Washington — In his first comprehensive foreign policy speech, US Secretary of State George P. Shultz sharply criticized the Soviet Union. But he also declared that President Reagan does not seek confrontation.
Mr. Shultz castigated the Soviets for what he described as repression, aggression, and subversion. As examples, he cited events in Poland and in Afghanistan. He said Soviet surrogates intervene in many countries, creating ''a new era of colonialism.''
''The Polish people want to be their own master,'' said Shultz. ''Years of systematic tyranny could not repress this desire. And neither will martial law.''
In Afghanistan, he said, ''Soviet divisions brutalize an entire population.''
''The resistance of the Afghan people is a valiant saga of our times,'' said Shultz.
His speech was billed by one State Department official as an answer to the charge that the administration does not have a foreign policy but merely reacts to events.
In the Sept. 30 speech prepared for delivery before the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Shultz said Mr. Reagan's approach to foreign policy was based on four fundamental ideas: (1) recognition of reality; (2) action based on strength; (3) a readiness to solve problems in a pragmatic way; (4) a dedication to a protracted struggle toward progress.
Despite what he described as an optimistic American vision of the world, Shultz cautioned that major progress in international relations cannot be easily achieved.
''We must recognize the complex and vexing character of this world,'' he said , ''We should not indulge ourselves in fantasies of perfection or unfulfillable plans, or solutions gained under pressure. It is the responsibility of leaders not to feed the growing appetite for easy promises and grand assurances.''
A State Department official indicated that Shultz was thinking in part of the nuclear freeze movement when he warned against seemingly easy solutions.
''We face the prospect of all too few decisive or dramatic breakthroughs,'' said Shultz. But he added that despite the ''deep-seated differences'' between the US and the Soviet Union, negotiators on both sides are ''now at work in a serious, businesslike effort at arms control.''
Shultz reiterated Mr. Reagan's call for an international conference on military expenditures. He said the President's Caribbean Basin initiative could be a ''model'' for cooperation between economies vastly different in size and character. And he said that the ''diplomatic way is open to build stability and progress in southern Africa'' through independence for Namibia.
On the Arab-Israeli conflict, Shultz reaffirmed American support for UN Resolution 242 and what he described as the resolution's ''formula of peace for territory.''
''Of the peoples of the world who need and deserve a place with which they can truly identify, the Palestinian claim is undeniable,'' he said. ''But Israel can only have permanent peace in a context in which the Palestinian people also realize their legitimate rights. Similarly, the Palestinian people will be able to achieve their legitimate rights only in a context which gives to Israel what it so clearly has a right to demand - to exist, and to exist in peace and security.''