MOSCOW, DEC. 1 -- Following the social trauma of the war in Afghanistan, the Soviet Union would not be able to send troops to a war in the Persian Gulf, one of President Mikhail Gorbachev's top foreign policy aides said here today.

Georgi Shakhnazarov, who is one of Gorbachev's closest advisers, said in an interview that neither the legislature nor the general public would tolerate a "military adventure" less than two years after the February 1989 withdrawal from Afghanistan.

"It's the same situation as when the United States just finished the war in Vietnam," Shakhnazarov said. "If {the gulf crisis} had happened then, certainly the Congress would have banned military involvement by the U.S. anywhere else in the world. The Supreme Soviet would never give Gorbachev the okay to send troops to the gulf."

"You can want more or less," he continued, "but at the moment, Soviet society has developed such a strong allergy to military adventures that if you ran an opinion poll you'd probably find that no more than half of 1 percent of the people are in favor of sending in Soviet troops."

The Soviet Union's nine-year battle to prop up Afghanistan's communist government left nearly 15,000 Soviet soldiers dead, and has contributed to antipathy by many Soviets toward having their sons sent even to other parts of the Soviet Union. Last year, women in the Russian republic protested having their sons conscripted to help put down nationalist uprisings in Soviet Azerbaijan.

Shakhnazarov said he was speaking "personally," but such senior officials in the Soviet hierarchy rarely contradict policy in on-the-record interviews. Still, Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze said in New York Friday that "everyone should know that we will not hesitate to use force to protect our citizens" still in Iraq.

There are still 3,300 Soviet citizens in Iraq, and Gorbachev has accused Baghdad of stalling on a promise to free them. The Soviet Union voted for this week's U.N. Security Council resolution giving Iraq until Jan. 15 to withdraw from Kuwait or face the possible use of force.

Shakhnazarov said that Gorbachev's meeting here this week with Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz was extremely tense and that the Soviet leader was "extremely upset" that Baghdad "was so firmly entrenched in {its} old position."

He said that while the Kremlin still "entertains the hope" that the crisis will be resolved without a war, the Soviet Union may have reached the end of its ability to help lure Baghdad into a political settlement.

"As far as I know, at the moment we have exhausted our possibilities because Gorbachev has received Aziz and {special envoy Yevgeni} Primakov has made his trips to the gulf," Shakhnazarov said. "So now all we can do is tighten the political screws on Iraq."

While flying back to Moscow, Shevardnadze told reporters that he hopes the Soviet Union will intensify its diplomacy with other Arab countries in the period before the Jan. 15 deadline. While he predicted that the Iraqi leadership will continue to resist, he said he hopes "common sense will prevail."

Shakhnazarov, a 66-year-old veteran of the Communist Party's foreign policy apparatus, said that while the United States has probably not faced such a "serious enemy" since the end of World War II, there should be no "snap decisions" on a military option.

"One thing I believe firmly, and that is that the present situation cannot go on indefinitely," he said.

"Sooner or later Iraq will be forced to give up Kuwait's territory. If the blockade is serious and Iraq is isolated and branded an international aggressor, in six months or a year I'm sure Saddam Hussein will knuckle under. Therefore, we should think twice, think ten times, before committing any military force to that region."

But when asked about Soviet involvement in such a conflict, Shakhnazarov compared his country to a partner "who is running a bad fever" -- a reference to the country's deep internal problems.

"It's one thing that we have gone so far to support the position of other countries," Shakhnazarov said. "This is a totally new status that has emerged, and it demonstrates that we finally have finished with the Cold War and that we are scrupulously honoring our obligations on the blockade. But it would be unrealistic for anyone to demand more from the Soviet Union. It would be unjust and unwise to expect direct involvement in a war."

Shakhnazarov said "no one knows exactly what far-reaching consequences could result from a military strike against Iraq, or what sort of retaliation could come from Baghdad."

Some commentators in the Soviet press have expressed concern that a war in the gulf would take place just a few hundred miles from the Soviet Union's southwestern borders. They also are concerned that a conflict there could arouse passions in the Soviet Union's Moslem-populated republics.