Germany

August 3, 1992 GMT

BERLIN (AP) _ Germany began destroying stockpiles of tanks and other heavy weapons on Monday, becoming the first country to implement the Conventional Forces In Europe treaty.

Thousands of tanks, artillery pieces, armored vehicles and attack aircraft must be destroyed under the 1990 accord. Its ratification was delayed by the breakup last year of the Soviet Union, which had signed as the leader of the now-defunct Warsaw Pact.

Destroying these weapons is ″a symbol for the victory of reason and morality over confrontation and the arms race,″ German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel said Monday.

He and Defense Minister Volker Ruehe posed together with an acetylene torch at a metal-recycling factory charged with destroying 1,481 armored vehicles in Rockensussra, a town 120 miles southwest of Berlin.

Germany must scrap weapons from both sides of the Cold War standoff, since it has inherited both the East German and West German arsenals.

Destruction of the weapons is estimated to cost $128 million.

At the metal-recycling plant, a technician began cutting up a Soviet-made BTR-40 armored car, one of roughly 10,000 heavy weapons that Germany has to eliminate within 40 months.

Germany became the first of the 29 CFE signatories to start destroying weapons. Ruehe said the Russians would begin next weekend in eastern Germany, where the Red Army is still based.

But Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Vladimir Uvatenko had no information about plans to destroy hardware. He noted that the CFE treaty sets Aug. 16 as the deadline for a country to announce how and where it will destroy weapons.

″We are setting the tempo of disarmament,″ Ruehe told reporters.

″I think the Germans have contributed to speeding up the tempo.″

The United States will destroy 640 M-47 tanks - they’re almost a half- century old - but has yet to choose a contractor, said Capt. Debra Pressley of the U.S. European command in Stuttgart.

In addition, as the treaty provides, 2,809 U.S. combat vehicles are being divided among six allies, Denmark, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Greece and Turkey, she said in a telephone interview.

The effect of these transfers, called ″cascading″ as newer weapons trickle down to poorer allies, will be to modernize some countries’ armed forces at lower overall levels of armaments.

Manpower numbers are also going down sharply as the old East and West bloc countries negotiated troop ceilings. Germany had 660,000 people in the military when the East and West unified but is cutting to 370,000 by 1994. The United States is cutting its forces in Europe from a Cold War peak of 325,000 to 150,000 by 1995.

In Poland, for instance, military manpower is being cut from 279,000 to 234,000 and the number of tanks is going from 2,850 to 1,730, according to Piotr Soltysiak of the Foreign Ministry in Warsaw.

Under the CFE treaty, the NATO alliance and the former Warsaw Pact countries are each permitted the following levels:

- 20,000 tanks, down from 24,217 for NATO and 31,988 for the Warsaw pact;

- 30,000 armored vehicles, down from 34,481 for NATO and 41,582 for the Warsaw pact;

- 20,000 artillery pieces, down from 20,766 for NATO and 25,065 for the Warsaw pact;

- 6,800 attack aircraft, higher than NATO’s level of 5,719 but requiring the Warsaw Pact countries to reduce their 8,462 aircraft.

Each side is permitted 2,000 attack helicopters, a level that would allow some growth. NATO had 1,594 and the Warsaw Pact countries 1,719, according to statistics from a German military background paper on the CFE treaty.

Kinkel expressed concern that while armaments were being destroyed in one part of Europe, warfare in Yugoslavia is creating more refugees in Europe than at any time since World War II.

The CFE treaty is part of a widespread disarmament trend that will also see manpower levels reduced: Germany had 660,000 people in the military when the East and West unified but is cutting down to 370,000 by 1994. U.S. forces in Europe, 325,000 at its Cold War peak, are to be about 150,000 in 1995.

Although not all successor republics of the Soviet Union have ratified the treaty, the signatories have agreed to abide by its provisions.