President Reagan told the people of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe yesterday that the United States intends by its example to "demonstrate that communism is not the wave of the future" and to "show the captive nations that resisting totalitarianism is possible."
In an interview broadcast by Radio Liberty and Radio Free Europe, Reagan appeared to be departing from the conciliatory tone of his recent remarks and reverting to the confrontational, anticommunist view of the Soviet system that characterized his first term.
Reagan said the free nations of the world should "prevent the further expansion of totalitarianism throughout the world. If we succeed and we send a message to the Soviets that communism can in fact be resisted, then the Soviets will find it in their self-interest to accommodate the desires of their people who will see by the patterns of international politics that their own rulers are not omnipotent."
He also assured listeners that Americans are "not Russophobes preparing for war" and added, "What I would like to tell the peoples of the Soviet Union is that the United States wants peace and wants an enduring, true peace, a peace where all people can live in freedom."
But Reagan's main emphasis was on accusing the Soviet leadership of pursuing aggressive policies around the world and denying people under its rule "access to the truth." He cited the need to overcome the "artificial" division of Europe, pledged continued efforts to win greater freedom for the people of Poland and said the revival of religion in the communist bloc "is one of the most hopeful signs on the horizon."
"It is a sign," Reagan said, "that people, faced with the greatest challenges to their physical and spiritual survival, will invariably turn to what they recognize as the most basic truth about human life. Namely, that life is meaningless without reference to man's relationship to the Creator and that the moral vision dictated by that relationship is the fundamental meaning of our life on this earth . . . ."
The State Department yesterday issued a statement charging that Soviet officials appear to conducting a "campaign against the current revival of Jewish culture." It detailed several instances of Soviet Jews being arrested and persecuted and added, "Continuation of this campaign constitutes a real obstacle to the constructive relations with the Soviet Union that the United States seeks."
Department officials said the statement was not connected to Reagan's interview and does not foreshadow a shift toward a tougher attitude in dealing with Moscow. They said the department statement was prompted by concern that the plight of some Soviet Jews might be serious. But they added that there are no plans for Secretary of State George P. Shultz to cancel his trip to Helsinki next month for the 10th anniversary observance of the Helsinki accords, which were supposed to provide greater human-rights safeguards in Europe.
Radio Liberty, which broadcasts to the Soviet Union, and Radio Free Europe, which is directed at the East European satellite countries, jointly claim an audience of 55 million listeners and are widely regarded as effective western propaganda instruments. They originally were controlled covertly by the Central Intelligence Agency, but now are funded openly by the U.S. government and directed by the quasi-independent Board for International Broadcasting, whose members are appointed by the president. The Soviets regularly assail both stations as instruments of western intelligence.
In the 1956 Hungarian uprising, Radio Free Europe came under fire for allegedly helping to incite the bloodshed by leading the rebels to believe that the West would intervene against Soviet force. Subsequent inquiries exonerated RFE from that charge, but both it and Radio Liberty since have been careful to avoid suggestions that they advocate violent resistance to communist rule.
James L. Buckley, president of the two stations who conducted the interview with Reagan, said yesterday that Reagan's remarks about the "captive nations . . . resisting totalitarianism" did not overstep that line.
"I see no parallel at all between the president's remarks and what might have been said in the 1950s," Buckley said. "I don't think anybody in Eastern Europe today thinks that the Marines are about to be parachuted in."
In the interview, Reagan also said, "What the peoples of Eastern Europe choose to do to achieve their freedom, of course, is their own decision." Buckley said that statement, rather than being provocative, was intended to tell the Soviets and other East Europeans that "no one is in the business of giving them advice about what to do with their governments."
Buckley said Reagan's remarks were a restatement of deeply felt views that he has expressed many times before. He added:
"The statement that totalitarianism can be overcome is one that we stand by. The United States does not see the present condition in Eastern Europe as perpetual. Our position is that change is possible."