Secretary of State George P. Shultz has outlined a strategy for insulating U.S.-Soviet relations against inevitable Soviet "outrages."
His proposals, in the current issue of the prestigious journal Foreign Affairs, released yesterday, grew out of the extreme tensions introduced by the Soviet shooting down of a civilian South Korean airliner in September 1983, according to aides familiar with his thinking.
More fundamentally, as he argues in his article, they reflect a shift in Reagan administration thinking toward a broad-based and less confrontational approach toward Moscow.
Underscoring this change in approach, Shultz also said in the article that he saw in the accession of new Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev "a fresh opportunity" for the two superpowers to explore "more constructive possibilities."
The U.S. response to the slaying of an American Army major by a Soviet officer last month demonstrated a State Department policy of pursuing a strategy geared to overall U.S. goals and interests in the face of events that might otherwise negatively affect U.S.-Soviet ties, aides to the secretary said.
They said the shooting of Maj. Arthur D. Nicholson Jr., which occurred after the magazine article was written, was the kind of incident Shultz had in mind in developing the strategy.
Following the March 24 killing, the administration agreed that questions surrounding it should be resolved in a meeting between the commander of U.S. forces in Europe and the commander of Soviet forces in East Germany. In addition, President Reagan said that the shooting underscored the need for a summit meeting between himself and Gorbachev, which Reagan had called for earlier.
Shultz said in the article that the United States should hold "the door open to more constructive possibilities" and that both superpowers should "moderate the rivalry."
The question remained, he added, of how the United States should respond to inevitable "outrages" provoked by the Soviets that are "abhorrent or inimical to our interests."
"Clearly, our objective should be to act in a way that could help discipline Soviet behavior," he said. "At the same time, our posture should not leave our own strategy vulnerable to periodic disruption by such shocks."
A State Department official said that the position taken by Shultz in the article "grew out of events surrounding the Korean Air Lines incident."
Shultz first voiced the strategy in an address to the Rand Corp. last October. He discussed it again in congressional testimony in January.
Referring to the Soviet Union, Shultz said in the article, "Our ways of thinking have tended too often to focus either on increasing our strength or on pursuing negotiations; we have found it hard to do both simultaneously -- which is clearly the most sensible course."
The article, entitled "New Realities and New Ways of Thinking," is an updated version of testimony Shultz delivered before the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee Jan. 31. In the article and the testimony, he explained the shifting trends in American foreign policy with regard to Central America and Europe as well as the Soviet Union. Shultz also assessed the effects of terrorism on current U.S. foreign policy.
Shultz said that in the past four years, "the underlying conditions that affect U.S.-Soviet relations have changed dramatically."
This, he implied, has brought about the need for new strategies and relations with Moscow. How to manage the U.S.-Soviet relationship, he said, "as conditions change remains a major conceptual challenge" for the United States.
As the Soviets moved boldly in Angola, Ethiopia and Afghanistan, Shultz said, "they had reason for confidence that what they call the global 'correlation of forces' " was shifting in their favor.
Now, he continued, "we have reason to be confident that the 'correlation of forces' is shifting back in our favor."
An aide to Shultz, discussing the article, explained how the current means of approaching the Soviets at a time of crisis compares with past strategies.
He pointed out that after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan the United States invoked sanctions against the Soviets and canceled its participation in the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow. By comparison, when the Soviets shot down the Korean jetliner in 1983, President Reagan revealed details of that atrocity, expressed his outrage, but decided to continue the arms talks in Geneva.
Shultz said in the article that "whether important negotiations ought to be interrupted after some Soviet outrage will always be a complex calculation."
"Our mode of thinking," he said, "must seek a sustainable strategy geared to American goals and interests, in the light of Soviet behavior, but not just in reaction to it."
U.S. officials acknowledge that there is a policy dispute within the administration over the approach that the State Department supported in the Nicholson incident, which is backed up by the Shultz article.
Secretary of Defense Caspar W. Weinberger has called for an apology from Moscow for the Nicholson slaying as a condition for talks on the incident between the Americans and the Soviets. The State Department feels that the apology should not be a precondition. U.S. officials reported Friday that the dispute has been resolved, in the State Department's favor.