Soviet President Leonid I. Brezhnev has fired another rose at the hearts and minds of the West German public, while not giving anything away to the West German government.
His long interview in the Nov. 2 issue of Der Spiegel - reprinted prominently in the Nov. 3 issue of Pravda:
* Presents the Kremlin as peace-loving.
* Upbraids the US for allegedly seeking military ''superiority.''
* Claims an existing equality between Soviet and NATO medium-range nuclear weapons in Europe.
The interview does not, however, make any new offer for the imminent European nuclear arms-control talks.
Nor does it tip Moscow's hand on the Kremlin's various ambiguities on arms control, popular peace movements, or relations with the United States and West Germany.
These omissions correspond, according to informed diplomatic sources, to similar omissions in official Soviet-West German contacts in preparing for Brezhnev's Nov. 22-25 visit to Bonn.
The Kremlin has reportedly remained noncommittal on all important Soviet-West German issues - even including the easily managed one of emigration of ethnic Germans from the Soviet Union to West Germany. The numbers of these exit visas are way down (as are visas for Jews and Armenians), and Moscow shows no intention of increasing the numbers even as a temporary goodwill gesture.
Barring any last-minute surprise, it thus appears that Brezhnev intends to let his visit coast on a public image of cordial Soviet-West German relations without giving any substance to this image.
Government response to the Brezhnev interview has been low key, describing the ideas as nothing new.
The Soviet Union, on the contrary, is grandstanding the visit, as the Spiegel interview illustrates. The intended audience, Western observers believe, is the Western European public -- and especially those antinuclear protesters who have sprung into life this past year and mounted huge demonstrations this past month in Bonn, London, Brussels, Paris, and even Rome.
The hoped-for Soviet goal, the observers believe, is public rejection of the new NATO nuclear missiles planned for deployment beginning two years from now. It is not yet clear how far the Western European public will accept Brezhnev's portrayal of the Soviet Union as peace-loving, now that American-Soviet talks on European nuclear arms control are about to resume.
To be sure, in the past year, the Soviet Union has enjoyed an easy monopoly on the role of superpower dove in Europe, as the Reagan administration has criticized arms control and promoted an American arms buildup. With American-Soviet talks opening Nov. 30 in Geneva, however, Moscow will now have to back up its abstract peace principles with concrete arms-control proposals -- and in this competition the US could well reclaim a peace-loving image for itself.
It is probably too late for Washington to recoup this image among the activists in Northern Europe's antinuclear demonstrations (or among the general public in the Netherlands, the one country where a majority seems to favor unilateral dismantling of NATO's nuclear weapons without reciprocal Soviet action).
But some West German officials think that a serious American arms-control position in the forthcoming talks could still deflect the image of a bellicose US among the rather apolitical bulk of youthful protesters in the key country of West Germany.
Recent opinon polls suggest that this assessment would be even more applicable to the ''silent majority'' of West Germans. The latest Allensbach Institute poll gives Americans and NATO some of their highest ratings in decades. Some 56 percent say they like Americans (18 percent don't); 80 percent want to stay in the NATO military alliance (only 6 percent don't); and 50 percent still support the NATO nuclear deploy-while-negotiating position (23 percent don't).
Curiously, given the Soviet interest in public appeals, Brezhnev did not treat one area of special European concern as boldly as he might have in his interview. This area involves fear that the superpowers might fight a nuclear war in Europe while preserving their own homelands as sanctuaries.
President Reagan's offhand reference, Oct. 16, to such a possibility set off a furor in Europe. Instead of fueling this fear, however, Brezhnev stated flatly that any nuclear war in Europe would inevitably escalate to superpower nuclear war.
Brezhnev's one implied threat in the interview was the declaration that ''in order to neutralize mobile rockets (like those NATO missiles planned for West German deployment) one would have to launch strong counterstrikes against the presumed deployment areas of those rockets'' (i.e., devastate large areas of West Germany).
(An earlier casual remark by a Soviet diplomat in East Berlin, implying retaliation on West Berlin if West Germany accepts the new NATO missiles was quickly smothered at the time and has never been repeated.)
On the numbers of medium-range (600- to 3,000-mile range) nuclear weapons facing each other in Europe, Brezhnev claimed an equivalence of 975 for the Soviet side vs. 986 for NATO. This number includes Western bombers (but not Soviet bombers of equivalent range, which actually outnumber Western planes). It also includes only those Soviet SS-20 missiles stationed west of the Urals, and not the equivalent number of SS-20s east of the Urals but capable of hitting Europe.
By contrast, the count of the International Institute for Strategic Studies - whose figures the Soviet Union usually accepts in other areas - shows an imbalance of 2,004 Warsaw Pact nuclear warheads (of longer than battlefield range) versus 1,168 NATO warheads.
In his interview, Brezhnev offered to reduce these numbers substantially (and equally), and again offered a moratorium on Soviet deployment of SS-20s with the opening of the Geneva talks. The West has rejected the latter offer as leaving the Soviet Union's 175 European-targeted SS-20s (with their 525 warheads) in place, while blocking NATO's only equivalent weapons, the 572 warheads planned for the late '80s but not yet deployed.