Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev today rejected President Carter's demand that the Soviet Union withdraw from Afghanistan, but instead issued his own demand for an international "gurantee" by the United States and other countries to cease alleged subversion of the Marxist Kabul government before a pullout can begin.
Brezhnev blamed Washington anew for the revolt threatening the Moscow-backed Afghan government and declared, "We will be ready to commence the withdrawal of out troops as soon as all forms of outside interference directed against the government and people of Afghanistan are fully terminated. Let the U.S. together with the neighbors of Afghanistan guarantee this, and then the needs of Soviet military assistance will cease to exist."
The address was Brezhnev's first publicly delivered personal statement on the Afghan crisis since the invasion, in which Soviet force of arms toppled Marxist strongman Hafizullah Amin and replaced him with pro-Moscow Marxist Babrak Karmal.
In Washington, U.S. officials were guarded in their comment on the Brezhnev speech, saying it is being studied. "Our position continues to be that all Soviet troops should be withdrawn from Afghanistan and there should be a neutral, nonaligned government acceptable to the people of Kabul," the State Department said in a late afternoon statement.
[U.S. spokesmen did not make clear the official response to Brezhnev's appeal to guarantee against foreign intervention. Spokesman Reston said it is too soon to say if the Brezhnev speech is a signal for negotiations. He added: "There is one massive fact of outside interference and that is the Red Army in Afghanistan. That is what we seek to remove."].
The Soviet leader's speech to a Kremlin political gathering was viewed by some analysts here as a reformulation of the Soviet justification for its Dec. 27 invasion.
Nevertheless, some observers assessed his words as a possible signal, however pugnacious, that the Soviets may be interested in exploring ways to limit or even eventually end their military adventure short of perpetual occupation. The intervention has brought world condemnation upon the Kremlin, economic retaliation, severe diplomatic strains in the Third World, and the threatened boycott of Moscow's cherished Summer Olympics by dozens of countries.
Other foreign sources here interpreted the Communist Party chief's speech as nothing more than a new Soviet attempt to force the United States into the position of admitting that Soviet propaganda allegations of American subversion are true, or face world condemnation itself for failing to take a step that could help resolve the conflict.
But it comes just three days after foreign ministers of the major West European powers said they would support a move to declare Afghanistan a neutral country under international guarantee if the Soviet Union withdraws its forces. The West Europeans, meeting in Rome Tuesday, agreed upon a plan that aims at encouraging the Soviets to withdraw by ensuring that Afghanistan could become a neutral buffer zone protecting the Soviet border from the turmoil-ridden Moslem world to the south.There has been no official Soviet comment yet on this reported plan.
Brezhnev's demand for a guarantee against alleged, internal subversion was a relatively brief, but key part of a 40-minute address he made to voters of Moscow's Bauman district, where he is running unopposed for election Sunday to a seat in the Russian Republic's Supreme Soviet, the figurehead regional legislature.
Without referring to the "hot-line" exchange Dec. 28 which led Carter to say later that Brezhnev had lied, the 73-year old Soviet leader, who is chairman of the Soviet Defense Council, declared that "Mr. Carter and the people around him well know there has been no 'Russian intervention' in Afghanistan.
Washington also knows very well everything about the intervention against Afghanistan from Pakistani territory. For it is the Americans, the Chinese, and others who direct this intervention that has created a serious threat to the Afghan revolution and also to the security of our southern border.
"The White House also knows that the U.S.S.R., will withdraw its military contingents from Afghanistan as soon as the reasons that caused their presence there disappear and the Afghan government decides that their presence is no longer necessary. The U.S. loudly demand the withdrawal of Soviet troops but in fact is doing everything to put off this possibility: it is continuing and building up its interference in Afghan affairs."
This language contains no hint of any waverying by the Kremlin from its harsh attempts since the invasion to pin its invasion on the Carter administration. The Soviets paint Carter as a hard-line antidetente leader who more than two years ago began plotting military moves to achieve new American superiority over the Russians despite the SALT II treaty and other bilateral agreements.