Reagan foreign policy -- how many voices?
Washington — Foreign affairs developments in the first two Reagan months have been as striking in their way as those on the economic front. Secretary of State Alexander Haig, clearly establishing himself as point man for the new Republican foreign policy, has outlined the bulk of it in jut-jawed testimony before congressional committees.
There are the rejection of the SALT II arms-control treaty, the plan for a major arms buildup (promised in the GOP platform), continuation of the Soviet grain embargo, a test case in a Caribbean nation (El Salvador) to halt subversive penetration, and a call for support from NATO allies.
President Reagan, at his first press conference Jan. 29, declared that the Soviets recognize no morality but are prepared to "commit any crime -- to lie, to cheat." Instead of detente there is a posture of unremitting containment.
But while the Reagan administration is getting itself organized there is some confusion in the statements of officials in the upper echelons. These do not indicate any softness toward Moscow, or any serious quarrel over who speaks with the most authority. It is more of a matter of a number of spokesmen learning to speak with one voice.
Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger reported, and the State Department then denied, that the administration would deploy neutron bombs in Europe.
Then Richard Pipes, Soviet expert on the National Security Council staff, declared, and superiors later decried, that unless the Soviets changed their social system there would be war.
About the same time, the press was chided by a high official for putting too much emphasis on El Salvador at a time when the administration wanter to facus attention on the budget. This, too, brought almost immediate disclaimers from other officials who argued that El Salvador is a crucial test case.
Such contradictions in shade or emphasis are not unusual in a new administration. But they also underline an extraordinary situation: startling changes in American policy -- one at home, one abroad -- put into effect with breathtaking speed and proceeding simultaneously.
The latest development in the foreign field is a warning by Richard V. Allen, President Reagan's national security adviser, that the NATO alliance in threatened by a "grave economic crisis" in Western Europe and by the revival of "outright pacific sentiments." These sentiments are typified, he said, by the British Labour Party.
This was Mr. Allen's first public address since taking his new position, and the forum was the Conservative Political Action Conference, a coalition of activists before whom President Reagan himself appeared.
During the two-month Reagan shakedown cruise Washington has been intensely interested in such gatherings. Allen told the conference that "Europe is confronted with an economic crisis every bit as dangerous as that which followed World WAr II." He said "uncontrollable social programs" are pushing governments into deficit spending.
The Moscow response to the new Washington aggressiveness so far has been mild. Paradoxically, the reaction is softer, it is felt, than to the peacemaking feelers of President Carter. Moscow repudiated a Carter suggestion for mutual arms reductions, charging "betrayal" of earlier achieved agreements.
When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan President Carter recoiled, and the Salt II treaty was shelved. "I told you so," is the current Washington attitude: The Soviet preder to deal with a bold adversary who follows a consistent course.
President Reagan has an unsettled problem in the Far East -- better relations with China as worked out by Carter. Peking has made it plain that the Reagan compromise formula of semi-diplomatic relations with Taiwan is not acceptable. Former President Gerald Ford and Mrs. Ford, now in the Orient, may help this situation with a reported letter from President Reagan.