In a strong appeal to the Atlantic allies, the Reagan administration today called on its partners to increase their contributions to the Western defense effort in Europe and to do more to protect Western interests in strategic zones outside Europe.
Frank Carlucci, deputy secretary of defense, bluntly told a conference of Western officials here that the sharingof the allied defense burden would be a primary concern of the new U.S. administration.
He said that America would live up to its responsibilities of increased consultation with members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and would demonstrate greater consistency than in the past in policy-making.
But in return, he said, Europe should recognize its responsibilities.
"Like the East-West balance, the relationship between the United States and Western Europe also has shifted dramatically over 30 years," he said. "The United States no longer produces and consumes 50 percent of the world's GNP. Europe is no longer shattered, impoverished and disunited. Indeed, Western Europe's total GNP exceeds that of the United States.
"In this situation, the United States cannot be expected to improve and strengthen U.S. forces in Europe, unless other allies increase their own contributions to the combined defense effort. Nor can the United States, unaided, bear the burden of promoting Western interests beyond Europe."
Carlucci's remarks, delivered to the annual meeting of defense officials from nine NATO nations at the Verkunde Conference, represented an opening plea by the new administration for West European support of America's new defense drive.
When considering Reagan's increased military budget proposals, Congress, Carlucci said, would be asking what new accompanying sacrifices the allies are going to make.
"We want to explain that on both sides of the Atlantic we share a new sense of realism . . . . We want to demonstrate that our allies and friends are contributing their fair share of the common burden," the senior U.S. official said.
A day of frank talk, however, among influential members of the military, diplomatic and political communities from both sides of the Atlantic made apparent the basic differences in official priorities that exist between some European governments and Washington.
The differences seemed sharp on the question of strategic arms. Carlucci spoke about a "realistic approach" and other U.S. specialists talked about the need to "lower public expectation" on what can be accomplished in negotiations with the Soviets on this issue.
In contrast, West German Defense Minister Hans Apel put equal stress on achieving an East-West military balance while pursuing cooperative relations with the Soviets, especially arms control talks. Apel said that this basic two-pronged security policy of West Germany would remain unchanged.
"We shall continue to pursue the policy of detente with patience when things seem to stagnate, and we shall do so with a proper sense of proportion for what is feasible," Apel said in his prepared text.
At another point, Apel said that, "establishing and maintaining political stability on the basis of a military equilibrium has top political priority.It is the firm political resolve of the German federal government to reach this goal not through the expansion of military arsenals, but by way of mutual and balanced force limitations and, wherever possible, a reduction of military force levels."
Other European military experts attending the conference here expressed concern about the new American position, voicing fears that Washington may be out of touch with West European realities and that the U.S. pressure eventually may lead to greater dissension within the alliance.
It was obvious here that allied differences in the debate on "new priorities" that has been under way since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan may be as great as ever. Some experts stressed that Reagan's political imperatives are not necessarily those of Western Europe, where public opinion in some countries is opposed to any new increases in military expenditures.
On basic analysis of the core strategic challenges facing the Atlantic Alliance, there seemed no disagreement between the Europeans and Americans. The elements of main concern outlined were these: a Soviet military buildup in central Europe; expansionarythrusts by the Kremlin into Afghanistan and other Third World areas; the development of zones of strategic importance to NATO outside Europe, particularly the oil-rich Middle East; and the growing danger of regional conflicts arising in the Third World, which could escalate into global confrontation.
The problem confronting the NATO alliance for months has been to come up with a new set of schemes to account for these factors -- in short, to rearrange the sharing of allied burdens in the European theater while structuring joint Western approaches to strategic zones outside Europe.