Britain's US Ambassador Defends London's Hard-Line Stance on EC Diplomat Says His Government Is Not Prepared to Surrender Control over Foreign Policy to a Majority Vote in the European Community. INTERVIEW

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SIR Robin Renwick, the new British ambassador to the United States, visited the Monitor's offices recently to talk with editors about the European Community summit in Maastricht, Netherlands; security in the post-cold-war world; changes in the Soviet Union; efforts to restore peace to Yugoslavia; and prospects for a worldwide trade agreement. Excerpts follow.

Could you give us a sense of what the British government's proposals are for Maastricht?

We have two propositions before us. One is that we should all commit ourselves in the European Community to having a single currency in five or six years' time. We insist that we cannot make the decision now whether to join that system. Most of the essentials remain to be worked out. We do not know, for instance, what sort of central bank would be operating this system.

In my opinion, what will happen in the second half of this decade is that some countries will try to achieve a single currency. And countries which are likely to do that include France and Germany and the Benelux.

The other side of {the Maastricht summit} is political union. {One suggestion} is that foreign policy should be decided, in part at least, by majority voting in Brussels. We are not, frankly, prepared to surrender control over core aspects of our foreign policy.

What is your government's view of German and French military cooperation?

The French and German scheme we think is imperfect. We think that the real deficiency in European defense is the inability of the Europeans to act together outside the NATO area. The Franco-German plan appears to bear on defense within the NATO area, where we believe that should be the responsibility of NATO. We do defend the primacy of NATO.

On the British role during the failed Soviet coup:

We'd always known that something of this kind was likely to happen. We tried to make clear that we weren't going to deal with the leaders of the coup. It was a high-risk strategy, and with a good deal of luck and a considerable display of courage by a lot of people in Moscow and St. Petersburg, the coup collapsed.

We then immediately started working on emergency assistance for the Soviet Union to help people through the winter. And because he's chairman of the G-7 {Group of Seven leading industrial nations}, Prime Minister {John} Major had a particular role to play in trying to coordinate the Western response. {But} it's rather illusory to think that we're going to be able to do some massive classical restructuring, because we are talking about a ... disintegration of the union.

Do you deal with Yeltsin? Do you deal with Gorbachev? Or Shevardnadze?

We deal with everyone. We have to deal with the center and the republics, which is exactly what we've been trying to do.

What do you make of Shevardnadze's coming back into the Cabinet? …