Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev accused the Carter administration yesterday of stalling crucial talks with the Soviet Union on limiting offensive nuclear arms through "indecision and inconsistency."
Brezhnev made the charge from the deck of a cruiser in the strategic eastern port of Vladivostok, where he and former president Gerald Ford set the stage for the second round of strategic arms limitation talks (SALT) with a joint communique signed in November 1974.
The attack on U.S. leadership - Carter personally was not singled out - also came just 13 days before the visit here of Secretary of State Cyrus Vance to discuss the progress of SALT with Kremlin leaders.
In recent weeks, the Soviet press has underscored Kremlin disappointment with the Carter administration. A recent major article in the official Communist Party daily Pravda said relations between the two superpowers were at a "crossroads." Moscow has cited the impasse in the SALT negotiations as one of the causes for the strain in relations.
The fact that yesterday's comments came from Brezhnev himself is of added significance.
Brezhnev's comments were made in a speech to the officers and crew of the 15,000-ton cruiser Admiral Senyavin. The Kremlin leader has been touring Siberia and the Soviet Far East with Defense Minister Dimitri Ustinov and other officials.
"Further delay and all kinds of maneuvers over the talks can only lead us to miss the opportunity of concluding an agreement," Brezhnev said. "It is our firm conviction that such a prospect cannot suit anyone."
Brezhnev said the Soviet Union "should like to hope that proper conclusions would be made in Washington" and that moves would be made to complete the talks.
Although he said he believes both sides "are capable of finding solutions" to the complex problems surrounding SALT, Brezhnev suggested that the United States is stalling for internal political reasons.
"The U.S. government shows indecision, inconsistency, looks back at the circles against this aggreement, which are doing everything they can to thwart it and get their hands free for an uncontrolled missile-nuclear arms race," he said.
He said the Americans "repeatedly" tried to amend the Vladivostok agreements in their favor or questioned "what was agreed upon earlier." This Brezhnev called "an absence of readiness to look for practical solutions."
Western diplomatic observers said the Soviet leader's remarks contained no surprises or hints of altered Soviet views. One source described it as "a rather hard reiteration of the line we have seen frequently in the Soviet press and media: it is the (United States') fault that SALT is bogged down and it is up to (the Americans) to take the decisions" necessary to get the talks moving.
Brezhnev also repeated Soviet oppo sition to neutron weapons, declaring: "A number of statements in favor of disarmament have been made lately in the West . . . But the people judge not by words but by deeds. Very indicative in this respect is the question of neutron weapons . . . a weapon . . . This weapon increases the risks of a nuclear war."
President Carter yesterday announced his decision to defer production of neutron warheads, while directing the Pentagon to proceed with development of delivery systems capable of carrying the weapon.
Western military strategists say that the neutron weapon used as a tactical warhead in Western Europe would all but eliminate the present 3-1 tank advantage of Soviet forces over NATO countries.
The Kremlin has been unhappy and at times embittered by the Carter administration almost from the start, first by the president's support of dissidents here and then by new SALT proposals Vance made in March 1977, which the Soviets viewed as being designed to assure U.S. strategic superiority instead of equality of weapons of annihilation.
Subsequently, Vance and Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko agreed on how to proceed at the SALT talks. The Geneva discussions have proceeded slowly ever since, complicated by Soviet demands for limitations on long-range U.S. cruise missiles and U.S. counter demands for limit on the Soviet "Backfire" supersonic bomber.
When the first SALT accord expired last fall, the two nations pledged mutually to observe it provisions provided the other did and to try hard for a successor agreement. The 1974 Vladivostok agreement was supposed to lay the foundation for a new accord. At Vladivostok, the two sides had agreed to a total of 2,400 offensive strategic missile launchers and long-range heavy bombers for each side.