A typographical error in last Thursday's story on the erosion of the Soviet global position gave an erroneous impression of the effect of Soviet pressure on Pakistan. The sentence should have read: "Indeed, Soviet propaganda daily exerts pressure on Pakistan, and despite reports of Pakistani resistance, it is unlikely over the long term the Pakistanis will be able to stand up to the Russians."
While the crisis in Poland is now bringing into focus internal problems of the Soviet Bloc, the daily flow of bad news from countries along the Soviet borders, ranging from Norway to Japan, suggests a growing sense of isolation here as a result of changes in the balance of forces, especially in Asia.
Coming after the deepening morass of Afghanistan, the Polish turbulence seems to be a new, major obstacle in the course of Soviet foreign policy that has successfully exploited the post-Watergate period of American vacillations.
But deeper changes in the strategic equation over the last two years -- coupled with new U.S. assertiveness in foreign affairs -- have renewed fears of "capitalist encirclement," a notion that party leader Nikita Khrushchev abandoned more than two decades ago when he inaugurated the policy of "peaceful coexistence."
According to senior Western diplomats, the two main changes contributing to the erosion of the Soviet global position involve the Sino-Japanese rapprochement in the Far East and the Camp David peace process that has shut out Moscow from the Middle East.
The third and unexpected element is the revival of Islamic fundamentalism throughout Central Asia.
As a result, Moscow sees itself surrounded by overtly or covertly hostile forces and left without friends on the vast Asian continent, with the exception of India and Vietnam. But even Soviets privately concede that both India and Vietnam draw far greater benefits from these ties than does the Soviet Union.
Moscow's crucial long-term concern is in East Asia, where it sees the United States using China and Japan to create Asian security arrangements "based on anti-Sovietism."
Japan has entered into this picture as a result of the Sino-Japanese peace and cooperation treaty signed two years ago. Increased trade and technological exchanges since then have prompted a flurry of articles, including one by Defense Minister Dmitri Ustinov last week, attacking ties between "the Chinese hegemonists and Japanese revenge-seekers."
The Soviets had an opportunity to prevent this course in Sino-Japanese ties had they been prepared to relinquish control over several small islands in the Kurile chain they had seized at the end of World War II. The Japanese have made their return a precondition for normalization of relations with Moscow.
The Soviets found it impossible to do so. However insignificant the island may be, their return to Japanese sovereignty is seen here as setting a precedent for a far more serious territorial dispute with Moscow's arch-rivals in Peking.
The Chinese have repeatedly denounced what they call "unequal treaties" imposed by the Russian empire on weak Chinese rulers in the last century. But Chinese territorial claims in this context are small compared to their claim on Mongolia, the large buffer state established by the Soviets in 1924 and for all practical purposes a colony of Moscow.
Mongolia -- which is roughly the size of Texas, Arizona and California combined -- was ruled by China form the 17the century until 1911. Four years later, Czarist Russia acknowledged in a treaty Chinese sovereignty over Mongolia. Subsequently, Chaing Kaishek formally accepted Mongolian independence.
Today, the Chinese view Mongolia as a military threat because of the presence of Soviet land and air forces there.
While they had long studied the implication of Japan's rapprochement with China, the Soviets wre umprepared for the Camp David Peace process that re-established U.S. positions in the Middle East and effectively denied Moscow a voice in the course of events there.
The Soviets had thought of the Middle East in terms of a condominium with the United States, even after they were expelled from Egypt. The Arab-Israel conflict seemed to assure a substantial role for them in the region.
The loss of its Middle East positions, coupled with Moscow's over whelming concern about what it sees as the emergence of an alliance involving China, Japan and the United States in the East Asian region, have produced a sense of strategic vulnerability. And this, according to Western diplomats, was the main reason for the Afghanistan invasion.
There were, of course other elements such as the decline in U.S.-Soviet relations and the apparent collapse of Salt II as well as the climate of political instability in Central Asia after the Iranian revolution. Moreover, the Soviets had a problem on the ground as the Hafizullah Amin regime in Afghanistan appeared to be going down the drain as a result of the Moslem revival.
But, according to these diplomats, the long-term aim of the intervention was designed to neutralize what Moscow sees as Western strategic gains in crucial areas of the world. The russians established in the 1970s positions in various parts of Africa and in South Yemen on the Arabian peninsula. But none of these could compare in wealth to the energy resources of the Middle East, the vast human resources of China or the industral potential of Japan.
It should also be noted that the Soviet Union, while it has begun to export military power through the use of Cuban and Vietnamese proxies, remains a profoundly old-fashioned empire that regards territories contiguous to its own with greater concern than far away places.
The Afghanistan push, seen over the long term, is an effort to break what Moscow sees as the hostile ring around the Soviet Union and to establish a platform in Afghanistan from which the Soviets could pressure Pakistan, Iran and other countries in the region while exposoing the West to risks and potential losses in the oil rich area.
Indeed, Soviet propaganda daily exerts pressure on Pakistan, and despite reports of Pakistani resistance, it is unlikely that over the long term the Pakistanis will be able to stand up to the Soviet in Baluchistan and Iran, that the Pakistani military government is headed toward a position in which its security in effect rests on the moral strength of nonalignments, the support of the Moslem world and the goodwill of its neighbors.
Diplomats also see possibilities for the Russians in Baluchistan and Iran. But in their view, an important aspect of Soviet intervention in Afghanistan was Moscow's willingness to use force to protect its friends. In the world of Central Asia. They say such actions cut deep, particularly if contrasted to the American unwillingness to protect the shah.
The move was also addressed to Soviet Central Asia, where there are about 50 million Moslems. The upsurge of Moslem fundamentalism following the Iranian revolution was seen as a threat to internal stability there.
What the Soviet leaders did not expect was the sustained and vigorous American opposition that created a change in public attitudes and, more importantly, produced a new American determination to meet Soviet challenges. i
Nor did they expect turmoil in their vital backyard where the Polish crisis threatened the core of the Soviet political and security system and reminded Moscow that its hold on Eastern Europe is as precarious as ever.
This may come as a surprise to Washington, but the men in the Kremlin seem deeply troubled by a series of adverse events and by the threat of a new round in the arms race that would put additional strain on their economy. Their preception of Western intentions seems to have come full circle back to the time when "capitalist encirclement" was the slogan of the day.