WASHINGTON (Jun. 18)
Defense Secretary Melvin Laird said yesterday that it was “most important” to “maintain military, strategic balance” in the Middle East but declared that the United States was not satisfied with the support it was receiving from its NATO allies in the crisis in that region. Mr. Laird spoke in reply to questions by newsmen aboard the U.S. aircraft carrier Franklin D. Roosevelt in the Mediterranean. The Defense Secretary was visiting the Sixth Fleet during a tour of American forces in Europe. He declined to state what the U.S. expected of its allies. “I can only say that the United States has a responsibility in this area and fills this responsibility fully and completely,” he asserted. Asked about maintaining the strategic balance in the Mideast, he said, “I don’t think this is the time or the place to discuss operational orders and deployments that may be assigned.” Some newsmen took this remark to be a bint of U.S. military preparedness in the Mideast. American forces were alerted during the crisis in Jordan last week with the announced purpose of protecting American citizens there if necessary. Mr. Laird warned that further cuts in the U.S. defense budget would be “a bad mistake.” He said it would force cuts in the Sixth Fleet at the very time that the Soviet Union was increasing its naval strength in the Mediterranean.