JUST 60 YEARS AGO there came into being the present political regime in Russia. And exactly at the halfway point of that span of time - 30 years ago - I chanced to deliver a talk on th subject of Soviet-American relations which became the basis for an article in the magazine Foreign Affairs signed by the pseudonym "X." This article attained a certain melancholy notoriety and has dogged my footsteps ever since, like a faithful, but unwanted and somewhat embarrassing animal.

The coincidence of chronology naturally leads me to reflect on the changes that have occurred since that year of 1947 in the background against which Soviet-American relations have had to proceed. The Russian political scene was then dominated by a single great personality - a man whom Churchill very aptly called a "crafty giant" - a man of enormous political-tactical genius - a formidable opponent an anyone's terms, but one whose combination of paranoia with cruelty and political mastery had served to create one of the great totalitarian monstrosities of our time: a personal despotism as ruthless and far-reaching as anything the modern world has ever known. By 1947 this despotism had already cost the Soviet peoples several millions of lives. And it had not stopped at the old Russian borders but had been extended - and this with our tacit blessing - to nearly one-half of the remainder of the European continent. And no one could be sure, in 1947, that it would stop there.

The danger was not one of further military conquest. (Actually, it never has been that.) The problem was that Western Europe, still dazed, shaken and jittery from the effects of the Hitlerian conquest, did not know what to expect. Its peoples lacked confidence in themselves. They had a tendency to rush for safety to the side of whoever they thought was likely to win in the end. They would have been quite capable of throwing themselves into the arms of their own Communist parties if they gained the impression that those Communist parties represented the wave of the future. And to this had to be added the fact that the Moscow center, and Stalin personally, enjoyed at that time a total monopolistic control over the world Communist movement - a control which meant that any success by any Communist party anywhere in seizing power within its own country had to be regarded as equivalent in its effects to a military conquest by the Soviet Union.

It is enough to cite these circumstances, I think, to make clear the magnitude of the changes that have occurred in this 30-year interval. The Soviet Union remains, of course, an authoritarian state - much as was the prerevolutionary Tsarist Russia; but there is very little to be seen today of the terror tat prevailed in Stalin's time, and the regime is headed by a moderate, in fact conservative man; a man who, whatever other failings of outbalancer among political forces - a man confidently regarded by all who know him as a man of peace.

Moscow's monopoly of authority over the world Communist movement has been throughly disrupted - so much so that even in the case of those Communist parties that still ostensibly recognize the Soviet leadership, the lines of authority leading from Moscow are tenuous and incapable of bearing much weight. It is a case where the semblance of authority can be retained only by the sacrifice of much of the reality.

And finally, in place of the anxious, jittery Western Europe of 1947 we now have an area which is unquestionably the seat of some of the most successful civilization, economically and socially, that the modern world has to show. The change, to be sure, has not been complete. People have not fully overcome the trauma of two world wars. Many still lack confidence in themselves, see dangers on every hand, require to be reassured periodically, like frightened children. This situation has its military implications, and plays a part, of course, in Soviet-American relations. But it cannot be compared in seriousness and dangerousness to the situation we faced in 1947.

NOW ALL THESE changes, and others I might cite, have run in the direction of an improvement in the objective possibilities for a better Soviet-American relationship. This does not mean, of course, possibilities for a complete normalization of those relations. For that there remain too many obstacles - historical, psychological and ideological. There has always been, and remains today, an area in which no complete political intimacy is possible, where interests must remain competitive and in part conflicting.

But there is also another area, an area in which interests largely coincide and limited collaboration is possible. In the light of the changes we have just had occasion to note, this latter area has tended, slowly but steadily, to grow. And where sensible efforts have been put forward on both sides to take advantage of this situation - where people have tried, in other words, to create a balanced, businesslike and realistic relationship between two very disperate political systems - the results, given patience and persistence, have not been discouraging.

This was true, among others, in the period of the Nixon-Kissinger detente. Progress was made in a number of fields which was more than negligible and from which both sides are continuing to benefit today. The fact that these achievements were somewhat overdramatized, thatthey led to unreal expectations and gave rise to some disillusionment when these expectations were not met, should not blind us to their positive residue.

Nevertheless, the effort to pursue a balanced and useful middle course in the relationship with Russia has never been an easy one for American policy-makers to follow, and one of the main reasons why this has been so difficult is that seldom, if ever, have we had an adequate consensus in American opinion on the nature of the problem and the most promising ways of approaching it.

