WHETHER OR NOT the American people will be better off economically and more secure militarily three years from now may well turn on what I would describe as the global tension index. I submit that there is higher tension and greater danger in the world today than five months ago, when this administration took office. The reason is simple: Today, the foreign policy of this nation is predicated on a singular, ideological preoccupation with the Soviet Union.

I do not underestimate in the least the threat posed by the Soviet Union to the peace and stability of the world, or the need for the United States to strengthen significantly our defense posture in response to this threat. However, a foreign policy which is based solely upon a narrow preoccupation with the Soviet Union is doomed to failure and potentially harmful to our national interests. Such a policy does not recognize that there are numerous, festering sources of instability and threats to the peace of the world which, if not dealt with realistically and effectively, can only be exploited to the advantage of the Soviet Union. For example:

A preoccupation with the Soviet Union in the Middle East, with no recognition that traditional enmities and fears among the nations of the region are a greater source of instability than possible Soviet designs on the Persian Gulf.

The perception that the Soviet strategic weapons buildup is such a threat to the security of the world that the growing problem of nuclear arms proliferation is almost excluded from policy considerations.

An arms sale policy, ad hoc in nature and predicated upon assisting friends and allies to respond more effectively to the Soviet threat, but which does not take into consideration the legitimate defense needs of the recipitents or regional problems, thereby creating potential areas of new instability.

An overestimation of Soviet involvement in El Salvador which has challenged U.S. credibility in marshaling world support for meeting legitimate Russian threats.

The lifting of the grain embargo on the Soviet Union, while imposing a food embargo on Nicaragua because the latter is under growing Russian and Cuban influence.

An inept playing of the so-called "China Card" which has been disconcerting to friend and foe alike.

The administration decided early on that the Arab-Israeli issues would be placed on the back burner in the Middle East. In an effort to build a strategic consensus that the Soviet Union constituted the major and immediate threat to the vital oil fields of the Persian Gulf, Secretary of State Alexander Haig undertook a mission to that region in March. Yet the Syrian missile crisis and the Israeli bombing raid on Iraq's nuclear facility exposed the folly of the administration's narrowly based policy toward the Middle East. Hopefully, the administration now recognizes what has been apparent for years: that stability in the region is threatened not only by the Soviet Union, upon whom we have called to restrain the Syrians in Lebanon, but also by the traditional mistrust between Israel and its Arab neighbors. A failure to appreciate the latter factor most probably undermined Secretary Haig's goals of last March.

The administration has moved belatedly in recognizing the need for formulating a policy to deal with the deadly implications of nuclear arms proliferation around the world. The president gave short shrift to this issue during his campaign by admitting it was a problem over which we could exercise little control. Until recently, the administration ignored the problem. It finally took the Israeli raid to force this issue to the forefront of executive branch policy considerations. Despite the fact that the administration has now outlined a nonproliferation policy which generally tracks the policy of the Carter administration, it remains to be seen how aggressively we pursue implementation of that policy in concert with our allies.

If the policy is mere window dressing, then preemptive strikes could become commonplace in dealing with nulcear arms developments around the world. The potential is there between India and Pakistan, in southern Africa and in Argentian and Brazil. It is somewhat ironic that it has been the West, rather than the Soviet Union, which has been the culprit in providing nuclear facilities and highly enriched uranium -- the potential source of weapons-grade material -- to fuel these reactors. This problem has to be brought under control because it is not only an issue of peace and war in a given region of the world, it also can easily escalate into a global conflict which could threaten the very survival of the human race.

The administration's arms transfer policy also has been ad hoc and ill-conceived through the proliferation of some of the most sophisticated weapons we have developed for our own use. Rather than enfhancing our own security by meeting legitimate defense needs of our friends, we could potentially increase insecurity and instability in various regions of the world.

For example, is the sale of F16s to Pakistan, the most sophisticated high-performance fighter-bomber we have in our inventory, really necessary to deal with the Soviet threat posed by the occupation in Afghanistan? Remember, it was the F16 which was used to bomb the Iraqi nuclear reactor. Remember, India has already exploded a nuclear device. Remember, it is hardly a well kept secret that Pakistan is bent on developing its own nuclear weapons capability. Remember that relations between India and Pakistan have been marked by traidtional enmity. Need more be said concerning the future stability of the Indian subcontinent? And has the administration given serious attention to the fact that the accelerated sales of sophisticated weapons such as the F16 affect our own readiness, which is already plagued by a spare parts shortage?

In Central America, the administratin's credibility concerning the Soviet-inspired communist threat to El Salvador has suffered a somewhat serious blow. The nation's major newspapers have challenged the accuracy of the so-called "White Paper" which was used to the justification for significant militlary assistance to the junta of President Jose Napoleon Duarte and as the basis for rejecting attempts to seek a political settlement.

