Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger cast farewell words of scorn yesterday at criticism that his policies are permitting the Soviet Union to gain military supremacy over the United States.
The attack are welling up more strongly than ever as he leaves office, and Kissinger leaped to the old battle in response to a question at a valedictory appearance before the Washington press corps. The dispute has carried into debate over the current U.S. National Intelligence Estimate of Soviet power and intentions, and into new congressional inquiries.
Kissinger, who exclaimed at the 1974 U.S.-Soviet summit conference, "What in the name of God is strategic superiority?" yesterday added:
"I do not believe that the Soviet Union is achieving military aupremacy over the United States. I do not believe that any American administration will permit a situation to arise in which the Soviet Union could achieve military superiority over the United States."
Secretary of State-designate Cyrus R. Vance, Kissinger's successor, asked for his judgment on the U.S.-Soviet military balance, said yesterday:
"It's a mixed bag. IN some areas we are superior to the Soviets. In other areas they are superior to us. Overall, I think there is general parity been the twattons."
Vance said he has not yet read either the new intelligence estimate or a separate secret report made by panel headed by Harvard Prof. Richard Pipes, in a competitive analysis supervised by Central Intelligence Director George Bush. Vance spoke with reporters after a closed meeting with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in advance of his public confirmation hearing today.
Kissinger, in a farewell appearance at a National Press Club luncheon, said:
". . . The essence of the contemporary problem in the military field is that the term 'supremacy,' when casualties on both sides will be in the tens of millions, has practically no operation significance as long as we do what is necessary to maintain a balance."
Kissinger said nuclear strategy "is too important and vital . . . to be made the subject of partisan and doctrinaire political debate."
"The military danger we face is in respect to regional conflicts," rather than in "the strategic field," Kissinger said. He added that "Those (regional) forces must be modernized and strengthened."
Kissinger's last formal meeting with the Washington press corps combined seriousness and levity, on both sides. For eight years Kissinger has been the center of extraordinary press attention, enjoying far more adulation than criticism, although he cautioned yesterday of the dangers in "a state of almost perpetual inquest" by press vs. government.
"We have had, to put it midly, an intense experience," Kissinger said, drily adding the prospect of a return match, by saying, "We are now at the end of our time together until late january, 1981."
Kissinger was surprised by National Press Club President Robert A. Alden with a belly dancer who gyrated just a few feet from with bumps and grinds to commemorate the lighter side of the Kissinger imagery. She was Linda Dinsmore, 34, from Vienna, Va., s achoolteacher by day and dancer at night, under the stage name of Shadia.
Kissinger, who was accompanied by his wife, Nancy, said in summatio summation of his experience with the press, "I will think of you with affection - tinged by exasperation."
The nation, he said has survived "the trauma of Vietnam" and "the nightmare of Watergate," and "President Ford leaves to Gov. Carter a nation recovered, a nation confident in the progressive fulfillment of the American dream."
Kissinger said his own greatest disappointment in office was "the disintegration of executive authority that "consumed too much of our energy."
President-elect Jimmy Carter and Secretary-designate Vance, he said, "deserve the understanding and support of all Americans," as they face their own trials.
"The divisions that have characterized the last decade in this country resulted from Watergate . . ." which must finally end," Kissinger said. "This is the time to build a new foreign policy consensus . . ."