NATO's incoming chief supports East-West talks
London — The following interview took place before the death of Yuri Andropov in Moscow Feb. 9.m
The man who becomes NATO's secretary-general in July agrees with President Reagan that it is desirable to talk to Moscow from a position of strength.
In no area is the West today a ''supplicant,'' says former British Foreign Secretary Lord Carrington. ''We are superior.''
But he believes strongly in the need for continuing communication between Washington and Moscow to reduce tensions. He especially welcomes President Reagan's milder tone toward the Kremlin in his State of the Union address and in another January speech.
And Lord Carrington is firmly against any United States inclination to unilaterally withdraw any American forces from Europe.
In a Monitor interview in London, he cautiously conceded at several points that West Europeans could be doing more to provide their own defenses. But he expressed the view that a reduction in the level of US troops in West Europe would have a ''quite severe'' psychological effect on the NATO allies - and might make it more difficult to negotiate from strength.
At the same time, Lord Carrington:
* Predicted the Soviet Union would return to the talks aimed at limiting strategic and medium-range missiles, ''but I don't know when.'' It was far too soon to talk of a superpower thaw, he said.
* Warned of a danger in Europe that ''some people'' equate the two superpowers and think of Europe standing in the middle. Europe was not in the middle, he stressed: ''It's standing wholeheartedly behind the Americans.''
* Denied the existence of ''anti-Americanism'' in Europe but said a new generation of Europeans had to be educated about US policies, since ''they are not so automatically pro-American as my generation.''
* Advocated more contacts between the US and the Soviet Union, on the grounds that although meetings themselves do not guarantee results, they can illumine motives and lead to future solutions.
Lord Carrington, a slim aristocrat known for his direct, no-nonsense style, took a strong pro-US line as he spoke at the headquarters of the British General Electric Company, where he has been chairman for the last year. He resigned as foreign secretary in April 1982 after Argentina caught Britain by surprise with its invasion of the Falkland Islands.
While he sought to balance his comments on the Soviets and the US, he returned several times to Europe's need to take a full share of its own defense spending. Britain and other Europeans were already spending a lot on defense, but ''the most important concern within the alliance is the need for Europeans to keep the Americans involved in NATO.
''I do not believe that the Europeans on their own can provide a credible defense. They need the American nuclear umbrella. Therefore it is very important that the Europeans should not alienate or push the Americans into a position in which they get fed up with the Europeans. . . .'' He added that Americans had to realize Europeans were under some constraints.
''Although as a future secretary-general I would like to see all the European countries spend more on their defense,'' he said, ''one has to recognize that there is probably a limit to how far they can go. What that limit is I wouldn't at the moment be prepared to say.''
His remarks appeared to add up to a belief that Europeans should be doing more - a message he can be expected to spread as an active secretary-general.
If NATO was indeed ''superior,'' he was asked, would that position not lead to more US calls to withdraw troops, especially in a presidential election year?
''Then (if you withdraw troops) you might not be in a position of strength,'' he cut in. ''The involvement of American troops is enormously important in European eyes (as) an American commitment . . . not just the military effect but perhaps even more the psychological effect of a withdrawal of American troops would be quite severe, I think, on Europe. . . .''
In an April 1983 speech he deplored the concept of ''a silent war of nerves, '' broken only by bursts of ''megaphone diplomacy'' between the superpowers.
''I was talking about diplomacy at a distance, rather than a lot of noise,'' he said with a smile. ''But if you are at a distance you have to make a noise. . . . I do want to see people talking, but always from a position of strength.''
He said a summit meeting was not necessarily ''the most acceptable or the most useful way of defusing the tension. It's a great mistake to think that by talking you will necessarily come to an agreement.''
''But the very fact of talking is important: contacts between officials and diplomats up and down the scale. . . .''
Lord Carrington was unimpressed with Moscow's initial response to Mr. Reagan's new, milder tone, but said that ''in the end'' the Soviets would return to serious arms talks. It was in their interest.
Within NATO, European nationalism was sometimes confused with anti-Americanism. Europeans at times disagreed with US policies, but It was simply a difference of judgment.
''We have two things to do,'' Carrington said crisply. ''Make a genuine effort to get arms reduction - and satisfy our electorates that we are genuinely trying to do it. . . . To do this, we need to talk to the Soviets . . . from strength.''