SALT II is seriously threatened by the furor over Soviet combat troops in Cuba. While senators, with next year's elections in mind, bicker over the 2-3000 Soviet combat troops in Cuba, SALT II recedes into the background of American foreign policy until President Carter takes what Congress considers corrective action.
It is unfortunate that the opportunism of leaders like Sen. Frank Church (D--Idaho), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has forced a linkage between two unrelated issues. The Soviet troops do not constitute a direct threat to the security of the U.S.
The presence of the Soviet brigades in Cuba should have no bearing on the importance of SALT II--a treaty that will minimally affect the outcome of the arms race, but without which a continuing dialogue with the Soviets may well be jeopardized.
The inane uproar over the troops in Cuba illuminates the confused state of our foreign policy, which lacks the stability and consistency that command worldwide respect. President Carter has shown prudence in his caution over angering the Soviets by refusing to agree to the linkage of the two issues. But his poor national rating has allowed Congress a free hand in determining America's foreign policy.
Reelection paranoia has exaggerated the strategic importance of SALT II, and the issue of Soviet troops in Cuba has only served to cloud its importance further. The Senate should put aside its self interest and pass SALT II before short-sightedness mars future negotiations.