As the Kremlin leadership watched a dazzling display of Moscow's military might, Defense Minister Dmitri Ustinov declared today that the Soviet Union would never permit the United States to establish military superiority and "talk to us from a position of strength."
Marshal Ustinov, delivering the traditional address at the Nov. 7 parade honoring the anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution, said the Soviet Union was not seeking to gain military superiority.
He added, however, that Soviet leaders, in the face of "imperialist aggression," are paying "unwavering" attention to strengthening Soviet national defenses.
Ustinov spoke after a rendition of the national anthem by 1,500 military musicians and a 21-gun salute fired by howitzers from the Lenin Hills in another part of the city. Standing with him on the top of the Lenin Mausoleum were President Leonid Brezhnev and most other members of the ruling Politburo.
For the second year in a row, ambassadors from 13 Western countries, including the U.S. envoy, Arthur Hartmann, stayed away from the parade to protest the December 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
This year, however, four more ambassadors boycotted the event. The envoys of Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Iceland were ordered by their governments to stay away in protest against the recent intrusion of a Soviet submarine into a restricted military zone on Sweden's southern coast.
Denmark, Norway and Iceland joined the boycott after the Swedes charged that the conventionally powered submarine was carrying nuclear warheads on its Baltic Sea mission when it ran aground near a Swedish naval base.
The Soviet Union is unique among major world powers in its yearly parade of its military forces. No matter how often one has seen this seasonal ritual, one cannot escape the feeling of awe. It is as if designed to demonstrate not only that this is one of the great centers of world power but also that it is unconquerable.
The spectacle is staged on heroic scale in the hub of an old imperial city whose spacious boulevards and squares lend themselves to the immensity of crowds, the rumble of tanks and vehicles carrying deadly rockets and the uncanny precision of troops marching 25 abreast.
Today was the 64th anniversary of Soviet power. But for Muscovites it was also another important anniversary. On this day during World War II 40 years ago, young soldiers marched past the Lenin Mausoleum in Red Square in a similar parade. Then they went directly westward toward Moscow's Sheremyetevo Airport to halt the advancing German armies at a spot about 14 miles from the city.
The parade site remains the same. The cobblestoned Red Square is 2,280 feet long and 426 feet wide. To the south is the spectacularly beautiful St. Basil's Church with its multicolored onion domes: the maroon-colored historical museum is at the northern end; the Kremlin Wall runs along the eastern edge of the square and the huge Gum department store is to the west.
It took Stalin 105 minutes to review the forces moving to the west to confront the mighty Nazi armies at the city's gate. Today, the military march took only about twenty minutes to pass the fur-hatted Soviet leaders watching from the Lenin Mausoleum.
The diplomats' absence did not visibly mar the occasion, which traditionally affords the Communist Party an opportunity for self-congratulation.
Ustinov also was the keynote speaker at a formal Kremlin ceremony last night, and he vigorously asserted that the Soviets do not believe a nuclear war can be won and that they do not contemplate the possibility of "first strike" or preemptive attack on adversaries. He said Western statements to the contrary were "deliberate lies."
The military parade included all services -- infantry in brown uniforms, border units in dark green, sailors in black, airmen in blue, marines with green berets and paratroopers with blue berets. All goose-stepped with exceptional precision past the mausoleum and on toward St. Basil's Church.
Then came the hardware, including a somewhat modified T72 heavy tank, surface-to-air and surface-to-surface missiles and other military vehicles. Foreign military attaches watching the display said no new Soviet hardware was shown today.
The show of force was followed by tens of thousands of workers marching along and carrying paper flowers. Various groups rolled wheeled iron frames supporting signs similar to old-fashioned theater marquees. There also were floats with placards condemning the defense policies of the Reagan administration.
President Leonid Brezhnev, who normally leaves parades early, today stayed on through the end. He looked fit and drank occasionally from a paper cup.
Despite poor weather -- it was drizzling and snowing intermittently -- the city was spectacular with buntings, special lights and other decorations. Yet things seem to lack spontaneity and merriment, with everyone apparently taking this as serious business and countless security people stationed throughout the city to make sure that nothing got out of hand.
For the last several days, Moscow television has reminded its viewers of just how much things have improved from the fateful days of November 1941. It showed documentaries from the Battle of Moscow, when the city was almost deserted and when military vehicles rolled about eerily in the dark-appearing streets.