The Soviet Union strongly assailed Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig Jr. yesterday for attempting to "whitewash" the American military buildup and described his approach to arms control as a "joke on common sense."

The quick response by the official news agency Tass to Haig's speech before the Foreign Policy Association in New York on Tuesday suggested that the Soviets have failed to detect even nuanced changes in the U.S. position.

The speech was described as a public relations effort designed to mask the Reagan administration's "militaristic approach to international affairs and its unwillingness to hold arms control talks with the Soviet Union."

The comment was twinned with an attack on Secretary of Defense Caspar W. Weinberger, whose address at a national security affairs conference at Fort McNair Tuesday, Tass said, "can be qualified only as a call to war" against the Soviets.

Weinberger "indirectly admitted that it is the United States and not the Soviet Union that has started the arms race that is endangering the entire mankind," Tass said.

Both commentaries were interpreted by Western diplomats what is perceived in Moscow as increasing public pressures in Western Europe and the United States against sharp increases in military spending.

Asserting that Haig's aim was "to calm down indigment public opinion," Tass questioned the professed sincerity in arms control in general and the adminisration's "vague" attitude toward curbing nuclear rockets in Europe in particular.

Tass implied that Haig was inaccurate when asserting that the two superpowers were engaged in communications on these matters.