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How West will face East at arms talks

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Divergent in tone but agreed on tactics. This is the state of transatlantic relations going into the Stockholm conference opening Jan. 17. ''I think the process (of allied consultation that has just been completed) worked very well,'' says an aide to West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. ''We will have a common package of proposals'' at Stockholm.

The emphases are, of course, different in the different capitals. Washington seems to think the Soviet Union (and the European peace movements) have suffered a defeat with the successful year-end stationing on schedule of the first of NATO's new Euromissiles. It is the Soviet Union that walked out of the superpower nuclear arms control talks, and it is up to the Soviet Union to return. Moscow deserves no help from the West to get out of the nonnegotiating corner into which it has painted itself.

Besides, with the continuing uncertainty about President Yuri Andropov's health and the Soviet leadership in general, this is not a time when the Kremlin can make far-reaching decisions - and therefore not a time for Western overtures. There is no point in pressing a ''dialogue'' if the Soviets don't yet have anything to say.

Furthermore, Washington believes, public expectations should not be raised falsely. The Stockholm conference is commissioned to talk about ''confidence-building measures.'' Period. There is no way a 35-nation melee can substitute for one-to-one superpower bargaining in substantive arms control.

The West German emphasis is less technical and more political - in the sense of striving to shape future events rather than just react to them. Bonn shares the analysis that the Soviets suffered a defeat when their strenuous political efforts to block deployments failed, when West Germany, Britain, and Italy went ahead with stationing, and when the Belgian government finally committed itself to take planned cruise missiles.


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