LONDON (Dec. 18)
Defense sources reported here today that the Soviet Union has withdrawn all of its missile and helicopter carrying ships from the Mediterranean although it has left behind a still formidable naval force that includes supply ships and a half dozen submarines, two of them believed to be nuclear powered. According to these sources, the fleet now in the Mediterranean permits Russia to maintain a posture of strength in that area but is less obviously intended as in the past, to intimidate Israel. The presence of supply ships permits the Soviets to reinforce their Mediterranean fleet if they should so decide, the sources said, adding that the Russians are deliberately keeping their naval strategy in the dark. About 30-35 Soviet naval craft remain in Mediterranean waters out of more than 50 that were sent there in a build-up of Soviet sea power after the June, 1967 Arab-Israel war. Among those withdrawn were destroyers, guided missile cruisers and the helicopter and troop-carrying cruiser Moskva.