Disappointment and cautious pessimism are the reaction at the United Nations to Ronald Reagan's Nov. 4 election victory. Publicly, few delegates want to express their views about the politics of the host country.
Privately, many high-ranking diplomats admit to being dismayed that the most powerful, wealthy, and technologically advanced nation on earth has entrusted its leadership to a man whom they consider to be totally inexperienced in foreign affairs and the prisoner of an ideology that many of them call "outworn."
The Reagan victory, however, has been received with "diplomatic realism," to quote a Western diplomat. "Carter was a favorite here, especially among Arabs and third-world delegates who remember [former US Ambassador to the UN] Andy Young and have felt that this administration had not turned a deaf ear to the developing nations," says one Arab ambassador.
There is some apprehension that Mr. Reagan may treat the United Nations in a manner consistent with the frequent anti-UN proclamations coming from the radical wing of the Republican Party and that the United States may substantially reduce its financial contributions to the UN.
But George Bush, the vice-president-elect, has served as US ambassador to the UN, and that assuages these fears somewhat. He is expected by many diplomats here to have a moderating influence on Mr. Reagan.
One nonaligned ambassador believes that "it is not so much the US-USSR relationship that will now change at the UN, because it is based on the balance of power. What may change is the US relationship with the third world, because it is based on moral attitudes. One may worry that Reagan's benign neglect toward the poor nations will be in line with his benign neglect toward the poor in the United States."
African diplomats fear that the new administration may look more favorably on South Africa than the previous one, and that it will treat local problems essentially as part of the global US-Soviet rivalry: "A return to linkage," says one Arab diplomat. Among Western diplomats the attitude is one of "wait and see" or, as one European ambassador said, "To give Reagan the benefit of the doubt."