MOSCOW, JULY 6 -- Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev said today that NATO appeared to be moving "in the right direction" with its proposals for radical changes in the structure of the Western alliance and a joint East-West peace declaration.

Speaking to reporters in the Kremlin during a break in the 28th Communist Party Congress, the Soviet leader also indicated that he would accept an invitation to visit NATO headquarters in Brussels and address a meeting of the alliance. "I am always ready to go {there}," Gorbachev said.

Under fire from Communist Party conservatives and sections of the military for "losing Eastern Europe," Gorbachev had been looking to this week's NATO summit in London for reassurance that his foreign policy moves are being reciprocated by the West. The hard-liners have argued that the Kremlin has frittered away the Soviet Union's post-war political gains, diminishing the country's security without getting anything in return.

"Now we can tell those grumbling generals that they are wrong," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennadi Gerasimov. "This comes at a good time because he {Gorbachev} is being criticized."

Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze tonight described the NATO proposals as "realistic and constructive," saying that they helped "pave the way to a safe future for the entire European continent." In a statement distributed by the official Tass news agency, he welcomed practically all the Western initiatives and said they would be studied in a "most thorough and attentive way" by Moscow.

"In London, it was declared that the West extends its hand to the East. For our part, we are ready to extend our hand toward them," Shevardnadze said.

Up until a few months ago, the Soviet leader's policy of pursuing good relations with the West was widely regarded as one of his strongest political cards. But the foreign-policy consensus has broken down with the crumbling of the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact military alliance, the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Eastern Europe and the relentless drive toward German unification.

The dismay felt by some Soviet generals over these developments surfaced at this week's Communist Party conference with one delegate, Maj. Gen. Ivan Mikulin, accusing Soviet diplomats of "looking at the world through rose-colored spectacles."

Mikulin, the chief of the political department of the southern army group, appeared to be reflecting the views of many senior officers when he said that the West was "building up its own security exclusively at our expense."

Speaking to journalists today, Mikulin criticized Gorbachev for indecisiveness and Shevardnadze as being in "too much of a hurry." He said he would vote against the foreign minister in elections for a new Communist Party Politburo. Shevardnadze has said he does not feel it necessary for government ministers to be represented on the Politburo.

Mobbed by reporters and tourists as he strolled on the Kremlin grounds during a break in the congress debates, Gorbachev said that he had not yet received any official information about the outcome of the NATO summit. But he said that unofficial reports suggested that "NATO has begun to move in the right direction."

The Soviet leader refused to comment when asked whether the London declaration lessened his concern over a unified Germany becoming a member of NATO. "We will have to think about that," he said.

Western analysts here said that the London declaration would allow Gorbachev and Shevardnadze to argue that the Western alliance no longer regards the Soviet Union as its principal enemy. The statement includes pledges to scale down NATO forces, reduce reliance on nuclear weapons and place a ceiling on the size of the German army, all goals that have been pursued by the Kremlin.

The Kremlin has also welcomed the forthcoming visit to Moscow by NATO Secretary General Manfred Woerner on July 14 as evidence that the two alliances are drawing together after four decades of hostility. Woerner, who will be the first NATO chief to visit Moscow, is expected to meet with senior military leaders in addition to Gorbachev and Shevardnadze in order to expand on the London proposals.

In his statement tonight, Shevardnadze noted with satisfaction that the NATO leaders appeared to have accepted many Soviet ideas for strengthening the 35-nation Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. He added that Moscow would consult with its six Warsaw Pact allies about the peace declaration proposed by the West.

"We attach extremely great importance to the statement that the NATO countries have no aggressive intentions and they are committed to a peaceful solution of disputes and will never be the first to use force," said Shevardnadze.

Senior military leaders reacted more cautiously to the news from London. Marshal Sergei Akhromeyev, Gorbachev's chief military adviser, said that he personally had "no great hopes" from the invitation to the president to address the NATO council in Brussels.

"I see nothing bad in him going there, but I don't see any particular advantage in it either," Akhromeyev said.

The head of the Soviet Union's 2 million-strong land forces, Gen. Valentin Varennikov, welcomed what he described as "a certain rapprochement" in the positions of NATO and the Warsaw Pact. But he added that he still wanted to make sure that a united Germany did not become a member of NATO.

By rushing out a detailed statement tonight, Shevardnadze appeared to be seeking to put the most positive possible official spin on the NATO communique. Military leaders are likely to be more skeptical about declarations of peaceful intent by the West and will be looking instead at the real balance of forces on the ground.