With just a few weeks to go before United States-Soviet arms control talks resume, Western policy remains unsettled and the subject of heated debate. Western alliance leaders entered a period of intense consultation this week prior to the meeting of Secretary of State George Shultz and Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko in Geneva next month. Reports from Washington and other capitals indicate no firm agreement has been reached on US or European positions for the arms control talks.
The NATO round of coordination involves Mr. Shultz in nearly a week of separate face-to-face encounters with many of his Western European counterparts as well as a two-day semiannual meeting of NATO foreign ministers here beginning today. The centerpiece of all these discussions, according to both US and European experts, will be the resumption of the superpower dialogue on arms control in Geneva next month.
Partly as a result of recent events, however, the NATO meeting is expected to spend more time than originally planned on international terrorism. In addition to embassy bombings and airline hijackings, recent incidents have included sabotage bombings of NATO military pipeline facilities in Belgium.
But it appears that the joint and bilateral meetings will be only a preliminary phase awaiting the outcome of interagency and ideological wrangling in Washington primarily between the State and Defense departments on how to conduct the Geneva talks.
Just before the meeting NATO Secretary-General Lord Carrington told journalists the Brussels sessions would exchange ideas, but it was ''too soon'' for an allied position on the Geneva talks, which could continue for a long time before getting into substantive issues.
Most European governments have not come to decisions even on what to advise the United States to open with at Geneva. The British and French governments have repeated their positions that their own national nuclear arsenals should not be involved in the superpower talks. But for the most part, the Europeans have not come to grips with such issues as whether the separate tactical and strategic nuclear arms talks should eventually be merged.
So far the closest the Europeans have come to a solid position has been support for a resumption of arms talks and a general desire for better superpower relations. ''We are in the dangerous position of saying we support the American position without even knowing what it will turn out to be,'' a European expert says.
Another senior European official recently remarked that ''Europe has not reached maturity'' in this area. ''We have been discussing European security issues for years without reaching a position.''
Nevertheless, some Europeans express gratification at for once being consulted before a US position has been reached. They regret that European views have not been clarified to take advantage of this.