Andrei Sakharov, the dissident Soviet physicist, was bitterly denounced in the government newspaper Izvestia tonight for urging the United States to continue its rearmament program. The newspaper said this would "practically create conditions" for a preemptive nuclear attack on the Soviet Union.
In an article signed by four members of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, Izvestia described the 62-year-old physicist and human rights activist as a man "who hates his own country and people."
The article purported to summarize Sakharov's remarks contained in a letter smuggled to the United States and published in the latest issue of the journal Foreign Affairs.
The quick response to western news accounts of Sakharov's letter was particularly ominous in two respects. Never before have four members of the academy joined in a public denunciation of Sakharov. And in this attack they compared him to Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, the American couple executed in 1953 after being convicted of passing atomic secrets to Moscow.
"In contrast to Sakharov, who is advocating a nuclear blackmail of his own country and practically the creation of conditions for first use of nuclear weapons against us," the article said, "the Rosenbergs were not only innocent victims of the cruel mechanism of American justice, but they were advocates of the destruction of these deadly weapons. And generally, they were honest, humane persons."
Izvestia quoted Sakharov as saying that the United States should "under no circumstances" agree to a curtailment of the arms race and that the West should pursue its arms buildup "for another 10 to 15 years."
As published in Foreign Affairs, the Sakharov letter said nuclear war would be "a calamity" amounting to "collective suicide." It argued that the West should increase its military strength in order to deter war by balancing Soviet power.
Sakharov said that arms parity is required so that neither side feels it can safely attack. "If the probability of . . . slipping into an all-out nuclear war . . . could be reduced at the cost of another 10 to 15 years of the arms race, then perhaps that price must be paid," he wrote.
Izvestia said Sakharov's letter "implored" the Reagan administration to continue with its present policy, which the authors of the article described as a "militaristic course, the course of confrontation with the Soviet Union."
It said he was calling on the United States "to intimidate our people" so that the Soviet Union would "capitulate before an American ultimatum."
Sakharov was described as a man who has sunk to "a low level of morality" to have described his own country as an "enemy" and to have warned "the bosses of America: do not believe in the peaceful intentions of socialist states."
"Our state and our people are more than patient with this man, who lives quietly in Gorki and sends out from there his hate-filled works," the article said.
Sakharov was exiled to the city of Gorki, about 250 miles east of here, in 1980 for his dissident activities. He was stripped of the various state honors and decorations that he had received for his work on the development of the Soviet hydrogen bomb. However, he remains a member of the Academy of Sciences.
It is his high membership in the academy and his high standing in Soviet science that have made Sakharov's dissidence a complicated issue for the authorities. They have not been able to secure a two-thirds majority of votes on the required secret ballot to expel Sakharov from the academy.
As an academy member, Sakharov still enjoys various privileges, including a salary that is nearly four times the Soviet average and access to special stores.
He recently has asked for treatment at an academy clinic in Moscow after his wife said that he was suffering from heart trouble and urological problems. Authorities have not responded to the request.
Tonight's attack in Izvestia seemed to be a new attempt to discredit Sakharov in the scientific establishment and possibly seek his ouster from the academy.
The authors said that "in essence, Sakharov advocates the use of monstrous weapons to frighten the Soviet people and force our country to capitulate."
The article, which was also distributed by the government news agency Tass, said that Sakharov openly "and without shame" endorsed Washington's plans to deploy new medium-range nuclear missiles in Western Europe and to build and deploy the MX missile.
In Sakharov's actions, it said, "we see the violation of the norms of humanity and decency which have to be observed, we would say, by each civilized man."
Reading Sakharov's letter, the authors said, "we had a strange feeling. U.S. Defense Secretary Weinberger speaks in the precisely same fashion. So speaks President Reagan. Sakharov only forgets to say that the Soviet Union is the focus of evil and to call for a crusade against communism."
The academicians who signed the article are Anatoly Dorodnitsyn, Alexander Prokhorov, Georgy Scriabin and Andrei Tikhonov. The magazine Foreign Affairs does not circulate here and it seems unlikely that they could have obtained a copy of the latest issue without an assist from the authorities.