Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev tonight challenged the United States' pledge to defend vital Persian Gulf oil resources by proposing a "Brezhnev doctrine" that would ban establishment of foreign military bases in the area.
In a major foreign policy address to members of India's Parliament, Brezhnev said the United States and its Western allies, along with China and Japan, should agree to his "doctrine of peace and security."
Presented as an effort to avert conflict in the area, the proposal would, in effect, cripple American efforts to protect oil states of the Persian Gulf from any Soviet threat.
Brezhnev called Western fears of such a threat to the area's oil riches "pure invention" and declared: "The U.S.S.R. has no intention of encroaching upon either Middle East oil or its transportation route."
"Under the trumpted-up pretext of protecting their vital interests," he added, "powers situated at a distance of many thousands of kilometers from this area have concentrated here a military armada and are vigorously building up armaments, widening the network of their military bases, exerting pressure on and threatening the small countries which refuse to trail in their wake."
Brezhnev proposed his doctrine as he neared the end of a four-day visit to India that began Monday, his first trip outside the communist world since the Soviets intervened in Afghanistan last Dec. 27. It was the major theme of a speech that outlined Moscow's perceptions of an Asia and Middle East endangered by warlike policies of the United States and its NATO allies but never mentioned Soviet troops poised around Poland.
[In Washington, the State Department said it found "little that is new or different" in the Brezhnev speech, calling it "basically a reiteration of longstanding Soviet proposals." The statement said the United States will make a fuller response in the near future.]
Brezhnev's declaration appeared to be a direct, although tardy, response to the United States' 11-month-old Carter Doctrine, which immediately after the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan set out an American promise to protect the gulf and adjoining sea lanes that carry roughly 40 percent of the noncommunist world's oil.
Since then the United States has signed agreements with three nations in the Persian Gulf-Indian Ocean region for use of port facilities, greatly increased U.S. naval presence in the area and established a Rapid Depoloyment Force with seven cargo ships positioned around the Indian Ocean island base of Diego Garcia loaded with military equipment that could be used by troops rushed to the region.
Moreover, since the Iran-Iraq war started more than two months ago the United States has sent four big radar early-warning planes and the airmen to maintain and fly them to Saudi Arabia to monitor the gulf fighting and provide advanced information if it looks as if the conflict will spill over to the Saudi or neighboring oil fields.
It was unclear from Brezhnev's 30-minute speech whether he was calling for dismantling of existing bases or merely for an agreement not to establish any more military facilities in the region. In addition, he did not distinguish between bases and facilities. In its recent agreements, the United States has drawn a careful distinction between "facilities" and a "base," although in practice the difference is often fuzzy.
Nor was the geography of the area he was talking about clear. He talked mainly about "the Persian Gulf area" although he also mentioned in the same part of his speech should be turned into "a zone of peace."
He did not, however, mention the Red Sea or the Horn of Africa, where Soviet military facilities in the region are located.
Some of the United States' military facilities -- in Oman and Bahrain -- are in the gulf or on its approaches. Other facilities are at the former Soviet naval installation of Berbera in Somalia and at the port of Mombassa in Kenya, as well as Diego Garcia.
The Soviets have naval facilities on the island of Scotra in the Indian Ocean off South Yemen, in South Yemen's port of Aden on the Gulf of Aden and in the Ehiopian island port of Dahlak.
Brezhnev's proposals, delivered in the slurred Russian speech that has marked all his appearances here this week, received subdued applause from the Indian legislators. They clapped most toward the end of the talk when the Soviet leader praised India, its achievements and Jawaharlal Nehru, its first prime minister and father of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
Yet the proposal is likely to please Indian policymakers, who have long objected to the buildup of both U.S. and Soviet forces in the area as a threat to the security of nations along the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf.
Brezhnev said his five-point doctrine would guarantee the security of the Persian Gulf states. The points called for the United States, other Western powers, China and Japan -- he did not mention the Soviet Union as a signatory -- to agree:
"Not to set up foreign military bases in the Persian Gulf area and on adjacent islands; not to depoly nuclear or any other weapons of mass destruction there;
"Not to use or threaten to use force against the countries of the Persian Gulf area and not to interfere in their internal affairs;
"To respect the status of non-alignment chosen by the states of the Persian Gulf area; not to draw them into military groupings with the participation of nuclear powers;
"To respect the sovereign right of the states of that area to their natural resources;
"Not to raise any obstacles or pose threats to normal trade exchanges and to the use of sea lanes linking the states of that area with other countries of the world."