The Soviet Communist Party newspaper Pravda today made the first public reference here to suggestions that the Soviet Union might put nuclear arms in Cuba if the United States deploys its new medium-range nuclear missiles in Western Europe.
In a rejoinder to recent comments by U.S. Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger, Pravda stressed that President Leonid Brezhnev's speech Tuesday "contains a clearly worded warning" that if the United States carries out its plan the Soviet Union would undertake "retaliatory steps that would put the other side, including the United States itself, its territory, in an analogous position."
"Caspar Weinberger," Pravda continued, "discoursed in this connection about the Soviet Union's 'intention' to deploy nuclear missiles in Cuba. The deductions he made shall be left on his conscience.
"It is another thing that is important, however. The U.S. defense secretary threatened that the deployment of Soviet missiles in retaliation for U.S. actions or even preparation for their deployment would lead to a situation in which the United States would take every measure and undertake any steps to prevent that.
"A legitimate question arises in this connection: How should the Soviet Union react, to follow Caspar Weinberger's logic, if the United States attempts to deploy in the immediate vicinity of the Soviet Union some 600 cruise and Pershing II missiles fitted with nuclear warheads and targeted on the Soviet Union?"
The article, headlined "There Can Be No Double Standard," also was distributed by the Soviet news agency Tass and read on Moscow television evening news. Western diplomats said its main argument was that if the Americans can install new missiles in Western Europe, the Soviets have the same right with respect to their ally Cuba.
The Soviet media previously had made no mention of Cuba. But Soviet sources, immediately after Brezhnev's speech, described his warning as raising the possibility of placing nuclear weapons in Cuba. The Soviet leader coupled his threat with sweeping arms-control proposals and announced that his government has ordered a halt to the deployment of its modern medium-range SS20 rockets in the European part of the Soviet Union.
On the diplomatic front, Brezhnev's proposals were followed by two unusual gestures. First, Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko invited in the Italian ambassador for a chat, reportedly to convey to the Italian government the seriousness of the Brezhnev proposals as well as to hint that Moscow has reached its limits in seeking an improved atmosphere at Soviet-American talks in Geneva.
In another unsual gesture, Premier Nikolai Tikhnov called in the outgoing Japanese ambassador. Normally, outgoing ambassadors are not received by the head of government.