Gen. Alexander Haig, former NATO commander in Europe and high on the list of Ronald Reagan's transitional advisory team, has strongly warned here against the Soviet arms buildup in a speech considered significant for the incoming administration.
General Haig, now retired from military service, was a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination for a short time. Now he is head of United Technologies Inc.
His international views were given at a public seminar here and were studied with deepest interest as a clue to Mr. Reagan's thinking. He warned a growing Soviet military strength and declared it "vitally important" for the United States to open "an umbrella of confidence" for its allies.
General Haig's warning, delivered with intensity, was in some ways a replay of Reagan's campaign speeches and the Republican platform. He argued that the US must put itself in a posture of strength if and when a more activist leadership takes over in the Kremlin. He deplored the "excess welfare state" in the US, charging that the supposed beneficiaries are becoming the victims of inflation and unemployment. He argued this also undercuts allies' confidence in the US.
Haig, who last year opposed ratification of the SALT II treaty, denied that he was guilty of "jingoistic saber rattling" but urged rather that new arms negotiations be carried on with Moscow "with intensity, and a determination to achieve success."
He charged that "we have conducted our diplomacy so as to make terrorism chic throughout the world." America has lost its "sense of direction," he said. Search for social justice, he argued, cannot stand in the way of America seeking cooperation from totalitarian regimes in a world struggle.
Mr. Carter's National Security Adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, preceded Haig in a seminar arranged by Sen. John Heinz III (R) of Pennsylvania. He defended the Carter foreign policy, arguing that protection of the volatile Persian Gulf oil region by the United States now is a permanent American vital interest, a "third central strategic zone," the first two being Western Europe and the Pacific area.
Haig may hgave a post in the White House as he did under President Nixon. He served as Nixon's chief of staff after H. R. Haldeman was dismissed and was a central figure in the final weeks before Mr. Nixon's resignation.
The Haig speech is being searched eagerly here for political portents as the United States plunges into the extraordinary 2 1/2 month post-election period in which there are, in effect, two presidents.
An indication of the wood during the transition is an invitation for President-elect Reagan, who comes to Washington next week, to stay at Blair House, across from the White House. Blair House is the traditional guesthouse of foreign dignitaries. It would give the former California governor the status of guest of President Carter. Hitherto, presidents-elect have stayed at Washington hotels or private residences. Mr. Reagan has not yet formally accepted the invitation, though it characterizes the prevailing mood which William Brock, chairman of the Republican National Committee, acknowledged here "is very cooperative."
This has not always been so. In 1933, post-election rancor prevented a smooth Hoover-Roosevelt transition, culminating in the closing of every US bank after the inaugural.