Senior Carter administration officials said yesterday the grain cutbacks and other sanctions ordered by President Carter in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan are only the first steps of an international drive to show the Soviet Union "the high cost" of its actions.
The officials, speaking in the wake of Carter's anouncement of a partial grain embargo, insisted that it represents only "the very early period" of a response to Soviet aggression that will "be joined by nations all around the globe."
But, while they used a great deal of bellicose rhetoric reminiscent of the Cold War era, the officials refused to give any specifics about the nature of any new measures or list the countries that might participate in them.
The officials, who declined to be identified, spoke at a press briefing to elaborate on the president's nationwide television address Friday night. In addition to the reduction of grain shipments, Carter ordered sharp curtailments of Soviet ability to purchase sophisticated technology from the United States, to fish in U.S. waters and to benefit from other trade, diplomatic and cultural exchanges.
While insisting that these measures are "not the final word," the official said other steps being contemplated by the United States, either alone or in tandem with other nations, are in a process of review that prevents them from being made public at this time.
But, one official stressed, "it is a fact that they are being weighed." The United States, he added, is in the position of having to review and change a broad array of policies to deal with the changes in world affairs that the Soviets' Afghanistan intevention has caused.
Referring to the American people, the official said, "No sector is going to be exempt from sacrifice or participation in the national response to this act of aggression."
He did not elaborate on what that might mean. But it was understood to be an attempt by the administration to reassure American farmers, uneasy about the effects the grain embargo might have on them, that they are not being asked to assume an unfair share of the costs involved in any counter-move against the Soviets:
The officials also went to great lengths to stress their belief that the United States is not alone in its resolve to oppose the Soviet action and can expect support and sympathy not only from traditional U.S. allies but also from a large number of non-aligned countries.
"This is a matter that involves the international community," one official said, "and we expect its reaction to show the Soviets that this sort of action cannot be taken with impunity. We want them to understand the impact it will have on the Soviet Union's relations with the United States and the international community."
In general, the measures announced or being contemplated by the administration fall into two broad categories -- steps of an economic nature designed to put a crimp in the Soviet standard of living and longer-range political and military measures to block any further expansionist Soviet moves in the volatile Southwest Asia region.
At yesterday's briefing, the officials concentrated on the economic category, arguing that the measures in this area will impede the Soviet leadership's ability to make good on its promises of better diets, more consumer goods and an improved quality of life for the Soviet people.
For example, they noted, the Soviets are unable to produce from their own resources such high-technology items as computers, electronic equipment and sophisticated machinery. If the Soviets are unable to buy these products from the United States or other western countries, the officials asserted, efforts to expand and modernize the Soviet economy could be impeded seriously.
In the past, U.S. efforts to use technology sales as a lever against Moscow frequently have been thwarted when the Soviets were able to buy the items elsewhere. To block that potential escape route, the officials said, the United States is consulting intensively with other western industrial countries in an effort to get a stronger common front on technology sales.
While conceding that this effort requires "aggressive pursuit," the officials said the indications so far are that the other countries are "sympathetic and supportive" and will cooperate in measures to "significantly affect Soviet access to western technology."
Those officials taking part in the briefing steered away from discussion of potential moves in the political-military area. They refused, for example, to answer questions about whether U.S. offers of aid to Afghanistan's neighbor, Pakistan will include arming anit-Soviet Afghan insurgents on the Pakistani side of the border.
Similarly, they declined to comment on questions about whether Defense Secretary Harold Brown, who is visiting Peking, is under instructions to discuss cooperative U.S.-Chinese assistance to Pakistan.
Elsewhere in administration circles, though, it was made known that Carter is studying the possibilities of an increased presence by the United States or its allies in or close to Southwest Asia and the Persian Gulf.
These studies are understood to go beyond exploring the potential for landing and fueling facilities for U.S. ships and planes in Kenya, Somalia and Oman. But a precise picture of what is being contemplated remains shrouded in secrecy and uncertainties about the degree to which the countries of the region and U.S. allies are willing to cooperate.
The immediate domestic political response to Carter's Friday speech seemed genereally supportive. But there also were signs that the address provoked uncertainty and nervousness in farm areas that will be affected by the grain embargo, and some of Carter's rivals for the presidency were quick to weigh in with criticism.
Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.), a Republican presidential hopeful, called the speech a "cover-up" and "deception . . . to avoid facing up to the problem" of the American hostages in Iran.
Echoing the Farm Belt reaction were Sen. Adlai Stevenson (D-Ill.), who said embargoes "ultimately damage the United States more than the Soviet Union," and Sen. Roger Jepsen (R-Iowa), who contended the embargo "is going to hurt Iowans much more than it will hurt the Russians."
But there also were signs of bipartisan support. Sen. Jacob Javits (R-N.Y.) said Carter's action is "right and I support it." Rep. Jim Wright (D-Tex.), majority leader of the House, predicted Congress "will support the president entirely in any legislation required to carry out this country's firm and measured response to Soviet aggression."