Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) yesterday proposed creation of a broad-gauged, bipartisan commission to "shape a national consensus" on coping with the troubled future of Soviet-American relations.
In a foreign policy speech at Columbia University in New York, Kennedy said the commission should convene immediately and submit recommendations by next fall on defense and nuclear policy, economic and political initiatives and coordinating policy with U.S. allies.
"It is too easy to assume that the United States is incapable of conducting a serious review of even this life-and-death issue in any year when we are electing a president," Kennedy said.
"But I believe that the mutual mismanagement of American-Soviet relations carries in it the seeds of such imminent danger that on this issue we must demand of ourselves that we rise above partisan politics."
The senator released the names of 27 persons who he said had endorsed his commission proposal. The list ranges from such hardliners on Soviets as retired admiral Elmo Zumwalt and Prof. Richard Pipes of Harvard to detente-oriented Carl Marcy of the Committee on East-West Accord.
Has Kennedy called for such a commission as recently as six months ago when he was a powerful senator regarded as a future presidential contender, the plan probably would have received widespread attention and careful consideration.
But now, with his candidacy virtually on the ropes, even those who regard the idea as a good one think that prospects of its adoption are slim.
"I have most definitely not endorsed Kennedy as a candidate," Pipes said in a telephone interview, "but a commission might well serve a useful purpose."
Another of those approached was Robert Legvold, Soviet project director at New York's Council on Foreign Relations. He said he was telephoned this week by Kennedy's foreign policy aide, Jan Kalicki, who solicited an endorsement of the commission and the names of others who might be interested in joining.
Legvold said he had previously urged Kennedy to address the issue of Soviet-American relations, more strained in the aftermath of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan than at any time since the early 1960s. But Legvold acknowledged that it may be too late in the senator's flagging presidential campaign for the remarks to arouse much public response.
In his speech, Kennedy said that at no time "has it been so important to shape a national consensus about the future of Soviet-American relations. We must recapture the strength and solidarity that rescued Europe during the postwar period, that broke the Berlin blockade, that created the Atlantic Alliance, and removed Soviet missiles from Cuba" in 1962.
Kennedy was sharply critical of a Carter administration policy "that offers the Soviets neither carrot nor stick." In its stead, he said, "we must reestablish a policy that gives [the Kremlin] reason for both hope and fear in relations with the United States."
American military strength must be emhanced, he said, but also matched by political resolve for dealing with the Soviets. The commission he proposes in intended to foster such resolve.
Kennedy also urged that Carter meet with Soviet President Leonid I. Brezhnev to discuss a solution to the Afghanistan problem, but an aide said the senator had no basis for believing that Brezhnev would agree to such a meeting.