The Kremlin said today that attempts to justify deployment of the neutron bomb on the ground that it is a tactical battlefield weapon is to "attempt to justify and substantiate actions that can only bring the world closer to a nuclear holocaust."
The Soviet leadership, in an authoritiative unsigned statement carried by the official government news agency, Tass, said that American plans to complete development and deployment of the controversial new weapon "in no way tally with the public statements for peace, disarmament and [proposed] liquidation of nuclear weapons."
The new Soviet expression of anger and alarm over the neutron warhead comes two weeks before Preisent Carter is scheduled to receive a special report on Aug. 15 from the National Security Council on the potential problems that production and deployment of the warhead would have on strategic arms talks and other complex Soviet-American issues.
The Carter administration has proposed deploying the neutron bomb which kills primarily by radiation and does relatively light blast damage, with NATO forces in Europe. The principal stockpiling would be in West Germany, where NATO strategists for years have anticipated that the major battles of any conventional land war in Europe would be fought between the forces of NATO and the Warsaw Pact.
Among the military issues the Soviet Union and the United States are grappling with are troop reductions in Eastern and Western Europe. In the past week, the neutron-deployment question has sharpened in West German political circles, with one Bonn party official calling plans to produce the warhead "a symbol of mortal perversion"
The Tass statement declared: "Striving to justify its line of stepping up the arms race, to neutalize public opinion both in the U.S. and all over the world, Washington is trying to put a serious face on proving the advantages of this new-type mass destruction weapon on grounds that it only kills people while leaving material undamaged. This is how humanism and mortality look in Washington's policy.
"One cannot help seeing that those who are publicizing the neutron charges as allegedly some clean weapon of limited effect are, as a matter of fact, trying to gloss over the fundamental difference between the conventional and nuclear weapons, [and] instill in the minds of people the idea that the nuclear weapon is no more dangerout than a rifle and consequently it can be used as simply and easily."
Tass continued: "The arguments that the neutron charges are meant for use in the first place as a tactical weapon directly in the battlefield serve in the same aims. The calculation is simple here, to prove that its use would not inevitably lead to a large-scale nuclear conflict.
"The inconsistency and danger of such arguments is obvious. Behind them are attempts to justify and substantiate practical actions that can only bring the world closer to a nuclear holocaust."
U.S. strategic planners seem sure that the United States has outstripped the Soviet Union in developing the neutron warhead? In all the discussion here by various official press organs in recent weeks, there has been no mention of Soviet weapons developments in keeping with usual Soviet silence on its strategic capabilities. In early July, Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev said the Soviet Union would match the West in every weapons category, and that is the most that anyone has said about the various specific weapons systems.
In Washington a number of senators, coangressmen and weapons-control advocates have raised their voices in recent weeks against deployment of the neutron warhead. In a clear eference to this emerging opposition, Tass today said: "It is not by chance that reasonable figures in the U.S. itself are expressing serious alarm over negative aftermaths of such a line for the current arms limitation talks."
The agency then sought to draw a difference between these neutron bomb critics and NATO military planners, who have expressed intense interest in the deployment of the new weapon. "The NATO military circles do not conceal their intention to have the nuclear weapon placed at their disposal. Meanwhile, it is clear that the plans hatched for the deployment of U.S. neutron charges in the territory of West Europe are in conflict with the goal of strengthening peace and security in the European continent, with the lofty aims placed on record in the ginal act of the 1975 Helsinki accord.
The eight-paragraph Tass statement ended on a quiet note, quite different in tone from criticisms in recent months of the Carter administration's strategic weapons discisions. "The Soviet Union," it said, "would like to hope that the U.S. leadership is aware of the responsibility it assumes by starting a new round of the arms race, and that sanity and political realism will in Washington."