In the propaganda war being waged over whether the nuclear "threat" to Europe comes from the Soviet Union or United States, the Kremlin has armed its political cadre with the most elaborate defense of Soviet military doctrine since the 1960s.

"Who is really threatening Europe?" is the main question raised, and answered to Soviet advantage, in a 74-page booklet issued in Moscow. The pamphlet represents a fundamental recasting of basic Soviet strategic doctrine as it has been portrayed to the outside world.

Not surprisingly, the Soviets portray the United States as the threat to peace. In the process, however, many American specialists agree, the Soviet Union also has produced its most ambitious effort to distance itself from the doctrines on the "winnability" of nuclear war set out in the early 1960s by Marshal of the Soviet Union V. D. Sokolovsky and other prominent military leaders.

Few, if any, senior U.S. officials have had time to read the new Soviet publication, several acknowledged in response to inquiries last week. On the basis of analyses sent from the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, they indicated they saw "nothing new or startling" in what they were inclined to dismiss as only "a larger version of familiar propaganda."

But specialists who have studied the document regard it as a potent "handbook for political cadre," considerably more sophisticated for European audiences than an American version of "the Soviet threat," issued last September by the Pentagon.

Soviet officials in recent years have told Western critics of Soviet military strategy, who assail the Soviet Union with bristling citations from the Sokolovsky account, that it is out of date and no longer accurate.

The new Soviet version of the Kremlin's nuclear doctrine explicitly disavows all the doctrinal formulations of the 1960s that rebounded against the Soviet Union in the 1970s when Western critics charged that the Soviet version of detente was a fraud.

The new document states "Soviet military strategy is neither immutable nor everlasting," but "changes with the changing world" as does strategy "in the United States," where "a doctrine of massive retaliation" was replaced by "the strategy of flexible response and thereupon that of realistic deterrence . . . . "

In the same way, the report says, "Soviet theoretical works of the early 60s reflected the views of their time," when the United States with "a considerable nuclear missile advantage . . . threatened the Soviet Union with massive nuclear strikes, and declared that a nuclear war against the U.S.S.R. was winnable."

Soviet military doctrine always has been based on "retaliatory, that is, defensive action," the report adds, "and says nothing at all in the new conditions of the 70s and early 80s of nuclear war being winnable and, more, lays the accent still more emphatically than before on preventing it . . . . "

The new Soviet publication, entitled "The Threat to Europe," is clearly intended to reach over the head of the United States to Western Europeans. It states that the "the Soviet public" shares the belief of Europeans that there is a "real threat to Europe," but it is "deeply convinced that it comes from elsewhere than is alleged in the West, namely, from the arms race started by the U.S.A. and other imperialist countries and the sustained world tensions."

The 99-page booklet entitled "Soviet Military Power," issued in September by Secretary of Defense Caspar W. Weinberger, warned of massive Soviet spending "to fund the projection of Soviet power far from Soviet shores" and the exploitation of Soviet "proxy forces to support revolutionary factions and conflict in an increasing threat to international stability."

The Pentagon's elaborately illustrated brochure dealt only with Soviet power, and omitted any references to countervailing American strength. The Soviet publication, drab in comparison, is directed at readers prepared to wade through complex arguments over comparative American-Soviet strength and strategy.

The format used in the Soviet publication is questions from "an imaginary Western opponent" and Soviet answers. Its highlights include the following highly excerpted points:

Can a nuclear war be considered winnable?

Answer: Western political and military writers contend that Soviet military doctrine is based exclusively on the belief that a world nuclear war can be won. But that is a simplistic and distorted view of our approach.

In fact, the Soviet Union holds that nuclear war would be a universal disaster, and that it would most probably mean the end of civilization. It may lead to the destruction of all mankind. There may be no victor in such a war, and it can solve no political problems . . . Soviet people are not thinking in terms of winning a nuclear war, but of averting such a war by all means . . . .

