The Soviet government news agency Tass tonight sharply assailed President Reagan's speech yesterday as "provocative" and said it demonstrated that his administration "can think only in terms of confrontation and bellicose, lunatic anticommunism."
In the first commentary on the president's speech at Orlando, Fla., in which he attacked the Soviet Union as an "evil empire," Tass adopted a harsh tone against him personally.
It called his speech a fit "of anti-Soviet bellicose hysteria" grounded in "Reagan's pathological hatred for socialism and communism." Tass said the president was ignorant of the subject matter he was talking about because "in the whole of his lifetime he has never opened a book of the classics of Marxism-Leninism."
Tass also immediately denounced the latest Pentagon report on Soviet military strength as a mixture of "lies and distortions" designed to "frighten and confuse" the American people and generate public support for the administration's plan to achieve military superiority over the Soviet Union.
In a related commentary, Tass sought to squelch speculation that the outcome of Sunday's West German election had weakened the Soviet hand at the Geneva arms talks and that this might eventually result in new Soviet concessions on medium-range nuclear weapons in Europe.
Describing such speculation as "absolutely groundless," the commentary warned that the deployment of new U.S. medium-range missiles in Europe, due to start in December, would collapse all arms control negotiations.
It would be "illusory" to believe that the Geneva talks would continue "as if nothing happened" once the deployment gets under way, it said. Such a notion, Tass said, constitutes "a premeditated deception of the public."
The Russians appeared to have been stung by Reagan's rhetoric. There appears to be a feeling here that the president may have outmaneuvered Moscow by scaling down his rhetoric before the West German elections and that, buoyed by the outcome, he may continue to insist on his "zero option" arms control proposal.
Moscow's commentaries tonight continued to emphasize the existence of antiwar movements in Europe and the United States.
The commentaries appeared to be addressed to these broad audiences by trying to depict the president as an unthinking communist-hater and his administration as resorting to deception in the pursuit of its rearmament program.
Tass voiced the hope that the president's speech would not change public attitudes toward what it called his "unpopular policies." It noted a sharp increase in the strength of antinuclear groups in the United States and said that "the freeze movement has assumed such a scope" as to cause "a profound concern" to the administration.
Attacking the latest Pentagon booklet on Soviet military power, Tass said it contained "a mass of doctored data and is full of shamelessly manipulated facts and groundless contentions."
Specifically, Tass said, the booklet claimed that the United States had 241 B52 strategic bombers despite the fact that the SALT II treaty puts the number at 574.