Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig Jr. said today that the United States would not be stampeded into new arms control agreements for the sake of political appearances or to appease those who would accept even "defective" agreements to keep the arms control process alive.
In the first major, top-level address laying out the Reagan administration's approach to arms control with the Soviet Union, Haig said the real worth of arms control is "not the money saved nor the arms eliminated" but rather agreements that "genuinely enhance the security of both sides" by removing the threat to each others' existence.
Addressing more than 2,000 members of the Foreign Policy Association here, Haig essentially delivered a detailed defense of what he called a "prudent, paced and measured" movement toward arms control with Moscow. Critics have called that movement slow and aimless.
Nevertheless, there was not indication of what the administration has in mind to try to resume the long-stalled strategic arms limitation talks, though Haig said the United States expects to begin formal talks with Moscow between mid-November and mid-December on efforts to limit European-based medium-range missiles, as called for in a 1979 North Atlantic Treaty Organization agreement.
What was clear is the difference in approach to such talks and to Moscow. In a veiled reference to the Carter administration, Haig said a Reagan administration review of arms control concluded that sound agreements can be reached among adversaries by pious hopes and simplistic solutions." Similarly, Haig said realistic arms control required popular and congressional support at the outset so that, once negotiated, the agreements will be ratified by Congress and implemented.
Claiming that President Reagan understands the dangers of unchecked nuclear arms but also shares "universal disappointment that the arms control process has delivered less than it promised" thus far, Haig said experience shows that the United States "overestimated the extent to which SALT would help ease other tensions" with Moscow.
Arms control, he said, "cannot be the political centerpiece or the crucial barometer of U.S.-Soviet relations" because it would be "a crushing political weight. It can hardly address such issues as the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the Iran-Iraq war, the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia, the Libyan invasion of Chad, or Cuban intervention in Africa and Latin America." Haig told the group that arms control can only be one element of a far broader foreign and defense policy.
Obviously sensitive to charges that the Reagan administration has no foreign policy, Haig entitled his speech "Arms Control for the Eighties: An American Policy."
In it, he laid out six principles of the U.S. approach to arms talks and Moscow and made clear that "Soviet international conduct directly affects the prospects for success in arms control."
"A policy of pretending that there is no linkage promotes reverse linkage," Haig said. "It ends up saying that in order to preserve arms control, we have to tolerate Soviet aggression." In a declaration that drew the only applause that interrupted the speech, Haig said, "This administration will never accept such an appalling conclusion."
Earlier on the NBC-TV "Today" show, Haig suggested under questioning that "there would have to be some mutual understanding with respect to progress" on a solution to the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan before new SALT talks could start.
Haig argued that linking defense programs to progress in arms control also gives the Soviets "a veto over our defenses and removes their incentive to negotiate fair arrangements." New treaties need to take into account new technologies, such as mobility for land-based missiles, he said.
In what is perhaps another signal that U.S.-Soviet relations are not headed for improvement, Haig raised questions about old reports of Soviet use of gas warfare in Afghanistan and of an outbreak of anthrax in the Soviet city of Sverdlovsk that might have been linked to illegal production of biological weapons. These issues have not been raised for almost a year, but they were used by Haig yesterday in stressing the need to inject confidence into treaty compliance provisions.
On the positive side, Haig pledged "more vigorous policies for inhibiting nuclear proliferation." He also endorsed a French proposal for a East-West disarmanment conference that would expand the zone of such cooperation in Europe. He used these plus the pending talks on European-based missiles and what he sees as a more realistic approach to SALT, to buttress his claim that the United States has "a broad agenda" of arms control efforts under way.