The same applies to the idea of a "limited nuclear war" in Europe or elsewhere as conceived in U.S. presidential directive 59 of 25 July 1980. One might discourse on "limited nuclear war" in theory only, but on the practical plane it is nothing less than unrealistic . . . . There is nothing to guarantee that such a war will not grow into a universal nuclear conflagration . . . .

In the West one hears now and then that Soviet military doctrine is of an aggressively offensive nature, considers a first strike possible, and includes plans for a sudden, blitzkrieg-style invasion of Western Europe. Is this true?

Answer: That is another popular theme in Western military and political propaganda. They use a simple ruse to adduce that Soviet doctrine is aggressively offensive. They do so by quoting from works of Soviet military theorists devoted not to doctrine or military policy but to particular aspects of combat, such as tactics in the battlefield. These quotes are passed off as Soviet doctrine, though that is a deliberately incorrect and specious approach . . . .

Soviet doctrine is of a purely defensive nature . . . . It does not admit of either a first or pre-emptive strike, or of any "lightning" invasion of Western Europe . . . .

It is said that the numerical strength of the Soviet armed forces is far greater than what the country needs for defense. Is that true?

Answer: The strength of the Soviet armed forces is not greater than needed for defense. It matches the defense needs. To see this you must consider at least two pertinent factors: the regional strength balances and the geostrategic factor.

The Soviet Union's strategic situation compels it, for purposes of defense, to ensure not only a general equilibrium of strength between it and the U.S.A., and between the Warsaw Treaty countries and NATO, but also a regional equilibrium in separate theatres, each with its own military specifics. To begin with, the strength of the armed forces of the Soviet Union and its allies must match the area of the territory they defend, the overall length of frontiers, and the nature of the potential dangers.

No other country in the world has anything even remotely equal or similar to these factors. The armies of the Warsaw Treaty countries have a territory of 23,500,000 sq. km. to defend, out of which 22,500,000 sq. km. are Soviet territory. This is more than the area of the United States, Europe, and China combined. The NATO armies have only 2 million sq. km., or one-eleventh of that area, to defend.

Faced in the west by the NATO block, which includes three nuclear powers, the Soviet Union is simultaneously exposed to danger in the east from two American Pacific fleets and from China with its growing nuclear potential and the world's most numerous army. Furthermore, the deployment of U.S. naval nuclear forces in the northern sector of the Indian Ocean within reach of southern regions of the Soviet Union combines with the string of U.S. military bases stretching from the Mediterranean across the Middle East to Pakistan and countries in Southeast Asia.

. . . The Soviet Union . . . is continuously developing new types of weapons. Its deeds don't match its words: it says it wants the arms race stopped. But isn't the U.S.S.R. taking an active part in it?

Answer: You must look below the surface of things. The Soviet Union does not initiate new weapons. It develops them in response to the appearance of such weapons in the United States. Here are the facts to prove it: [TABLE OMITTED]

By the beginning of the 70s the United States had initiated 23 out of the 25 existing major weapons systems. And since then the number of U.S. initiatives has increased. The latest one is the decision to manufacture nuclear bombs . . . .

In the Soviet presentation, this characterization of the Soviet Union as the wholly innocent party in the nuclear arms race goes on in detail into the current debate over installing American Pershing II missiles and ground-launched cruise missiles, to offset already emplaced Soviet SS20, SS4 and SS5 missiles. In each instance, the Soviet Union claims that it was only reacting to earlier American weapons deployments-- claims that are scoffed at by U.S. strategists.

The core of the case that the Soviet presentation seeks to make with Europeans is that the ulterior American motive is to use Western Europe "in the role of a lighting rod" that "would absorb" any "counterstrike" by the Soviet Union in event of an American attack on the Soviet Union.

This, it argues, is the looming threat, "a downright betrayal of West Europeans, for in that case the Americans want to survive at the price of European lives. Europeans would be their nuclear hostages."