President Reagan's decision to send Vice-President George Bush to Europe was apparently prompted in part by an impression that the US is beginning to lose the public relations struggle in Europe over arms control.
Monitor correspondent Daniel Southerland writes that American offickals consider recent arms-control proposals made by Soviet leader Yuri Andropov to be part of a highly sophisticated propaganda campaign. As they see it, this campaign aims to influence the West German elections scheduled for March and undermine the West European commitment to the deployment of American nuclear missiles in Europe scheduled for the end of the year.
There is ''no really startling change in the substance'' of Soviet positions on arms control, said a State Department official. But he added that under Andropov, the Soviets have ''repackaged'' old arms-control proposals with a greater intensity and sophistication than was evident under the late President Leonid I. Brezhnev.
The vice-president will visit West Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Italy, France, and Britain from Jan. 30 to Feb. 10. He will also meet with US arms negotiators in Geneva and with Pope John Paul II at the Vatican.