Senior Soviet officials strongly rebutted yesterday what they called a "surprise" U.S. accusation that the Soviets have newly violated the Antiballistic Missile Treaty, but said the controversy should not poison the atmosphere for next week's Washington summit meeting.
The Soviet rebuttal, by Communist Party spokesman Albert Vlasov and Col. Gen. Nikolai Chervov of the Soviet General Staff, came in a Washington news conference about an hour before the White House officially released its charge that Moscow's redeployment of radar equipment and components is a newly discovered violation of the pact.
Senior U.S. and Soviet officials also traded charges on last-minute hitches in the way of a completed intermediate-range nuclear forces (INF) treaty to be signed by President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev here Tuesday.
"No violations of a treaty can be considered to be a minor matter, nor can there be confidence in agreements if a country can pick and choose which provisions of an agreement it will comply with," Reagan said in his fifth annual "Soviet noncompliance" report to Congress. He said the new radar-related violation "can quickly be corrected by the Soviet Union if it so chooses."
The Soviet officials said, however, that the alleged violation is a mere shift of partly dismantled equipment which they informed the United States about and invited U.S. officials to inspect.
Vlasov, deputy propaganda chief for the Communist Party's Central Committee, said, "We do not believe these issues will hamper the atmosphere of the upcoming summit meeting."
Appearing at the first Soviet contribution to a presummit "battle of the briefings" that is shaping up in Washington, Vlasov said, "It is possible to clear those difficulties if we create between our two countries an atmosphere of trust."
U.S. chief arms negotiator Max M. Kampelman, appearing on a U.S. Information Agency "Worldnet" telecast, also seemed to play down the allegation by repeatedly referring to the radars as a "technical violation" of the ABM Treaty. He said the charge "really should bear no relationship to the summit."
The U.S. violations charge, leveled by Reagan against the recommendation of the State Department and the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, was that "major parts" of a Soviet radar, known to western analysts as Flat Twin, and the van belonging to a second radar, known as Pawn Shop, were observed last March at an electronics plant in Gomel, about 370 miles southwest of Moscow.
The violation occurred when they were moved to Gomel from a missile test center at Sary Shagan more than 2,000 miles away, the U.S. report said, adding that under the 1972 Treaty, "ABM components" cannot be deployed outside a designated test range, such as Sary Shagan.
Chervov, the equivalent of a U.S. four-star general, who is chief of the arms control section of the General Staff of the Soviet armed forces, said the Soviet Union destroyed one radar and "dismantled" two others at Sary Shagan to allay U.S. concerns. The "vehicles" of the two that were dismantled were "handed over to the public economy," apparently for nonmilitary use, where one ended up near Gomel and the other near Moscow, he said.
At a recent meeting of U.S. and Soviet treaty compliance officials in Geneva, "the U.S. side was provided with all explanations together with photographs of the dismantled vehicles," Chervov said. Moreover, the Soviets agreed to permit the United States to inspect one of the dismantled radars and, when the United States asked to inspect them both, agreed to that as well.
The U.S. inspection will take place within "a couple of days," Chervov said.
However, a National Security Council staff member, briefing reporters at the State Department on condition that he not be identified, denied that such a visit has been scheduled and said the two countries are still discussing how the inspection would be carried out.
The official also said the administration is certain redeployment of the radars violated the ABM Treaty and that an inspection would only influence U.S. views of how serious a violation it was. He said the Soviets could resolve the violation only "by destroying the equipment we have seen there."
Chervov, meanwhile, replied to U.S. charges that the Soviets have withheld crucial missile data in the final stages of negotiations by saying that the Soviet delegation in Geneva has "has all the necessary data at its disposal." But he indicated that it would pass it along to the U.S. side only "on a mutual basis" and suggested that U.S. negotiators are withholding some data owed to Moscow.
In midafternoon, a White House official said that new information had been supplied by the Soviets and was being analyzed by the United States to ascertain if it was complete.