Would Leonid Brezhnev encounter the same problems as Jimmy Carter in winning domestic backing for SALT II? Must he too persuade or bludgeon his generals, industrialists, legislators, media people, fellow politicians and public to accept strategic-arms limitations? How great is the risk that hard-liners in the Supreme Soviet, like those on Capitol Hill, will block a draft treaty, even though it has the support of the Soviet and U.S. presidents?

The stark reality is that Brezhnev and his closest associates dominate both the military and the civilian establishment.

Not only is Brezhnev general secretary of the party and president of the Supreme Soviet; he is also chairman of the Defense Council -- Moscow's supreme military policy-making body -- and a marshal of the Soviet Union. He has been deeply involved in military as well as economic and party affairs since the mid-1930s, and concerned with advanced military and space technology since the late 1950s.

Dmitri Ustinov has been the party official responsible for arms production since 1941. Though labeled the Kremlin's first "civilian" defense minister, he worked with the military-industrial complex for 35 years before he succeeded Marshal Andrei Grechko in this position in 1976, whereupon Ustinov too became a marshal of the Soviet Union. Is Ustinov then more civilian than military? He had become a full member of the politburo in 1976 before the unexpected passing of Grechko, himself a full member since 1973.

Nikolai Ogarkov, chief of the Soviet General Staff, knows both arms and arms control. He served as No. 2 man in Moscow's SALT I delegation, 1969-70, before returning home to work on weapons research and development. Like Ustinov, he took his present post in 1976 and promptly became a marshal. He resembles U.S. Defense Secretary Harold Brown in that he has personal familiarity with arms negotiations as well as development. Indeed, many Soviet officers have a perspective that transcends the narrowly military from their work as full or candidate members of the party Central Committee. They are both "Red" and "expert."

Not to be outdone, KGB head Yuri Andropov (also a Politburo member since 1973) received five-star rank in 1976. His border troops and internal security forces number almost half a million. A tough cop, he is rumored to be a closet liberal.

Andrei Gromyko, foreign minister since 1957, also reached full Politburo membership in 1973. He has not received any military rank in recent years, but has come to speak with more authority than typical for Soviet diplomats.

All these officials of the Soviet security apparatus have far longer tenure than their U.S. counterparts. Probably they have less energy and imagination, but they surely have much greater experience -- a valuable commodity in politics. Some are "more equal than others," but they share tasks in a rough division of labor.

The Soviet hierarchy uses overlap and redundancy to seek a "fail safe" system. If one individual or institution falters, a trusted comrade is on hand to intervene. One party rules; its secretariat -- as in Stalin's and Khrushchev's times -- is responsible for all key appointments throughout the system. Without the terror and personality cult of Stalin, Brezhnev has sought since 1964 to bring the entire power establishment under centralized control. Different schools of thought and "tendencies" divide the Kremlin leadership, but there is no parallel to the decentralized competition within and among American political parties, government bureaucracies, industrial interests, mass media, and other private organizations.

Though not a garrison state, the U.S.S.R. is much more militarized than the United States. Obligatory service and virtually universal military training create a standing military nearly twice the size of the U.S. force, and a paramilitary organization whose instructors and activists number 5 million -- compared with under 1 million reservists here. The Soviet military builds roads and brings in harvests; it produces civilian goods as well as guns.

Of course, Soviet officers and military industrialists lobby for bigger budgets and against arms controls that may hurt their branch. Khrushchev's memoirs recount many such struggles. The Kremlin, like the White House, prefers not to provoke showdowns with its military professionals.

Brezhnev, at least so long as his health holds out, is in a stronger position to have his way on military matters than is Carter. Moscow, much more than Washington, is governed by a "power elite" -- C. Wright Mills's term for an interlocking directorate of political, economic and military leaders, cemented by an old buddy system. This elite prefers to rule by consensus and to avoid bruising feuds and fights that could undermine day-to-day operations and the facade of collective collegiality. Still, at the apex of this pyramid one may continues to be more equal than others -- Marshal, President and General Secretary Brezhnev. "The military-industrial complex," he could say, "is us."