A sobering result. US-Soviet relations enter a new era that may keep them in the deep freeze for antoher year or more. Maybe a new burst in the arms race. New trouble in the Middle East. But a ribbon of silver lining here and there, on grain sales and on China.
This is the likely view from the Kremlin, as Ronald Reagan's major rivals in the world take stock not just of his own big win but also of the sharp right turn in the US Senate and of Republican Party gains in the House.
It's a whole new outlook for the proud, suspicious, and conservation Brezhnev leadership -- not just their fourth US president in six years but also a United States apparently voting for a get-tough policy after the fall of the Shah, Soviet troops invading Afghanistan, and the relentles Soviet arms buildup that shows no sign of abating.
Faced with the possibility of a new explosion of inventive American technology and a big new US arms lead, the Kremlin may well have no choice but to sit down to new arms talks eventually. But not for a while.
The Kremlin also faces a President-elect outspokenly in favor of Israel as "the ultimate deterrent to the extension of Soviet hegemony into the Mideast."
Soviet officials have told recent US visitors have they are determined to get back into Middle East diplomacy. They believe the Camp David talks have already failed.
Mr. Reagan may well, like Mr. Carter before him, become more aware of Arab interests once he gets into actual policymaking. Yet the process will take time.
Until now the Kremlin has regarded SALT II as the centerpiece of detente, but it seems certain that the votes to ratify it in the Senate have vanished. The Reagan team will have to learn that the Soviets will not make all the concessions in any subsequent round of arms talks, if they agree to talk at all.
At worst, the Kremlin fears the President-elect, the new team, and the new US mood will unloose new arms programs, throw away the SALT II treaty and its guidelines, encourage an intransigent Israel, and build up US naval and other arms in the Gulf area and the Indian Ocean.
Meanwhile, realistic Kremlin officials can take some crumbs of comfort from the Nov. 4 results.
They have never liked Jimmy Carter: they consider him inconsistent on the one hand nd dangerous on the other. They have detested Zbigniew Brzezinski, his Polishborn national security advisor, for what is seen here as instinctive, knee-jerk anti-Soviet emotionalism. Both men are on their way out.
In urgent need for grain purchases from abroad following the second poor Soviet harvest in a row, officials here note that Mr. Reagan says he is opposed to the US grain embargo imposed after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, the Soviets also note he is not as pro-Peking as Mr. Carter. He opposed normalizing ties with Peking and still supports links with Taiwan, though he has backed away from resuming full diplomatic links with Taipei. Any friction between the US and China can only gladden Soviet hearts.