U.S. doffs velvet glove in stance toward Soviets
President Reagan believes that a firm line to a hesitant Soviet Union will ultimately reduce tension. To this end, continuing and extraordinary pressure is being applied.
In a policy reversal, the United States has agreed to supply arms to the People's Republic of China. This brought a formal protest to the State Department from Soviet Ambassador Anatoly F. Dobrynin.
The US agreed June 15 to a $3 billion military-economic aid program to Pakistan, against a "serious threat" of Soviet troops in Afghanistan.
America is about to undertake an arms buildup that will double military expenses in six years. A symbol of this buildup is the the new President's determination to build a new strategic bomber -- either an updated B-1 or an even more advanced aircraft.
Mr. Reagan has rejected what the 1980 Republican National convention called the "fundamentally flawed" SALT II nuclear arms limitation treaty, negotiated by ex- President Carter. And as yet, the President has not undertaken new negotiations in reply to soundings from Moscow.
The administration is negotiating closer military ties with anticommunist Sourth Africa, according to the State Department, and may reduce or drop its efforts for Namibian independence.
American is pushing its policy of introducing short-range nuclear arms in democratic Western Europe and is seeking to allay neutralism there that led the influential London Economist to write June 6 that the NATO alliance might be approaching "terminal" disagreement.
In summary, the Reagan administration policy is a continuation and strengthening of the Carter revulsion over Soviet intervention in Afghanistan while the SALT II treaty ratification fight was culminating in the Senate. Reagan's policy has been distinguished by a more activist and belligerent anticommunist tone, and by repeated comments that communist ideology is faltering.
As an example, US Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger, before the Council of Foreign Relations in New York June 17, speaking on "our new defense policy," said the US faces the possibility of war extending from Central America to East Asia."
He added, "We must be prepared to meet Sovet military power however it might be used. . . . We have to be stronger than we were because the Soviets are stronger."
The rationale behind the current confrontation is the long-range Soviet arms buildup, which some Pentagon spokesmen declared has left the US inferior.Some see a full-scale nuclear arms race, with two questions: Will the tacit understandings characterized by the so- called Nixon "detente" be perserved? Will the clauses of the original SALT I (strategic arms limitation agreements) be tacitly obeyed by the two superpowers even without treaty enunciation?
After years of seldom-requited verbal abuse of capitalist countries by communist spokesmen, President Reagan has been unusually free in tongue-lashing the Russians. Opinion polls indicate that the public is sympathetic to a "tough" line toward the Soviets and to the accelerated arms buildup in the current budget.
The President's Republican platform said that the Soviet "challenge must be met, for the present danger is greater than ever before in the 200-year history of the United States."
Reagan at his first press conference on Jan. 29, 1981, declared that Soviet leaders seek "world revolution" for which they "reserve unto themselves the right to commit any crime: to lie, to cheat" to gain their goal,
His philosophy was elaborated in this week's press conference, where he indicated that communism as an ideology is a sinking ship as indicated by events in Poland and by the "younger generation" in the USSR: "I think we are seeing the first beginning cracks, the beginning of the end," he said.
The Reagan administration is able to cooperate with Moscow in some fields and has recently agreed to resume sale of grain to the Soviets, cut off by Mr. Carter as a reprisal for the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
If Reagan's analysis of the Soviets turns out to be right, it will be one of the great political victories in modern times: a facing-down of a nuclear-armed rival by an opponent prepared to take a firm stand.
The cost of accelerated armament seems incompletely understood by the American public. Some experts think it will be necessary to reinstitute the draft. Bigger budgets for the military take money from civilian use at a time of sharp retrenchment on social issues. Critics are vocal. Former US Ambassador of Moscow George F. Kennan, for example, warns of "a collision course ," and urges immediate reduction by 50 percent of US and Soviet nuclear arsenals.