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Laird: U.S. Will Do Whatever is Necessary to Maintain Mideast Military Balance

“The United States will do what it has to do to maintain a military balance of power in the Middle East, but it has no plans to involve Americans directly.” Defense Secretary Melvin E. Laird today told a group of young visitors to the Pentagon. He told his visitors that the Soviet buildup of power in support of Egypt created in the Middle East “a far more serious situation for us in the long run than we now face in Southeast Asia.” Mr. Laird said the best way to “avoid a confrontation” of the superpowers was to maintain the present military balance. Declining to rule out the possibility that the U.S. might have to send troops into the Middle East if the need arose. Mr. Laird said that the Russians “are moving military manpower, their own manpower, and committing it to that area of the world.” He added that “we do not have any plans to involve Americans directly in that confrontation and I would hope that always could be the case. But we are watching the situation very carefully.”