Concluding a year-long cycle of discussions on key regional issues, US and Soviet officials will meet this week to exchange views and swap charges on Central America and the Caribbean. The discussions are the fifth in a series of quiet, high-level meetings on regional matters which, so far, have focused on the Middle East, Afghanistan, southern Africa, and Asia.
The talks come as President Reagan, in last week's address to the UN General Assembly, surprised observers by placing unusually heavy emphasis on the resolution of regional conflicts, which many experts say pose the greatest threat to peace between the superpowers.
The President implied that progress on arms control would depend on improved Soviet behavior in countries like Nicaragua. But on Monday, presidential press secretary Larry Speakes said there would be ``no preconditions'' to an arms control agreement with the Soviet Union.
During the Reagan administration, Soviet intervention in the Western Hemisphere has been a major preoccupation. Within a month of Mr. Reagan's inauguration, the State Department launched its first broadside against Soviet policy, charging in a white paper issued in February 1981 that ``Cuba, the Soviet Union, and other communist states'' were engaged in a ``well-coordinated, covert effort'' to topple the government of El Salvador and to replace it with a communist regime.
Efforts to destabilize El Salvador were later described as part of a larger policy of ``cautious opportunism'' designed to provide the Soviets with a ``low-cost opportunity to preoccupy the United States . . . thus gaining greater global freedom of action for the USSR.''
In subsequent speeches and white papers, Reagan officials have charged the Soviets with turning Nicaragua into an armed camp. According to State and Defense Department estimates, Soviet-bloc countries have provided well over $1 billion in economic and military aid, including sophisticated weapons, to Nicaragua's Sandinista government.
During the talks this week, US officials are expected to register strong disapproval of Soviet efforts to destabilize friendly regimes and to help export revolutions in Cuba and Nicaragua. In turn, the Soviets are expected to insist that the USSR has as much right to support regimes friendly to Moscow as the US does to back governments sympathetic to US interests.