Reagan gets earful of allied ire about foreign, economic policies
The education of Ronald Reagan in world affairs continued this last week, first in Dublin, then in London. In both places he was reminded publicly and privately of how unhappy his Western European allies are about his failure to deal with the Soviets, his fondness for guns and bullets in Central America, and his budget deficit.
The emphasis at the economic summit in London was, of course, primarily on the United States deficit, which draws European investment capital to America and thereby, in the view of the Europeans, is responsible for their economic lag.
On his way to London he headed off criticism in part by sending his secretary of state, George Shultz, to a surprise meeting with the Sandinista junta spokesman, Daniel Ortega Saavedra, at the Managua airport.
It could be the opening of a dialogue with the Nicaraguans. And he affirmed to the Irish Parliament in Dublin that there is nothing in the world he wants more than constructive talks with the Soviets.
While all this was going on in Europe, a US Air Force AWACS command and control plane in Arabia detected Iranian aircraft reportedly invading Saudi Arabian airspace and guided Saudi pilots flying American fighter planes to the invaders. The Saudi pilots shot down at least one Iranian plane on June 5. Other Iranian fighter planes approached Saudi airspace, were confronted by other Saudi defenders, and turned back.
Meanwhile, it was disclosed that US warships in the Persian Gulf have for some two weeks been escorting tankers carrying oil for US military uses. So far they are not escorting commercial oil.
President Reagan is reported to have asked British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to restrain private British concerns from selling military materiel to Iran. The US has previously urged the Israelis to cease helping Iran.
The combination of these various measures could be a part of the reason why the long-expected Iranian ground offensive against Iraq has still not been launched. The hope in Western foreign offices is that Iran, finding itself unable to mount a successful invasion of Iraq, will finally agree to make peace with Iraq.
US and Soviet policies are on parallel tracks toward the Iran-Iraq war. The Soviets have provided the Iraqis with modern aircraft, while the US has been trying to restrain delivery of modern weapons to Iran from any source.
Delivery of spare parts to Iran from Israel, by air by night, is reported to be continuing in spite of US pressure to end the service.
In Western military quarters it is thought that Iraq may by now have sufficient superiority in the air to be able to disrupt and perhaps even prevent the big ground offensive.
The European leaders who met with Mr. Reagan in London are aware that they have been able gradually to modify the foreign policy ideas which Mr. Reagan brought with him to Washington three years ago.
The US President has by now abandoned his original plan for a NATO economic boycott of the Soviet Union and the idea of reviving Taiwan as the representative of China.
He has toned down his anti-Soviet rhetoric. And, as of this past week, he has at least opened the possibility of negotiations with Nicaragua.
Nothing the Europeans have said has yet budged Mr. Reagan from his deficit financing of the American economy at their expense, as they see it. And nothing said this week to him in London is likely to cause him to modify his domestic economic policies between now and election day.
However, he cannot return to Washington from London without a better understanding of the unhappiness of his partners over his economic policies as well as over his posture toward Moscow.
Perhaps the biggest single change in Reagan foreign policy is in Mr. Reagan's own positions.
Three years ago he was trying to persuade the allies and associates to go along with the economic boycott of the Soviets. Today, he is defending what remains of his original foreign policies but no longer trying to push them.
His staunchest position is in arms control talks with the Soviets. He still wants the US to build new weapons first, then negotiate over limitations from a presumed ''position of strength.''
But he asserted to his Irish audience in Dublin that his ''deepest commitment'' is ''to achieve stable peace,'' and that he is ready and willing to talk constructively to the Soviets any time they will meet with him. He insisted that he is ready to talk without preconditions.
In effect he was pleading with the Irish to believe that it is the Kremlin, not he, who is dragging heels on weapons controls.
At the end of the week there is still no way for the average bystander to know whether Mr. Reagan is truly ready now to negotiate with the present regime in Nicaragua or whether he would prefer to continue with his program of military pressure on it.
Nor is it clear whether his assurances to the Irish about dealing with the Soviets were anything more than preelection public relations.
However, criticism from the allies has taken Mr. Reagan some distance from the days of calling the Soviets an ''evil empire'' and talking at them as though they were contemptible and wicked villains.