Long-range outlook for US-Soviet relations

Despite his harsh anti-Soviet rhetoric over the Korean airliner shootdown, President Reagan apparently is not forging a broader strategy of condemning Moscow to perpetual isolation.

''On the contrary,'' says a senior administration official, ''the President from the beginning has not needed much persuading that such central issues as arms control negotiations must be continued.

''Obviously, the KAL episode casts a cloud over the whole relationship,'' the official says. ''But we have to keep talking.''

''I don't see this as a long-range ostracism,'' says former Undersecretary of State Joseph J. Sisco. ''I still am not persuaded that all of this precludes a possible Reagan-Andropov summit late next year. Clearly, the prospect of such a summit is reduced. But it is too early to close the door on the possibility.''

Privately, some State Department officials criticize the governors of New York and New Jersey for barring the landing of Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei A. Gromyko at civilian airports in those two states.

''Although we're not going to take the governors to court, their action was not helpful,'' says one official. ''The landing affair was not a subtle, clever, manufactured thing involving the administration.''

The Korean airliner issue has not re-created the ''old battle lineup,'' says a senior official, with Secretary of State George P. Shultz on one side and two White House figures - national-security adviser William P. Clark and UN Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick - on the other.

The official agrees that the destruction of the civilian airliner reinforced the ''long-held conviction'' of Mr. Reagan, Mr. Clark, and Mrs. Kirkpatrick that the Soviets are not to be trusted.

''Nonetheless, this does not translate into an administration effort to break off all negotiations,'' the official says.

Presidential initiatives in several areas of US-Soviet relations will not be canceled, according to administration officials:

* Geneva arms talks - on limiting intermediate nuclear weapons in Europe and parallel negotiations on intercontinental missiles - will continue.

* The recently signed long-term US-Soviet grain pact, under which Moscow agreed to boost its purchases of American wheat and corn, will remain in force.

* Export of nonsensitive US equipment for building Soviet pipelines, notably pipelaying tractors, will be allowed under a recent presidential decision.

Along with the allies, however, the administration will press for tighter controls on exports to the communist bloc of Western equipment with military potential.

Some analysts contend that Reagan's uncompromising tone, backed by congressional resolutions blasting the Soviet Union, have chilled relations to the point that meaningful negotiations are imperiled.

Others argue that Soviet leaders, however angered by world condemnation of their actions, are capable of looking beyond rhetoric to the essentials of US-Soviet relations, especially arms control and commodity trade.

Moscow, says the Agriculture Department, has bought half a billion dollars' worth of American wheat and corn since Sept. 1, the day KAL Flight 7 was shot down.

Lebanon may provide a crucible within which US-Soviet relations will be tested, according to some analysts. The United States, with marines on the ground, backs the Lebanese government of President Amin Gemayel. Syria, through its military occupation of northern and eastern Lebanon, supports the Druze and Muslim opposition to Mr. Gemayel.

Syria, in turn, gets weaponry from the Soviet Union, including Moscow's replacements for the aircraft and surface-to-air missiles destroyed by the Israelis during their invasion of Lebanon last year.

How much leverage does Moscow have to pull the United States deeper into Lebanese involvement by encouraging Syria and its allies to escalate attacks on US marines?

Not as much as might be supposed, according to Harold H. Saunders, former assistant secretary of state for Middle Eastern affairs.

''Soviet and Syrian interest in getting back to center stage in the Middle East coincide,'' Dr. Saunders says. ''But the Syrians are pretty much their own masters.''

Sisco sees little, if any, direct link between the Korean incident and Soviet diplomacy in the Middle East.

''The Soviets will give full political support to (Syrian President Hafez) Assad,'' he says. ''But Assad is making the decisions as to how far he will support the Druze and the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization).''

Above all, according to Saunders and Sisco, President Assad wants to avoid a major military clash between Syria and either the US or Israel. Syria's Air Force and ground-to-air missile units were outclassed by Israel in fighting last year.

There is ''every indication,'' said President Reagan in a current Newsweek interview, that the Soviets are playing a role in Syria's Lebanese policy. ''It fits the pattern they have followed for years.''

This role, however, in the view of Middle East experts Saunders and Sisco, has not been basically changed by US and world condemnation of the Soviet destruction of KAL Flight 7.

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