Reagan policy: summitry doesn't mean softness towards Soviets
Despite some softening of its anti-Soviet rhetoric, the Reagan adminstration remains committed to a largely confrontational policy toward the Soviet Union. And that policy is to be based, to a great extent, on growing American military strength.
These seem to be two of the most important messages to emerge from a newly-disclosed national security strategy which William P. Clark, President Reagan's national security advisor, outlined in a speech here May 21.
In his address at the Center for Strategic and International Studies at Georgetown University, Mr. Clark stressed that the main goal of American global strategy was peace. In a reference to the Soviety Union and other adversaries of the US, he said that ''those who slander the United States with charges of warmongering can barely paper over their own guilty consciences in this regard.''
But the national security advisor's speech, as well as a background briefing given by another senior official, left the impression that arms control talks and other negotiations with the Soviets are regarded by this administration as subsidiary to the American military buildup.
The Carter adminstration made arms control negotiation a centerpiece of its policy vis-a-vis the Soviet Union. It considered US and Soviet strategic military forces to be in rough parity. The Reagan adminstration, however, considers the US to be lagging behind the Soviets in some key areas of defense.
''Our interests are global, and they conflict of those of the Soviet Union, a state which pursues world wide policies inimical to our own,'' said Clark, defining what appears to be the starting point for Reagan administration policy.
''The Soviet Union maintains the most heavily armed military establishment in history and possesses the capability to project its military forces far beyond it's own borders.''
''We have vital interests around the world, including maritime sea lanes of communication,'' Clark continued. ''The hard fact is that the military power of the Soviet Union is now able to threaten those vital interests.''
As a result of what they see as a Soviet military advantage, Clark and other officials seem to be proposing that the US attempt to counter the Soviets in every possible manner. As one official explained it, the purpose would be to ''shrink the Soviet empire,'' with the ultimate aim of forcing the Soviets to concentrate more on resolving their domestic economic programs and less on expanding their influence and power throughout the world.
This obviously would involve cutting back on Western technology and loans going to the Soviet Union. Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger said in a speech in New York on May 21 that Western nations had begun to tighten their procedures for approving technology transfers to the Soviet Union in the past year, and that additional efforts are underway within the NATO alliance to restrict such transfers. The defense secretary charged that Soviet nuclear missles were more accurate thanks to grinding machines for high speed, precision bearings, which were purchased from the West in the 1970s.
In his speech, Clark said ''it is our fondest hope that with an active yet prudent national security policy, we might one day convince the leadership of the Soviet Union to turn their attention inward, to seek the legitimacy that only comes from the consent of the governed, and thus to address the hopes and the dreams of their own people.''
Clark went to considerable pains in his speech to describe what he depicted as heavy involvement by President Reagan in the making of national security strategy. The national security advisor said President Reagan viewed national security as ''his most compelling responsibility'' and has this year devoted about a third of his office time to national security work -- more than any other area of endeavor. Clark said that the President had already signed 35 national security ''decision directives'' -- 19 of them this year -- in what Clark described as ''a pace that compares favorably with his predecessors.''
The White House official also said that there had been 57 meetings of the National Security Council during this administration, or nearly one a week. The President, he said, has personally chaired them all.
''Few presidents, none in peace time, have paid this much attention to our security problems,'' Clark said, adding that the President ''played an extraordinarily active role'' in formulating the newly disclosed national security strategy.
Clark thus seemed to be addressing critics who have persistently charged that President Reagan has not been fully in control of, or even deeply interested in, foreign policy or national security matters. The national security advisor also seemed to be answering conservative critics, who have charged that the President has been softening his approach to the Soviet Union. These critics cited, among other things, Mr. Reagan's willingness to enter into talks with the Soviets aimed at reducing strategic nuclear weapons.