The administration has acted much like the little boy who cried "wolf" once too often. Whether in real life or in fairy tales, the danger is the same: When the wolf really appears, we also may not be believed. Our European allies have always viewed the "White Paper" as being of a dubious nature. The domocracies of Latin American, in particular Mexico, Costa Rica and Venezuela, have always maintained that until the fmassive social and economic inequities in countries such as El Salvador are addressed effectively, revolution is inevitable. In order to deal effectively with Soviet behavior and to marshal world opinion to our side incountering such behavior, the threat must be ligitmate for U.S. foreign policy to be credible.

The administration's inconsistencies have also spilled over to another country in Central America -- Nicaragua. The grain embargo on the Soviet Union, imposed by President Carter after the invasion of Afghanistan, was lifted by President Reagan despite the fact that 85,000 Russian troops remain in that country. In turn, because of the administration's concern over a growing Soviet and Cuban presence in Nicaragua and the increasing Marxist flavor of the junta, food aid was cut off to that Central American republic. Yet, in a twist of irony, it has been reported that the Soviets have provided 20,000 tons of wheat to the Sandinista government.

I believe in tough talk when it comes to dealing with the Soviets. But tough talk is one thing -- baiting Soviet leaders is quite another. Therefore, I am concerned over the possible remifications of the administration's incessant rhetorical baiting of the Soviet Union, particularly as it may affect the fate of Poland. It is in our interest to allow events in Poland to take their natural course, rather than provoking a crisis by ill-considered rhetoric, no matter how much truth there may be to the claim being made. That is the measure of a responsible presidential conduct of foreign policy. Whether the Soviet Union will invade Poland to demonstrate that the Soviet empire is not crumbling or exercise restraint by recognizing that such an invasion would be detrimental to its national interests remains to be seen.

It is against the backdrop of the president's observations concerning the decline and fall of the Soviet empire, with Poland being his primary example, that Secretary of State Haig emerged from his discussions with leaders in Peking with the announcement of a new arm sale policy toward the People's Republic of China. The reaction of our Japanese allies and our other friends in Asia was one of surprise and concern, evidence that no advance consultations had been undertaken. While I have long supported entering into a modest military supply relationship with the PRC, I was disturbed by the atmosphere in which this decision was announced. Coupled with the revelation that the United States has maintained bases in China to monitor Soviet missile tests, the leaders in the Kremlin could logically deduce that there was more involved here than just the future prospects of modest arms sales to the PRC. The United States, under the Nixon-Ford and Carter administrations, had delicately balanced our relationships with the Soviet Union and the PRC. However, that balance may be lost with a premature, if not inept; playing of the so-called "China Card."

Finally, the administration continues to be plagued by disarray within its own foreign policy decision-making processes. Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger carried the day on AWACs sales to Saudi Arabia, ignoring the foreign policy implications of that decision and clearly preempting the secretary of state. The secretary of defense has been all over the foreign policy lot, from pressing his views on modernization of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in Western Europe to lecturing the Japanese on increasing their defense expenditures. Both issues involve highly sensitive foreign policy considerations.

Secretary Haig lost the battle to Agriculture Secretary John Block in lifting the grain embargo on the Soviet Union. In order to recoup some semblance of foreign policy consistency, the secretary of state was placed in the ridiculous position of saying that while we would provide bread for the Soviets, we would not provide the butter. The National Security Council structure had been largely ineffective, the vice president is in charge of both domestic and foreign crisis management, and for all his alleged political astuteness, Ed Meese does not have the expertise to be effective arbiter of U.S. foreign policy.

These are but a few examples of how I believe the administration's preoccupation with the Soviet Union and the disarray within its own decision-making processes have signifcantly increased the global tension index. It is not enough for the president to plead that his full attention has to be devoted to getting our economic house in order, for what happens around the world could be the determining factor in the success or failure of his domestic program.

Our economic situation began deteriorating with the first OPEC oil price hike in 1974. The president has been lucky thus far, mainly because there is currently a world oil glut which has been driving prices down. But events could change rapidly, and that oil glut could disappear overnight due to factors over which even the Soviets could not exercise influrence. And then what would happen to the administration's domestic economic program? I would venture to predict that such an occurrence would leave our economy in ruins, no matter how much Congress slashes the federal budget, or what tax package is ultimately enacted into law.

The test of the success of any foreign policy is whether it recognizes all potential threats to our national security and whether it contributes to the reduction of tensions around the world. Thus far, the administration's foreign policy has had the direct opposite effect. It has created a more dangerous global climate than existed five months ago. A singular preoccupation with Soviet communism is not a substitute for reality and an understanding of the multiplicity of forces at work around the world.