Before meeting with Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko Sept. 26 and 28, Secretary of State George Shultz and President Reagan should reexamine the basic premise of their approach to nuclear arms control.
Mr. Reagan's policy of peace through strength was recently repeated by Mr. Shultz, who said that the best way to make the Soviets negotiate seriously is by demonstrating US strength and resolve to deter aggression.
To illustrate his point, Secretary Shultz did not give any example from the past. And for a good reason. There isn't one.
All experience to date, including all our experience during the last 31/2 years of the Reagan administration, contradicts the Reagan-Shultz theory. Neither Reagan nor Shultz can have missed the fact that more arms in Europe brought an end to nuclear arms control negotiations. As the Soviets repeatedly warned, US deployment of Pershing II and ground-launched cruise missiles in Western Europe resulted in a Soviet walkout from the intermediate- and strategic-arms negotiations last November and December. Peace through strength - the Reagan-Shultz formula - did not work. It had the opposite effect. It accelerated the nuclear arms race.
The United States has maintained a technological lead over the USSR. But the Soviets, in time, match the US, weapon for weapon. The US ''advantage'' is short term and becomes a disadvantage of grotesque proportions over the long term. For example, the US had what purported to be substantial advantage over the Soviets when it had a monopoly of multiple warhead, or MIRVed, missiles. But when the USSR deployed MIRVed missiles, this advantage became a disadvantage, because the Soviets then threatened our land-based force.
The MIRV experience will be true of an array of new weapons as the Soviets catch up with the US: MX, Trident II, Pershing II, sea-launched cruise missiles, antisatellite weapons and ''star wars'' weapons in space. These weapons will, in Soviet hands, increase the first-strike threat to the US, increase the threat to our European allies, increase the threat to our coastlines, increase the threat to vital satellite communication, and increase the threat to the effectiveness of deterrence.
Based on what they say, the Soviets favor nuclear arms control. They say a nuclear war cannot be won and should never be fought, and that the only value in possessing nuclear weapons is to make sure they will not be used. Thus, while we may differ with the Soviets on important political issues - Afghanistan, or Angola, or the Arab-Israel conflict - we may agree on the vital importance of containing and eventually solving the terrifying nuclear weapons problem.
But the US cannot test Soviet interest in arms control by deploying more weapons. The US must propose concrete measures of arms restraint by both superpowers.
The White House should propose to Mr. Gromyko:
* A moratorium on the testing and deployment of strategic missiles, sea-launched cruise missiles, antisatellite weapons, and weapons in space.
* The revival of negotiations about nuclear weapons and weapons in space.
* A summit meeting.
The moratorium on weapons testing and deployment would be temporary and bilateral and could be verified by national technical means and therefore could be put into effect immediately.
The moratorium would stop the most dangerous aspects of the nuclear arms race. Neither side could increase its first-strike capability; neither side could threaten the other's communication satellites; neither side could increase the threat to the other's coastline; neither side could deploy weapons in space.
With the moratorium on weapons and the revival of nuclear negotiations, the US would have restored duality to its security policy - peace through accommodation as well as through strength - and the US and the Soviet Union would have taken a decisive step toward a more secure relationship.