Claude Cheysson speaks out; France and the Atlantic Alliance
United Nations, N.Y.
The Atlantic Alliance is sailing through rough seas.
Divergent philosophies and conflicting interests have troubled the alliance in the past. They could be manageable but for a serious breakdown in communications that has occurred between Washington and West European capitals.
This is how Claude Cheysson, France's foreign minister, outlined his government's views to the Monitor in New York.
''What is good for the United States'' is not automatically good for the rest of the world or even for its allies, the foreign minister said. France, West Germany, Italy, and Britain are no longer consulted but merely ''informed'' of American decisions. Such an alliance cannot last very long, according to Mr. Cheysson.
For almost two years now, he says, ''We Europeans and the US have stopped speaking the same language.
''We are partners, and thus competitors. In times of recession, frictions tend to increase. Sometimes our interests collide, that is normal, even healthy, it could be managed if we consulted with each other, if we spoke the same language. But since February 1981 the United States speaks American only and seems to feel that it is up to itself to decide, for the allies to follow. That is not the way we view an alliance of free countries. We are not client states.
''Lately the US government has been making decisions without apparently giving thought to the consequences that they would have for us. The persistent high interest rates and the deflationary policy. The commitment to free-floating exchange rates. The sanctions against European firms selling equipment to the Soviet Union for the construction of a pipeline that will bring Siberian gas to Europe.''
In Cheysson's view the US has lately used its economic power to bring its allies into line just as the Soviet Union uses its military power to impose its will on its own allies.
The three objections raised by the Reagan administration against West European contribution to the building of the Soviet pipeline have been:
* That it would place Western Europe under excessive energy dependence on the Soviet Union.
* That it would take the steam out of the US policy against repression in Poland.
* That it would indirectly contribute to the strengthening of Soviet military power.
Cheysson rejects these objections. At the summit meeting in Ottawa last year, the allies agreed not to become dependent on Soviet energy supplies beyond the 5 percent ceiling. The gas to be imported from Siberia will in no way affect that ceiling, he says. If it did, it would be only slightly, and West Europeans could cut back on their oil imports from the Soviet Union in order to make up for excessive gas imports.
''No country has reacted as sharply (to the events in Poland) and feels as strongly as France,'' Cheysson says. But he does not see how obstructing the construction of the pipeline could effect the Polish crisis even indirectly.
According to Cheysson, France refuses even to discuss the pipeline deal with the Americans. ''They have created the crisis, they must eventually seek an end to it,'' he says. But he agrees that the difficulty may be overcome by a comprehensive reexamination by the allies of their economic strategy vis-a-vis the Soviet Union, including its technological, financial, and commercial aspects.
''On East-West matters our position is very close to the American position,'' Cheysson says. But ''regarding the third world, our approach is in sharp contrast to the Reagan administration's. We are strongly opposed to attempts at polarizing it, at interjecting Soviet-American rivalry in that part of the world.''
Cheysson says that Vietnam, Nicaragua, and Angola must be given an alternative to exclusive dependence on the Soviet Union. ''It is better that Nicaragua deal with a Western country than with the Soviet Union, no?'' he says. The third world must not be neatly divided into two frozen, hostile pro-Soviet and pro-American camps.
''Central American countries have had problems with each other long before the Soviet Union even existed. Third-world countries have social and economic problems which are not rooted or connected with the Soviet-American global chess game.''
Cheysson favors a North-South ''New Deal.'' Only a massive effort by the advanced countries to lift the developing world can eventually stimulate growth again, expand markets everywhere, and restore economic stability, he says.
On East-West strategic problems, the French and American ways of thinking are close if not identical. According to Cheysson, France is not directly concerned with the deployment of 572 new American medium-range missiles next year, since it is not a member of NATO. However, France feels that while the arms race is regrettable, a military balance between the blocs must be achieved before an arms limitation agreement can be obtained.
The ''crisis in the alliance'' is not so much Franco-American as it is European-American, in Cheysson's view. French-American relations ''have always been emotional, with ups and downs. Two nations with strong personalities are bound to clash with each other from time to time. That is what Reagan rightly calls a quarrel within the family.''