"The Soviet Union . . . is animated by a new fanatic faith, antithetical to our own, and seeks to impose its absolute authority over the rest of the world."

"The Kremlin leaders do not want war; they want the world."

The first quotation summarized "the fundamental design of the Kremlin" as it was described in NSC-68, the famous 1950 Truman Administration document on American policy in the Cold War era. NSC-68's principal author was Paul H. Nitze. The second quotation is from "Strategy in the 1980s," an article in the fall 1980 issue of Foreign Affairs magazine. Its author also was Nitze.

Now Paul Nitze is the chief American delegate at the negotiations with the Soviet Union on intermediate range nuclear weapons in Europe, which are to be resumed today in Geneva. One question raised about him is whether this consistency of view toward the Soviet Union is that "foolish consistency" that Emerson called "the hobgoblin of little minds" or the rock of principle on which American policy must and should be based. In short, is Nitze the right man for the job?

The Nitze viewpoint, as expressed in the two quotations, has always been disputed. At the time of NSC-68, Charles E. ("Chip") Bohlen, a leading Kremlinologist, felt, as he later put it, that the Soviet Union "was largely motivated by its interests as a national state, and that the idea of spreading communism was secondary to such considerations."

For decades Ronald Reagan's rhetoric has followed the Nitze view but in putting forward his Nov. 18 negotiating proposals, President Reagan was assuming agreements are possible based on Russian as well as American national interests. Certainly Reagan's rearmament plans are designed to motivate the Kremlin to find virtue in control and reduction of armaments. Nitze argued in his 1980 article that "the United States and the West must play for time in many threatened areas . . . while making a major effort to build up their overall strength" until what the Communists term "the correlation of forces" has "become more favorable than it is today."

A canvass of some of those who worked with Nitze during SALT I and SALT II, the strategic arms talks, produces agreement that he is a dogged, insistent, no-nonsense negotiator, that he knows well the interrelationship between theater and strategic nuclear forces, and that he knows both the diplomatic intricacies and the complex military hardware involved in the current negotiations. It is a fact that no American still active has had the broad range of experience in the national security area Nitze has. He has served in high State and Defense department jobs, at innumerable conferences and on many panels in and out of government, as well as at universitites and think tanks. He served on the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey at the end of World War II in both Germany and Japan, and in the latter job saw both Hiroshima and Nagasaki first hand.

A man of wealth (investment banking), accomplished pianist, active Maryland farmer and outdoorsman, Nitze, who will be 75 this week, is a tough-minded intellectual little given to small talk.

Five years ago, when many were calling nuclear war "unthinkable," Nitze, in a letter to the editor in The Post, wrote: "It could be that war between major powers is 'thinkable'" and "if so, we should think about it, carefully, consistently and with all the foresight and prudence of which we are capable." When Jimmy Carter nominated the non-cold Warrior Paul Warnke to head the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, Nitze led the assault against him in a fashion many thought downright brutal.

Nitze was the Defense Department representative during the SALT I negotiations, and he spoke for its ratification by the Senate. He resigned from the SALT II delegation in mid-1974, during Watergate, because he didn't like the treaty then apparently about to be consummated. With Eugene Rostow, now his titular boss as head of ACDA, and others, Nitze set up the committee on the Present Danger, a small group which turned out to be the treaty's most effective opponent. Nitze believed it would give the Soviets the strategic preponderance "on the basis of which," as he once put it, "they can aspire to lay down the direction of events to Soviet advantage and, step by step, to achieve eventual Soviet triumph."

SALT I showed that Nitze would support an admittedly less-than-ideal treaty. SALT II, over which he hemmed and hawed in hopes it might be improved by amendments, showed him to be a tough opponent once he made up his mind. This time he is the man in charge, and anything he wants to come to terms on with the Russians most likely would be hard to beat back in Washington.

And why did he take the job? Aside from that view of the Soviet Union that drives him so relentlessly, Nitze reportedly now feels he has a live negotiation and that there now are good reasons on both sides why it might be possible to reach an agreed conclusion, and even reach it rather expeditiously. That clearly runs against the current conventional wisdom, which foresees long and fractional negotiations. But, if it works out, it would be the crown of Nitze's career.