Brussels — Just before East-West negotiators sat down in Stockholm this week, scores of top foreign policy advisers and analysts gathered here to forge a new strategy for the Western alliance.
But they left stunned by an unusually bitter transatlantic clash of views.
More than 200 participants at a private gathering on the future of NATO witnessed sharp exchanges that revealed a possibly far-reaching gulf of views.
Involved at the top of this verbal conflict were former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, former West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, and ex-Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger. As caustic as their mutual criticisms were, one organizer indicated that Mr. Kissinger's original speech had been redrafted and toned down.
In arguing for a joint effort to define an alliance strategy for the rest of the century, Mr. Kissinger nevertheless stated, ''It is time for our European allies to abandon the charade that their principal foreign policy goal is to moderate an intransigent America - a role more appropriate for neutrals than allies.''
He acknowledged frequent changes in recent US foreign policy. But Mr. Schmidt characterized US policy shifts as ''erratic'' and ''irresponsible.''
The conference was sponsored by the Georgetown University Center for Strategic and International Studies. At a similiar meeting in 1979, Mr. Kissinger shocked many Europeans into supporting the NATO decision to deploy a new generation of cruise and Pershing missiles in Europe by warning about the uncertainty of US willingness to launch US nuclear forces in the defense of Europe.
Some sources indicated Mr. Kissinger had planned another ''bombshell'' by suggesting a reduction in US troops stationed in Europe accompanied by an increase in Western Europe defense forces. But it was said that this proposal was deleted from his still stern address to the group. In answer to questions, Mr. Kissinger did say he was currently reviewing the question and would soon make proposals on ''the Europeanization of European defense.''
Former Pentagon and CIA chief James Schlesinger, in a strong criticism of the Schmidt point of view and West German policy, however, signaled a warning to that country to assume more of the burden of its own defense. ''The US since the war has willingly taken on the protection of Europe,'' hesaid, but ''it is a fundamental misconception of the forces that move American democracy to believe that it has a national interest in defending Europe'' when Europeans fail to take their own defense as seriously.
Virtually all the participants at the gathering were in general agreement, however, that alliance strategy must transcend frequent US policy shifts.