A considerable body of opinion within the United States interprets the noises coming out of Europe over cruise missile deployment and the U.S. negotiations with the Soviets on Intermediate Nuclear Weapons (INF) as showing a distinct and dangerous rise in pacificism or neutralism within Europe.

This is by no means a true reflection of today's thinking among the European peoples. It is true that there is a minority in a number of European countries who claim to favor unilateral nuclear disarmament. They claim that they have seen a proliferation of nuclear weapons in recent years, that rearmament is the trend rather than disarmament and that they have no confidence that the present negotiations will lead to any worthwhile multilateral reduction of these weapons. Like so many minority groups, they make a noise out of proportion to their numbers, and the media tend to give them a high profile. But it would certainly not be correct to interpret the attitudes of the Western European peoples, let alone their governments, as inclining toward pacificism.

On the contrary, recent evidence points in the other direction. During the Falklands campaign, opinion polls in Britain reflected overwhelming support for military action in the circumstances. Indeed, toward the end of the campaign, we were being accused by some in the United States of being, if anything, too belligerent. The episode, and the support it received from other European allies, should be a salutary reminder to the world at large that countries in the Western world are indeed prepared to resort to arms when their interests are sufficiently affronted. Further evidence came from two recent opinion polls in the United Kingdom both of which found 72 percent of people were against unilateral disarmament.

On the other hand, it would be a great mistake to underestimate or ignore the degree of concern in Europe, and increasingly in the United States, at the apparently endless accumulation of nuclear weapons and the resources devoted to them.

It is important to impress on these people that the restraint shown by the United States in nuclear programs in the 1970s was not matched on the Soviet side, and that this diversion of resources has been forced upon us by Soviet programs. But people also need to be convinced that a really genuine effort has been made to negotiate some measure of nuclear arms reduction. This was implicit in the NATO "two-track decision" in 1979 and creates the direct link between a serious approach to arms control and the ability to sustain public support for defense programs involving the further deployment of nuclear weapons.

Well-informed Europeans know that the INF negotiations are in good hands. No one is more experienced in these matters than Paul Nitze, who was personally responsible for negotiating the ABM treaty. As to the possible outcome, of course, the zero option would be best and will remain so. But it is not the only acceptable one. There are other possibilities. One could envisage, for instance, a step-by-step approach provided it respected the basic principles which the Alliance has laid down. We should not accept, for instance, anything which involved bogus counting. These negotiations are about U.S. and Soviet land- based intermediate nuclear missiles; so the British and French strategic deterrence are excluded from INF by definition, because they are of a strategic character. Also, any INF solution, by way of a first step would have to provide for equality of numbers between America and Russia if it were to stand any chance of being ratified.

The choice of possible and acceptable outcomes to the INF negotiations is exercising the minds of European leaders and leads them to attach great importance to the tour of European capitals by Vice President George Bush. He will hopefully carry back to Washington a clear message from each of the capitals visited; in particular from those in whose countries the weapons are to be based. He will hear the view of these governments that serious efforts at the negotiating table are essential to help European governments to reassure people of the need to accept deployment of nuclear weapons in their back yard, insofar as this will prove necessary given the state of negotiations at the end of the year.

And a Russian conviction that this is the way things are likely to go will in turn prove the best incentive for them to come off their present propaganda stance and to indulge in serious negotiations with a genuine will to succeed.