The Soviet Union, in a sharp attack on the United States today, suggested that there was U.S. collusion in the Chinese invasion of Vietnam and accused Washington of being "hypocritical" in its call for restraint.
The Communist Party newspaper Pravda, in an article ascribed to Alexei Petrov, thought to be a pseudonym for authoritative government views, suggested that the United States, through its new relations with Peking, has become a born-again aggressor in Southeast Asia.
"During [Chinese Vice Premier] Teng Hsiao-ping's recent trip to Washington and Tokyo, he bluntly revealed plans to 'teach Vietnam a bloody lesson,'" the Petrov article said. "In talks with some of his 'American friends,' Teng, it is asserted, went even further and divulged details of these plans."
"Teng stated in Washington the intention to pounce, arms in hand, on Vietnam, while the U.S. said it wanted to see China strong... and both sides found that their strategic interests and many goals coincided," Pravda said.
The official Soviet news agency Tass, in a separate statement, said that "the war against socialist Vietnam was practically prepared by Peking with the tacit consent of Washington."
[In Washington, State Department spokesman Hodding Carter said Teng had spoken to President Carter only about "some unspecified intention" to move against Vietnam. "We did not either give a green light or have a battle plan presented to us," he said. The spokesman added that the invasion would not affect the normalization of diplomatic relations between the United States and China.]
This latest flap between the Soviet Union and the United States comes as the two countries are attempting to reach a final agreement on strategic arms limitations.
Petrov said in his Pravda article that "if official Washington responded to Teng's probing in the same manner as the U.S. is now responding to the Chinese aggression, Peking could make the conclusion that the Americans will not object. It will never come to more than verbal expressions of regret."
Pravda suggested that the Americans, still feeling humiliated by their defeat in Vietnam, were eager to have Peking punish Hanoi.
Meanwhile, there was still no confirmation of a report circulated earlier by a well-connected Soviet journalist that the Soviet army had been put on a state of high alert, with leaves canceled. The Soviet media has made no reference to the report, but it would be considered highly unusual if it did, in a country where most military matters are considered secret.
The propaganda effort, aside from labeling the Chinese as aggressors, has sought to position the Kremlin in a strong I-told-you-so relationship with Western countries now eagerly trying for improved trade with the Chinese and to sell them arms.
The Kremlin is trying to capitalize on the implications the Chinese invasion holds for such key Asian countries as India, which suffered a similar invasion by the Chinese army over its northern borders in 1962. The Soviets have widely publicized the abrupt departure of India's foreign minister from an official visit to Peking when the invasion began Saturday.
Tass today quickly reported condemnations of the invasion by the ruling Janata Party in New Delhi.
Meanwhile, a delegation of the new pro-Vietnamese Cambodian government installed by the Vietnamese after their successful ouster of the pro-Chinese Pol Pot regime last month consulted here today with a senior Soviet party official, Mikhail Zimyanin.
The Cambodian delegation chief, Ros Samay, general secretary of the National Salvation Front, offered thanks to the Soviet Union for its support in toppling Pol Pot.
The Soviets have taken the position that the Chinese attack in large measure was a reaction to the defeat of the pro-Chinese government in Cambodia. This idea is widely shared among foreign diplomatic sources here.
The Petrov article in Pravda cast the argument this way:
"The collapse of the pro-Chinese regime in Cambodia meant the failure of plans (by Peking) to impose on Vietnam a struggle on two fronts simultaneously. Then Peking decided to charge ahead on its own."
The article added, on the theme of a U.S. role, that American naval forces were present in the South China Sea at the time the Chinese attack began.
"Sounding more than ambiguous against the background of Peking's perfidious aggression against a socialist country are the hypocritical calls by the U.S. to all sides 'to display restraint' although this appeal should have been clearly addressed to China."
Soviet television commentators declared tonight that China faced possible punishment for the Vietnamese attack. But commentators Anatoli Ovsyannikov and Valentin Zorin, on separate news shows, did not specify what "punishment" the Chinese face.