Prior to the late 1940s - prior, that is, to the Korean War and the death of Stalin - the difficulty seemed to come primarily form the left from people who had a naive, ovetrusting, overidealistic view of what was then Stalinist power - people who thought it really possible for this country to ingratiate itself with the Stalin regime by various one-sided gestures of confidence and generosity and reproached our govenment for not doing so. It was, incidentally, against this sort of left-wing deviation that the "X article," and the policy of containment, were directed.

But since Stalin's death, the opposition to and even-handed and realistic policy toward Russia has tended to come from the opposite end of the political spectrum: from people who were unable to see the curious mix of the negative and the positive, of the discouraging and the hopeful, in the Soviet political personality - people who could see only the negative, and who feared the consequences of anything less than a total rejection and hostility from our side.

There has never been a time in these last 25 years, it seems to me, when this opposition has not made itself felt. There has been a time when American statesmen concerned to find and devlop a constructive middle-ground in relations with Russia have not felt their efforts harassed from this direction.

And the harassment has not been minor in intensity or in power. Every administration has been to some extent afraid of this hard-line opposition. It had behind it the power of chauvinist rhetoric as well as that of strict military logic. It had the capability of hurling at any and all opponents the charge of being "soft on communism", and however meaningless this phrase may be, it is a formidable weapon in a society unhappily vulnerable to the power of the slogan.

In the heyday of the Nixon-Kissinger detente, this opposition was almost silenced - party by Richard Nixon's formidable credentials as a hard-liner, which bewildered many critics, and party by Henry Kissinger's diplomatic fireworks, which dazzled them. But the resulting silence was one of frustration, not of acceptance. When Watergate drained the authority of this political combination, the opposition broke forht once again with rediobled strength and violence. It has raged over the entire period from 1975 to the present. It sufficed to knock out the 1974 trade agreement and to lower the leved of Soviet-American trade. It sufficed to delay the approach to a new SALT agreement. And it has achieved today, against the background of a new administration and a somewhat unstructured Congress, a power it never had before. It now claims to have - and, for all I know, it does have - the power to veto any Soviet-American agreements in the military or the economic field that do not meet with its requirements: and such are its requirements that I come increasingly to suspect that this means, in effect, any conceivable agreement at all.

I HAVE MADE my best efforts to understand the rationale of this opposition. Many of the bearers of it are my friends. I know them as honorable people. I do not suspect, or disrespect, their motves.

It is clear that we have to do here with a complex phenomenon, not a simple one. This body of opinion embraces some people whose trouble seems to be that they are unaware of the changes between 1947 and 1977, who talk of the problems of Soviet-American relations in terms identical with those used at the height of the Cold War - who sometimes seem, in fact, unaware that Stalin is dead.

Then, there are others whose emotions have been aroused over the question of human rights or Jewish emigration and who would like to see American policy directed not to an accommodation to Soviet power as it is but to the changing of the very nature of Soviet regime.

More important, however, than either of these are the people who view the relationship exclusively as one of military rivalry - who see in it no significant values or issues or possibilities other than ones relating to the supposed determination of the Soviet leadership to achieve some sort of decisive military ascendancy over the NATO coalition - and this, of course, with the most menacing and deadly of intent. THese include outsandingly the military planners, whose professional obligation it is to set up a planner's dummy of any possible military opponent, to endow that dummy with just the motivation I have described, and then to treat it as if it were real. But this group also includes many non-military pwople who, accepting this dummy as the reality, lose themselves in the fantastic reaches of what I might call military mathematics - the mathematics of possible mutual destruction in an age of explosively burgeoning weapons technology.

Like many of the rest of you, I have made my efforts to understand the arguments of these military enthusiasts. I have tried to follow them through the mases of their intricate and sophisticated calculations of possible military advantage at varoius future points in time. i have tried to follow them in their recital of the letteers and numbers of various weapons systems, some real, some imagined, their comparisons of the reputed capacities of these systems, their computations of the interactions of them in situations of actual hostility.

I come away from this exercise frustrated, and with two overpowering impressions. The first is that this entire science of long-range massive destruction - of calcuated advantage or disavantage in modern weaponry - has gotten seriously out of hand; that the variables, the complexities, the uncertainties it involves are rapidly growing beyond the power of either human mind or computer.

But my second impression is that there is a distinct unreality about this whole science of destruction - unreality, that is, when you view it as the plane on which our differences over policy have to be resolved. I doubt that we are going to solve our problems by trying to agree as to whether the Russians will or will not have the capability of "taking out" our land-based missiles at some time in the 1980s. I doubt that this is the heart of the problem. I suspect that something deeper is involved. And if I had to try to define that deeper something, I would have to say that it is the view one takes of the nature of the Soviet leadership and of the discipline exterted upon it by itw own experiences, problems and political necessities.

