Arms and the (new) man
the American people have resoundingly elected a man who made United States and Western security a major campaign issue. they, not to mention the rest of an uncertain world, want to know how the new administration will follow through on Ronald Reagan's words. Much will depend on the Make -up of that administration and on international events when it takes office. But from information now available it appears that these will be some of the points of change:
* Relations with the Soviet Union. The intent is not anti-moscow "toughness " for its own sake. It is to be alert to Moscow's aims in terms of a global political struggle. The millitary goal is not to achieve "superriority," no matter what the Republican platform says, but to redress what is seen as the present imbalance in Russia's favor. There will probably be calculated efforts to exploit Russia's vulnerabilities. Nothing will be granted to Moscow except in terms of strict reciprocity. Arms restraint, for example, will depend on reciprocity in arms restraint -- not on hoped- for political steps.
* Relations with China. President-elect Reagan's often-expressed support for Taiwan will not alter the present general course of US relations with Peking. Recognition of China's strategic role against the Soviet Union probably means increased provision of equipment and know-how to China, though not necessarily weapons. But fundamentally no more trust will be placed in Peking than in Moscow.
* Relations with NATO. It is recognized that an increased US strictness in relations with the Soviet Union could cause problems with European allies that have particular economic and political interests in strengthening detente. They will be expected to display greater consistency in support of transaltlantic interests. Pressures may be brought to bear. The allies may be enlisted in support of defense measures beyond Europe, such as in the Persian Gulf and there may even be an effort toward a geographically broadened alliance to supplement NATO.
* United States military. Reagan teams are at work on proposals in his field as well as others. Among specific possiblities are reviving the B-1 bomber, improving the accuracy of the Trident 12 submarine missiles, adding intercontinental ballistic missiles in competition with Moscow, working toward antiballistic-missile defense. There is also recognition of the need to maintain and improve conventional forces, to provide sufficient incentives for the recruitment and re tention of volunteer personnel.
* Arms control. Defense Secretary brown said in advance that the presidential election would be a referendum on the US-Soviet arms control treaty known as SALT II, now some Reagan people are interpreting the election as a vote against salt II even though polls had previously shown most Americans in favor of it. On the one hand, the Reagan administration is said to be likely to move swiftly either to renegotiate SALT II or move on to other amrs control efforts; on the other, it may be likely to seek a stronger military position to negotiate from.
Even with Republicans controlling the new Senate, the Reagan administration will have to persuade Congress in order to achieve much of what it seeks to do. There will be voices raising questions:
Will not the proposed military buildup cause Moscow to miscalculate that Washington is preparing for a nuclear first strike? Will not Moscow's reasons for its present buildup continue to exist even after a US buildup brings the whole arms race to an expensive higher plateau? Should not arms control be seen as no less important to US and world security than arms buildup? Is not the most urgent priority and least expensive means of deterring the most likely kind of war an effort to improve US manpower and conventional defenses?
Can the NATO allies be expected to roll over and accept US pressures against Moscow they consider dangerous to themselves? Will the American people continue to support NATO if they are expected to give more and more of their taxes to military buildup while the allies fail to follow suit -- as in West Germany's decision to increase defense spending by little more than half of the 3 percent it pledged with the US and others?
Can any administration come in and do a great deal to build up strategic weapons quickly when time is needed to meet technological and production problems? And, if not, should arms control efforts really be delayed that long?
Finally, when Mr. Reagan gets into office, will he find that America's defenses really are not as poor as he has been saying but nearer to the parity that the SALT negotiators and others have found?
These are some of the matters to be threshed out as the Reagan years begin. We are impressed with the dispassionate, businesslike approach that the advisory teams seem to be adopting so far.