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WATCH SOVIET DEEDS, NOT WORDS

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Despite all the dovish coos coming from the Kremlin, the cold war isn't over yet.

That point needs to be made because the remarkable and admittedly encouraging changes taking place in Russia could easily lull the Free World into a false sense of security.Just this week, for example, Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze admitted that the USSR violated the anti-ballistic missile treaty and broke Soviet law by invading Afghanistan. He went on to offer to eliminate all foreign Soviet military bases by the turn of the century and dismantle the Warsaw Pact if the West scraps NATO. Such an exercise in self-castigation would have been unthinkable in Russia only a few years ago.

But in all the euphoria engendered by Shevardnadze's remarks, don't overlook a key point:

The USSR is still the world's largest military enterprise. And it's still "the only nation capable of threatening the very survival of the United States."

Those are the words of Defense Secretary Richard Cheney, who uttered them long before the Soviet foreign minister made his astounding confession. Cheney's observations are backed up by some sobering facts from the Pentagon's latest survey of Soviet military capability.

Among other things, the report notes that if the recent reforms and the less belligerent stance in the USSR fail, "the West may face a Soviet leadership disillusioned with new ways and willing to return to the old, familiar policies of repression at home and confrontation abroad."

Other observers also warn that despite Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's promise to reduce military spending, it has actually increased.

The outside world can't read the minds of the men in the Kremlin, but it can measure Soviet military capability. Such hard facts warrant much less optimism than the Soviets seem to be trying to elicit with soft words.