THERE ARE basically two views of this leadership: two ways in which it is seen in this country. In one of these views, the Soviet leaders appear as a terrible and forbidding group of men - monsters of sorts, really, because lacking in all elements of common humanity - men totally dedicated either to the destruction or to the political undoing and enslavement of this country and its allies - men who have all internal problems, whether of civic obedience or of economic development, essentially solved and are therefore free to spend their time evolving elaborate schemes for some ultimate military showdown - men who are prepared to accept the most tremendous risks, and to place upon their people the most fearful sacrifices, if only in this way their program of destruction or domination of ourselves and our allies can be successfully carried forward.

That is one view. In the other view, these leaders are seen as a group of quite ordinary men, to some extent the victims, if you will, of the ideology on which they have been reared, but shaped far more importantly by the discipline of the responsibilities they and their predecessors have borne as rulers of a great country in the mordern technological age. They are seen, in this view, as highly conservative men, perhaps the most conservative rulling group to be found anywhere in the world, markedly advanced in age, approaching the end of their tenure and given to everything else but rash adventure. They are seen as men who share the horror of major war that dominates most of the Soviet people, who have no desire to experience another military conflagration and no intention to launch one - men more seriously concerned to preserve the present limits of their political power and responsibility than to expand those limits - men whose motivation is essentially defensive and whose attentions is riveted primarily to the unsolved problems of economic development within their own country. They are seen as men who suffer greatly under the financial burden which the maintenance of the present bloated arsenals imposes on the Soviet economy, and who would like to be relieved of that burden if this could be accomplished without undue damage to Russia's security and to their own political prestige. They are seen, finally, as men who are, to be sure, seldom easy to deal with, who care more about appearances than about reality, who have an unfortunate fixation about secrecy which complicates their external relations in many ways, but who, despite all these handicaps, have good and sound reason, rooted in their own interests, for desiring a peaceful and constructive relationship with the United States within the area where that is theoretically possible.

It is these two conflicting views of the Soviet leadershop that lie at the heart of the conflict between those in our government who are attempting to make progress in our relations with the Soviet Union and those who are attacking this effort from the right. And the burden of what I have to say is that I think we can no longer permit this great conflict of outlook and opinion to go on in so large degree unreconciled as it has gone in recent years - that the moment has come when we can no longer carry on safetly or effectively in our relations with the Soviet Union without the creation of a much wider consensus of opinion behind our policies of the moment than anything we have known in this recent period.

WE STAND at a crucial point in Soviet-American relations. The expiration of the 1972 SALT agreement has confronted us with fundamental decisions. Either we move forward, boldly, confidently and imaginatively, to the creation of a new relationship with that country in the military field, or we deliver up ourselves and the rest of the civilized world to the appalling dangers of a nuclear weapons rave totally out of control - a development devoid of any visible hopeful end, devoid of any imaginable end at all other than a wholly disastrous and apocalyptic one.

But our ability to pursue the more hopeful of these alternatives is today seriously jeopardized by lack of the consensus to which I just referred. The opposition now being brought to bear against the efforts of the President and the Secretary of State to carry forward negotiations in the field of the limitation of armaments has reached a degree of intensity that seems to me to exceed anything we have known in the past. Powerful efforts are being made - the tendency of which is not to bring about the failure of ratification of instruments already negotiated (nobody could object to that as a matter of procedure) but to descredit the very process of negotiation, and this at a very early stage. People are being attacked not for what they are known to have done in the negotiating process but for what they are presumed capable of doing - presumed capable on the basis of rumor or of calculated leak. They are being attacked, in other words, not for their actions but for their supposed intentions.

I am not questioning the motivation for these attacks. I can conceive that it may be, in many instances, of the highest. But I find myself wondering whether effective negotiations can be conducted in the face of opposition of this nature, particularly when we, as well as our Soviet counterparts, are being assured daily that the people who carry forward this opposition have not only the political power to torpedo any agreements or understandings that might realistically be arrived at, but also the firm intention to do so. Negotiating policy, it seems to me, cannot be effectively made or implemented against such a background.

And this present moment is one at which we simply cannot afford to have the force and momentum of our policy lamed in this manner. The stakes are too high. The penalties of failure are too serious. The implications of such a failure would carry even farther than just the prospect of an unlimited weapons race. A breakdown of the relationship on the military level could not fail to have - indeed, has already had to some extent - effects on other levels as well. And here, too, we have - and the world has - too much to lose to permit such a failure to occur.

