Confident Shultz surveys world: interview
A cool and confident Secretary of State George P. Shultz surveys the world with a conviction that things are going better for the United States. Critics point to an apparent freeze in US-Soviet relations, continued fighting in Central America, and tensions in the Middle East.Skip to next paragraph
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But Secretary Shultz argues that the important question to ask is whether American interests are being served. In a interview with The Christian Science Monitor, the secretary contended that those interests are being better served under this administration than under the last.
Mr. Shultz says the administration has contributed to curbing the spread of Soviet influence in the world and gave Grenada and Mozambique as examples.
Despite the recent flurry of statements from Moscow and Washington pointing to a possible US-Soviet meeting, Shultz says the Soviets seem to be engaged in a tactic of withdrawing from relations with the US - creating a sense of chill and ''stiff-arming everybody'' - in an effort to extract concessions.
The last thing one should do under such circumstances, he indicated, is grant concessions in order to get the Soviets back to the negotiating table. Shultz was referring to the negotiations on strategic and intermediate-range nuclear missiles which the Soviets have broken off in Geneva. He was not referring to consideration of proposed negotiations to control antisatellite weapons, where the administration does appear to have softened its position on holding talks.
Looking at US interests around the world, Shultz sees improvements in Western Europe, Asia, southern Africa, and Latin America, including El Salvador. He says that the four-nation Contadora peace process is making progress toward resolving Central America's conflicts and that Nicaragua has moderated its rhetoric. He contends that the administration does have a strategy for dealing with the Latin American debt crisis and argues against putting a cap on interest rates.
Not usually given to the use of strong adjectives, Shultz says that increases in employment and lower rate of inflation in the United States are ''just stunning.'' The ultimate solution to the debt problem, he says, lies in creating ''an environment of economic expansion.''
The secretary of state said that while European nations complained at the recent London summit about US deficits, there was only one nation out of the seven at the meeting which had a lower ratio of debt to gross national product than the US.
''So they are all sitting around complaining about the United States' deficit , but their deficits are worse,'' Shultz said. ''And to the argument, 'Well, but it's the scale of the United States,' if you add up Europe - if there were a United States of Europe - the scale would be more or less the same scale.''
The secretary of state made these additional points about the world's conflicts in the interview:
* In the Iran-Iraq war, the US has ''probably had some success'' in getting other nations to cut their arms sales to Iran, but it's difficult to know what this adds up to, given the proliferation of private arms dealers.
* In El Salvador, in his view, the armed forces have improved their performance, and President Jose Napoleon Duarte is generating increased support and international recognition of his leadership. Shultz foresees a guerrilla offensive sometime soon, which will ''no doubt make some headway.'' But overall, Shultz says, ''things are moving in the right direction.''
On a personal note at the end of the interview, Shultz said he did not know the origin of several press reports of some months ago which indicated that he wanted to resign from his post. He said that he was enjoying his job. But, he added, ''I didn't come here to have fun.''
Excerpts from the Monitor interview:
I wonder if you could begin by summing up what you feel the administration has achieved in foreign policy. As you know, some people say that there are no foreign policy achievements in this administration.
I think the way to judge the success or lack of it in foreign policy is to consider what the interests of the United States are in the world, and then ask whether those interests have been well served. . . .
I think that using that as the criterion, the United States' interests are being better served now than they were . . . by a significant margin in identifiable ways, and there, I think the foreign policy is successful. I think you have to start with the reality that we are stronger - our economy is in healthier shape than it was; our defense posture is in healthier shape than it was. Our general sense of self-confidence is better. . . .
We are sort of over the extreme doubts about our system that seemed to characterize (it) six or eight years ago. These things have reflected themselves out in the world, and people once again are admiring the United States.