Most of the initial reaction to Secretary of State Haig's resignation and the nomination of George Shultz centered on the probable causes of the resignation. The more interesting question is whether the arrival of Mr. Shultz will make any difference in the formation and conduct of American foreign policy.
For most of the past eighteen months, American foreign policy, especially as it relates to the Soviet Union, has been rather contradictory. On the one hand, it has been preoccupied with the Russians and a heating up of the war of words. President Reagan's rhetoric about the Russians has been harsh, to say the least. On the other hand, the ongoing policy seems not to have changed very much from the last year of the Carter administration.
The Soviet natural gas pipeline to Europe notwithstanding, Secretary Haig and Foreign Minister Gromyko continue to meet for lengthy private talks. We are talking to the Russians in Geneva about nuclear arms control. We continue to talk with the Russians in Vienna about mutual and balanced conventional force reductions in Europe. We continue to meet with the Russians and others in Madrid to talk about compliance with the Helsinki accords. And we continue to sell the Russians large quantities of grain.
Up until now it would appear that the moderates in the Reagan administration have had control of the policy while those further to the political right have shaped the rhetoric.
However, in the last few weeks, and especially since the President returned from Europe, it would appear that those advocating a more moderate approach to the Soviet Union no longer carry the day, either in policy or in rhetoric.
Secretary Haig's resignation may, on the surface, appear to have been the result of a conflict of personalities. It is much more likely, however, to have been exactly what he said it was. He was losing his battle to control the major issues of the Reagan administration's foreign policy.
Both the Russians and our European allies are likely at first to see Mr. Shultz as a stabilizing force among the conflicting personalities and ideas in the Reagan administration. Secretaries Shultz and Weinberger are less likely to debate each other publicly. Mr. Shultz will be in a powerful position to exercise any views for greater moderation he may hold. President Reagan cannot afford a second resignation.
It will indeed be ironic if the appointment of Mr. Shultz has the effect of causing Reagan administration foreign policy, in some areas, to be more like what Secretary Haig was trying to achieve than would have been the case had he not resigned.