We face in this coming period a tragically high probability of deepening crises in Southern Africa and in the Middle East. It may well be that the peace of the world will depend, as these crises develop, on the ability of the American and Soviet governments to remain in close communication, to give each other reasonable reassurance as to their intentions, and to coordinate their actions with a view to preventing local conflicts from growing to global dimensions.

Beyond this, we have the fact that these coming years are bound to see extensive changes in political leadership at kthe Soviet end. Nothing could be more unfortunate, surely, than that a new and inexperienced team of leaders should come into power in the Soviet Union confronting what would appear to be a blank wall of hostility and rejection at the American end - a situation in the face of which they would see no choice but to look for alternatives other than those of good relations with the United States. This is no time to foreclose other people's options, and particularly not thejoptions of piople new to the experience of power and obliged to define new lines of policy tht may represent commitments for many years to come.

THESE, THEN, are the reasons why it appears to me as an inescapable necessity that we should move promptly and resolutely to the achievement of a more workable consensus behind our policy towards the Soviet Union to take the place of the resounding disagreements that affect, and threaten to paralyze, the formulation and execution of policy in this field today.

I realize, of course, that it is easier to call attention to the need for such a consensus than to chart out the ways in which it could be achieved.

I realize, too, that behind a certain portion of this critial opinion there are commitments of an emotional or political or professional nature which are unlikely to be overcome by appeals to mere reason, and which will have to be confronted, as a political problem, by the responsible political leaders.

But in another portion of this spectrum we have to do with sincerely held and rational opinions, with conclusions drawn from what people believe to be the facts - from the spectrum of facts, or supposed facts, that they now have before them, and I wonder whether, in the case of these people in particular, approaches and devices could not be found - approaches and devices of a basically intellectual nature which would help us importantly, and possibly even decisively, to get on with the solution of this problem. The problem is, after all, a cognitive one; and there is no reason why men of good will should not be able to come to some elements of agreement on the implications for policy of a given body of factual material if they can be brought to a common acceptance of its validity.

And here there are, as I see it, two requirements. First of all, I would propose that we lay aside completely, at least for the moment and for purpose of this exercise I have in mind, the whole question of the military relationship and all the arguments about who could conceivably do what to whom if their intentions were of the nastiest; and that we elevate our vision, at least for the time being, to the question of the real nature and situation of the particular foreign power we are dealing with.

And then, starting with that resolution, I can see in my mind's eye a series of private gatherings in which would be included not only high-level policy makers of the moment but leading figures of this opposition, as well as possibly a few of theothers of us who are interested in Russian affairs - gatherings where we would come together not primarily to discuss matters among ourselves - not to air our prejudices and convictions on the basis of our present knowledge and our present ignorance, but where we would all listen humbly to wha could be told to us by the most experienced and knowledgeable people who could be found in the respective fields - I avoid the word "expert" because it implies something more narrow than what I have in mind.

What I am thinking of, in other words, is a certain process of re-education in the realities of Soviet power and leadership - a common effort on the part of all of us who have been prominently involved in this debate - a process in which we would check our existing views at the door, together with our hats, and would listen and ask questions and try to get a new view of the facts before we frew conclusions. I suspect that in an experience of this nature, designed not to promote the clash of old views but to make possible the common development of new, more realistic and more up-to-date ones, we would come closer that in any other way to the composing of our differences.

And there is room for this, I assure you, because no more in the Soviet Union than anywhere else have things been standing still. There are available to us today masses of new favtual material on conditions in the Soviet Union - material which, given the rather low state of Soviet studies on our country, has scarcely been digested by the scholars, much less by the policy-makers, the critics and the old-timers in this field of expertise. And in this latter category I include myself. I am much aware that it is exactly 50 years ago that I entered on my own career as a so-called Russian expert, and I think that because of ths long preoccupation with the subject - not despite it, mark you, but precisely because of it - it is time that my ideas, too, were taken thoroughly apart and put together again with relation, this time, to the present scene, and not to all the memories I cherish, and all the anecdotes I have been accustomed to telling, about the earlier years.

Such seminars would not, I think, serve their purpose unless they were the product of very high-level initiative and enthusiasm within the administration. But if that initiative and enthuseasm were there, the institutional facitities to organize and accommodate them would not be hard to find.

That is the burden of the song I have come to sing. I am suggesting that the angry controversies over policy toward Russian that are now marring our public debates and threatening the success of any and all American policies toward that country are not to be solved within the terms of the argument as it is now being conducted - that will come only in a common act of humility - only in the confession that none of us knows too much about what we are talking about - only in the willingness to stop at this point and to learn a little more before we shout each other down. Only in this act of humility will we find the way to a future of Soviet-American relations that offers hope rather than horror.