Detente revisited (continued)
Moscow's Leonid Brezhnev has said yes, he would like to talk about nuclear weapons with United States President Ronald Reagan. His yes is in noticeable contrast to the hard no he used when President Carter made his opening move on strategic weapons five years ago.
The contrast makes it reasonably clear that Moscow is ready and willing to negotiate and regards the Reagan opening move as being a basis for serious talks.
The question arises as to whether this means that the condition called ''detente'' is due for revival.
The original detente of 10 years ago was built on and around an agreement limiting the number and characteristics of strategic nuclear weapons. Since the new talks which now seem likely are to deal with that same subject, it is possible that control of nuclear weapons may again expand into a broader range of subjects.
But before one assumes any such trend ahead it is to be noted that the Reagan administration is at present headed down the opposite road of a broad anti-Soviet strategy and that there are powerful political forces inside the US which support an anti-Soviet strategy and are already resisting what they see as a danger of departing from it.
Existing Reagan administration strategy is to use economic, political, and psychological weapons to contain Soviet expansion and break up the Soviet empire of influence in the world. The program calls for denying Western technology and Western credits to the Soviets. In effect, the administration is committed to what used to be called a ''roll back'' policy, although this phrase, much used in the days of John Foster Dulles, has not yet been revived in current Washington talk.
There have been several departures from a full anti-Soviet strategy. Mr. Reagan lifted his predecessor's embargo on the sale of US grain to the Soviets. He is no longer trying to prevent American companies from selling equipment for the proposed pipeline to bring Siberian natural gas across to Western Europe. There is less use of anti-Soviet rhetoric.
But there is still hope that the allies will hold off on the pipeline. Washington continues to try to line up the allies for tougher restraints on Western technology and credits. And rearmament continues to be a top administration priority.
''What has emerged'' in the words of Joseph Fromm, a top Washington foreign policy expert, ''is a strategy that aims at challenging Russia to the maximum degree that alliance traffic will bear.''
Any deviation from such a strategy is immediately attacked politically by the members of the neo-conservative movement whose views about what they regard as Reagan backsliding are to be found outlined in an article by Norman Podhoretz in the May 2 issue of the New York Times Magazine.
Who are the neo-conservatives? According to Mr. Podhoretz, who is generally regarded as their current leading spokesman, they ''continue to believe that the survival not only of the US but of free institutions everywhere in the world depends on the resurgence of American power.''
Also, according to the same authority, ''while the general impression that all neo-conservatives are Jewish is false, it is certainly true that all neo-conservatives are strong supporters of Israel. . . .''
Detente as practiced by Henry Kissinger through the Nixon and Ford administrations and into the early Carter days led to a cutback in American military spending. Hence it was opposed by the military industry. It was accompanied by a decline in the sense of the importance of Israel to the US. Inherent in detente was the possibility of joint US and Soviet pressure on Israel to withdraw from the occupied Arab territories. Hence detente was opposed by the pro-Israel lobby.
The neo-conservatives include, in effect, a blend of the interests of the arms lobby with the interests of the pro-Israel lobby. Both distrusted and disapproved of detente. Both have been active in discrediting it. Both are using the influence they have on the Reagan administration to prevent a revival of it. Both command substantial political campaign funds.
It would seem unlikely from the above that there is going to be anything resembling a real revival of detente for some time to come.