Preview of US themes in Europe
President Reagan will continue to press his theme of economic containment of the Soviet bloc, in meetings with European leaders this week and next.
But the administration will stop short of pushing European governments ''to the bulkhead'' to thwart gas pipeline and subsidized credit arrangements with the Soviet bloc, said Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig Jr. in a predeparture briefing.
Mr. Haig said no presummit deal had been worked out, between the Europeans, who consider their pipeline contracts with the Soviets a closed issue, and the United States, looking for leverage to restrict Western trade with the Soviets at favored rates.
''Commitments have been made,'' by Europeans on the pipeline, Haig said. ''Based on that, our position has been to recognize those commitments, but also to express our concern and to hope that European governments would scale down their initial plans for dependency.'' The US wants Europeans to consider alternative energy sources to the Soviet gas, such as North Sea oil, US coal, and nuclear power.
On economic issues, the US will admit its displeasure with its own recession and high interest rates, but will tell the other six Western economic powers, meeting in Versailles June 4 through 6, that US interest rates ''will be down considerably by next summer'' when the economic leaders meet again, said Treasury Secretary Donald T. Regan at the White House briefing. Secretary Regan declined to say by how much rates would drop.
Recent reports of studies of American capacity to wage a protracted nuclear war should not play an important role at the NATO chiefs meeting in Bonn June 9 and 10, Haig said. Haig sought to play down the nuclear exchange report as ''a planning exercise over in the Pentagon.'' He discounted any further heightening of European suspicions of Reagan saber rattling, although demonstrations are expected in Europe during Reagan's visit.
The Falklands situation in the South Atlantic remains too ''fast-moving'' to anticipate its impact on either the Versailles or Bonn summit of Western leaders , Haig said.
About the likely failure of the economic powers to reach substantive agreements at Versailles, Mr. Regan said: ''In two and a half days you're not going to be able to reconstruct the world.''