The Reagan administration yesterday dismissed the antinuclear protest movement that increasingly is complicating European politics as a minority view that will not affect U.S. plans to deploy a new generation of medium-range nuclear weapons in Europe.
"While these are obvious expressions of concern by a free people, they do not represent a widespread view of West European citizens," White House deputy press secretary Larry Speakes said, reading from a prepared statement.
"We feel this will not impact on our policies," presidential counselor Edwin Meese III added in a brief telephone interview.
Meese said that the United States will follow the course agreed on by North Atlantic Treaty Organization members in 1979 of deploying modern nuclear weapons even while pursuing talks with Moscow on reducing nuclear forces in Europe.
The White House statement said that public opinion polls "consistently show strong majority support for NATO and the West European governments certainly share our concern over what's clearly the main threat to peace in Europe--the unceasing Soviet military buildup of recent years."
Vice President Bush also spoke out on the antinuclear demonstrations, saying the Soviet buildup, not U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe, is the danger to peace.
"I don't question the idealism of the people who have been protesting the deployment of medium-range nuclear missiles in Western Europe. But I do question their sense of perspectives.
"NATO is a defensive alliance. NATO exists because a threat exists," Bush told an audience of European and American investors in the East Room.
He reminded them that U.S.-Soviet talks on theater nuclear forces are scheduled to start Nov. 30. "Those who say we aren't willing to discuss these issues with the Soviets aren't talking straight," the vice president said.
"I hope that some people in Europe will lower their rhetoric long enough to listen to that point," he added.
The European antinuclear movement has picked up steam since President Reagan took office. Its leaders cite statements by the president, Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger and other administration officials as evidence that Europe could be a nuclear battlefield in a war between the Soviet Union and the United States that neither superpower would escalate to a total nuclear exchange.
Last weekend, thousands of peaceful marchers took to the streets in London, Rome, Paris and Brussels. The first large march, about 250,000-strong, of the recent cycle was in Bonn two weeks ago.
Reagan stunned Europeans 10 days ago by saying that he could envision a nuclear exchange that would be limited to Europe and not erupt into world war. In an effort to reassure Europeans, Reagan issued a statement Wednesday saying: "The suggestion that the U.S. could even consider fighting a nuclear war at Europe's expense is an outright deception."
Bush, while making the U.S. case yesterday, referred to the more than 250,000 American men who "died defending Europe in this century." That remark runs counter to the European belief shared by some Americans that the United States fought for itself as well as with its allies in the world wars.
At his Oct. 1 news conference, Reagan criticized those in Europe and the United States who are "increasingly vocal" in spreading a message of "pacifism and neutrality."
There have been no protests in the United States like the huge turnouts in Europe, but a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll indicated that many people worry about Reagan's attitude toward nuclear war.
When asked if the United States can win a nuclear war with the Soviet Union, 48 percent disagreed and 29 percent agreed, with the rest having no opinion. When asked whether Reagan thinks such a war can be won, 42 percent said they think he does, while 38 percent disagreed.
Meese said yesterday the European demonstrations indicate "a fairly well orchestrated attempt to influence opinion." State Department officials are considering ways of trying to exert counter influences on U.S. opinion.