Reagan eyes long, difficult agenda as 1982 begins
President Reagan faces a heavy agenda as the new year dawns.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Chancellor Helmut Schmidt of West Germany sees him tomorrow (Jan. 5) to coordinate policies on the Polish issue, and to consider the future of the European economy.
Talks resume next week (Jan. 13) between the Soviet Union and the United States at Geneva on limiting nuclear weapons in Europe.
Later in the month, Congress will reassemble and hear the President's State of the Union address, which will tell how he proposes to deal with a deficit that may surpass $100 billion by the end of the year. Meanwhile, major decisions pile up that have accumulated after the administration's first year in office, the kind on which the success or failure of a new administration normally hinges.
President Reagan's first year may seem relatively easy compared with the problems ahead. On the economic side, he has cut taxes in one of the biggest reductions in history, and Congress has welcomed his lead. Now problems arise about how best to pay the bill with recovery lagging, unemployment growing, and a big deficit in sight. Politics will intensify, too, with a midterm election this November. Reagan now appears to face a major choice that will test his administration: Will he reverse direction and raise taxes, or will he accept a substantial budget deficit?
Foreign policy problems are potentially even bigger. Reagan ran for office and was elected with a ''tough line'' toward the Soviet Union. In the current Polish crisis he charges Moscow with ''a heavy and direct responsibility for the repression.'' The belligerent US attitude has helped provoke a neutralist line in Western Europe, where minority elements condemn both superpowers.
In the midst of this, however, President Reagan dramatically announced his willingness to revive arms talk with the USSR. Discussions on limitation of tactical nuclear weapons were resumed in November.
The Polish crisis has not interrupted the Geneva arms talks, which are being watched closely in Europe. There is a widespread belief that the Schmidt visit coincides with major decisions that will affect international relationships for some time. The revolt by the Solidarity free trade union forces in Poland against the monolithic rule of Moscow is the biggest crack that has appeared in the communist state short of actual revolts. Now many Europeans appear to feel that Solidarity has gone too far. The President's all-out support of Solidarity aligns him with the activist forces and there is a question whether NATO itself can be saved in the consequent turmoil.
Speaking in an NBC-TV interview Jan. 3, former US Ambassador to the Soviet Union George F. Kennan said that ''It is difficult to see that sanctions against Russia will be much more than 'pinpricks' at the present time.'' The Soviets have no intention to attack, he said. The point has been reached in the present ''weapons race,'' he said, when a high-level summit meeting might be of value. This appeared to be a reference to a recent statement by Reagan to an interviewer that a meeting with Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev was ''likely'' this year.
Zbigniew Brzezinski, adviser for national security affairs to President Carter, said in a CBS-TV interview Jan. 3 that he backed a proposal (independently supported by Mr. Kennan) for a modern Marshall Plan to aid the Poles. However, Mr. Brzezinski acknowledged the difficulty of aiding Solidarity during its present plight.