If you could send a message to Moscow -- a message that would be read by 40 million Russians -- what would you like to say?

It is now possible for you to address the Russian people, to offer your ideas on how to improve Soviet-American relations, to get off your chest any feelings you may wish to communicate to the Soviet Union.

Here's how this remarkable opportunity has become possible: At a Soviet-American conference at Chautauqua, N.Y., in August, we proposed an exchange of ideas between the Soviet and American people. We offered to turn over our column once a month to Soviet commentator Vladimir Posner if he would arrange for Soviet newspapers to give us equal space each month. We agreed to invite the people themselves to express their views, to speak out, to say whatever they wish -- free of censorship, reproach or retaliation.

This is no contest, so there are no rules. It will be a dialogue between people of good will, a free exchange of ideas to promote better understanding, an exercise in citizens' diplomacy. Please keep your statements short and pertinent; there simply won't be enough space for lengthy essays.

Mail statements to Jack Anderson, Post Office Box 2300, Washington, D.C. 20013. We don't have the staff to acknowledge each statement; you will have to watch the column for the results. It is also understood, of course, that we have the right to publish your comments, in whole or in part.

You are free to write whatever is on your mind. You can explain American values or denounce Soviet values. But we would like this to be a constructive dialogue. We won't achieve better relations with abrasive words and a belligerent attitude. We can't expect to make lasting friendships with a cudgel.

Clearly, tension exists between Moscow and Washington. Some day we hope to report that all Soviet-American differences have been resolved and that the millennium has dawned. But at the moment, this is wishful thinking. Unpleasant news still unsettles our lives. Unwelcome shapes and shadows still lie on the horizon.

Yet we cannot afford to become sour and cynical. This leads to mistrust and disillusion, which can cause bitterness and hopelessness. We must have faith in the future and be willing to keep on trying. So let us raise our sights, lest they drift ever lower.

The Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, is attempting to restructure and revitalize the Soviet system. He has introduced new initiatives, new attitudes, new thinking inside the Soviet Union. Part of the new way is the new openness -- the Soviets call it "glasnost" -- which has made this exchange of ideas possible.

Perhaps Americans, too, could profit by taking a new look at themselves. There are problems bubbling up all around us. Yet there is a reluctance to change our profligate ways, to revamp our outmoded methods, to reverse our stubborn thinking, to get off the downhill racer. We hold tenaciously to past ways and old views, not because they're still the best, but because they are familiar and comfortable.

So let us begin by considering a new approach to Soviet-American relations.