A cautious approach to the racial problems of southern Africa, a new emphasis on the military security and economic health of Europe, and a possibly more enterprising international outlook are expected to characterize British foreign policy under Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
The team that Thatcher has selected to help formulate and execute her foreign policy represents a marked contrast with her own inexperience in foreign affairs, her past failures to impress personally some of the world leaders she has met, and her inflexible-sounding pronouncements during the campaign on such subjects as Rhodesia and the Soviet Union.
Her new foreign secretary, Peter Carrington, and the members of Parliament who will be his top Foreign Office ministers are considered foreign and defense policy experts with wide international experience, friendly contacts with American, European and Commonwealth diplomats, and pragmatic, rather than dogmatic, ideological views of the global problems they face.
Lord Carrington, 59, is a moneyed, well-traveled, engaging aristocrat and hereditary peer in the House of Lords. In three decades he has been defense secretary, roving minister in the Foreign Office, British high commissioner in Australia and leader of the House of the Lords.
Ian Gilmour, 52, who will speak for the Foreign Office in the House of Commons and have chief responsibility for European affairs, is a Conservative Party intellectual considered to be an economic conservative but a liberal internationalist on foreign policy.
He is strongly pro-European and a supporter of the North Atlantic Alliance with long national defense experience in Parliament.
Under them will be Douglas Hurd, who, like Carrington and Gilmour, comes from former prime minister Edward Heath's pro-European wing of the party and supports Britain's membership in the Common Market.
Thatcher, who appointed only one of her fervent right-wing supporters, Nicholas Ridley, to a Junior minister post in the Foreign Office, has thus formed a team likely to give the office more influence than under the departed Labor Party government and more independence than had been expected under Thatcher.
In part, this reflects the trust she has come to place in Carrington, a respected party elder. It is also further evidence of Thatcher's preoccupation, for now, with changing the direction of the British economy from socialism to private enterprise. She has placed most of her key right-wing advisers in top economic posts.
The extent of Thatcher's reliance on her surprisingly liberal foreign policy team will soon be tested in a series of international meetings and foreign policy decisions this spring and summer.
Thatcher and Carrington meet here this week with visiting West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt to talk primarily about the European Economic Community and NATO. In two weeks, it was announced today, U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance will come here to discuss Anglo-U.S. relations, strategic arms limitations, European defense and economics, and southern Africa.
Also scheduled are Common Market foreign ministers' meeting in Cahours, France, this weekend, a common market summit in Strasbourg in June and the Western economic summit in Tokyo at the end of June. Perhaps most critical is the Commonwealth prime ministers' conference in August to be attended by Queen Elizabeth II, Thatcher and Commonwealth leaders from Canada, the Caribbean, Africa, Asia and Oceania in Lusaka, Zambia, where the racial question of southern Africa will loom large.
Carrington is expected to try to avoid or put off any actions in southern Africa that could alienate Britain from black Africa, despite strong Conservative Party pressure and Thatcher's repeated statements during the campaign to the contrary. The Conservatives indicated that their government would speedily recognize the new biracial government in Rhodesia if Thatcher's observers reported back that the recent election there had been "reasonably fair and free."
That report, which one reliable source expects to be a "favorable but not ringing endorsement" of the election, has not yet been finished. Rhodesian government figures showed that more than 60 percent of all black Rhodesians voted for the first time.
Lord Carrington is expected to consult cautiously and slowly with American, European and Commonwealth diplomats, as well as with the new government in Rhodesia, before any action is taken to recognze the new government or move to life British economic sanctions against Rhodesia. The sanctions come up for renewal in Parliament in November.
In Europe, Thatcher's government will be much more enthusiastic about participation in the Common Market and less equivocal about spending money to beef up British and NATO military defenses than the Labor government was.Nonetheless, the Conservatives plan to work just as determindedly for a better deal for Britain in the Common Market.
The Thatcher team will press for Common Market policy changes to reduce Britain's disproportionately large contribution to its budget.
Thatcher agrees with leaders such as West Germany's Schmidt that Europe faces a growing danger from intermediate-range Soviet nuclear weapons that have been left out of the SALT disarmament negotiations between Washington and Moscow. Thatcher also intends to build up Britain's defenses with higher military pay and its own advanced nuclear deterrent such as submarine-launched cruise missles.
Anglo-U.S. relations are bound to cool at first from the exceptionally close partnership between President Carter and former Labor prime minister James Callaghan, who became a confidant and "political uncle" to Carter.
During her two trips to the United States as British opposition leader, Thatcher rubbed many officials the wrong way with her sometimes abrupt manner.
Yet Thatcher has made clear that she believes in the special relationship between Britain and the United States.