What role would Ronald Reagan play as a world statesman?The outstanding feature of the Republican forein affairs platform is a hard line to Soviet Russia, one of the most comprehensive and uncompromising indictments of one major power by another in modern times.
The position goes beyond that taken by former secretary of state Henry Kissinger, who argued that strength must be matched by strength against the Soviet Union, but that an accommodation could be worked out by patiently recognizing different spheres of influence between the two superpowers.
The outline of defense and foreign policy in the Republican platform, however , portrays the Soviets in harsher terms: They are bent on world domination and flushed with success at having seized military ascendancy. Indicating the thrust of the forthcoming campaign, the Republican platform asserts that "at the start of the 1980s the United States faces the most serious challenge to its survival in the two centuries of its existence."
John F. Kennedy, in his election drive against Richard Nixon in 1960, made effective political use of a suppositious "missile gap," which he alleged had occurred under Republicans; today the Republican standard bearer asserts that President Carter has allowed a catastrophic "gap" to grow in practically every military field.
Most observers here believe the views of the platform and of Mr. Reagan are virtually indistinguishable. Mr. Reagan, if the platform speaks for him, asks for a massive military buildup and disdains the recent Carter proposal to increase arms expenditures in the budget by about 3 percent beyond the rate of inflation.
Mr. Reagan, or the GOP platform committee, peremptorily rejects the "flawed" Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT II) and demands resumption of work on the B-1 bomber, the MX missile, the Trident II submarine, other missile programs, and the neutron bomb.
There has been a tacitly reached conclusion by recent US administrations that the United States must concede arms equality to the Soviets. But that now is implicitly rejected; the goal is again to attain the "superiority" the United States had when it possessed a monopoly on the atom bomb.
"We will build toward a sustained defense expenditures sufficient to close the gap with the soviets, and ultimately reach the position of military superiority that the American people demand," the platform says. The phrase is repeated in the announced goal "to achieve overall military and technological superiority over the Soviet Union."
The Republican drive may prove popular among voters. Polls indicate that the decline in Mr. Carter's popularity is in part due to recent foreign affairs humiliations for the US. Republicans attribute this in part to a more militant global policy by the Soviets that springs from a feeling of military ascendancy. One big question, however, is the cost of the proposed military buildup, estimated at $20 billion a year. Some observers double the amount.
The hard-line attitude toward Moscow, some believe, will be a major theme of the 1980 campaign, second only to economics. Defense costs and economics intertwine in Mr. Reagan's proposal to restore prosperity by a bold program of tax cuts. The platform twice approvingly mentions the Kemp-Roth bill by name, which proposes a three-year series of 10 percent tax cuts. The cuts would be balanced by equivalent cuts in federal expenditures, according to a recent version of the program.
What looks like one of the most interesting discussions of the campaign will be over the possibility of squaring big new defense expenditures with proposed tax cuts. Republicans are pledged to a balanced budget and attribute current inflation to Democratic fiscal profligacy.