Washington is beginning to expect miracles of George Shultz. In his first months as secretary of state, Mr. Shultz got a grip on Middle East problems and helped to shape a policy that restored negotiating momentum.
He then moved on to defuse tensions with Western Europe over the controversial Soviet-European gas pipeline. Next, he managed to prevent, at least temporarily, what could have developed into a trade war with the Europeans.
Shultz is now expected by many experts in the bureaucracy to dominate two huge new problem areas: arms-control negotiations with the Soviet Union and international economic policy. An economist, he is already deeply engaged on the economic front. He has been getting briefed on the arms-control issues for some months now.
Some officials are beginning to worry, however, that too much is expected of the hard-working secretary of state. In an administration which has not been heavily endowed with talent in the foreign policy field, Shultz stands out despite his low-key style.
As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff put it, Shultz has become the administration's ''Mr. Fix-it.''
''What this administration needs is someone who can pull all the strands of international economic policy together,'' said the same Senate specialist. ''Whether he likes it or not, Shultz is being drawn into this. He's the one who's expected to pull order out of chaos.''
The same thing is being said by some officials in the arms-control field.
Even as he moves into these new fields, Shultz cannot simply leave other major issues such as the Middle East behind. Aides say he places the Middle East at the top of his list of priorities, alongside US-Soviet relations, arms-control negotiations, and European security issues. But they say that Shultz has moved international economic problems to the top as well. He is planning a trip to East Asia shortly, and Central America continues to demand a degree of attention.
Page 1 of 4