A major dispute has erupted between disarmament and antinuclear movements in Western Europe and the official peace group in the Soviet Union. The row broke out in public in an angry exchange of letters between Yuri Zhukov, chairman of the Soviet Peace Committee, and a number of the leading movements in Western Europe fighting against the installation of nuclear weapons. The Zhukov letter, sent late last year, accused Western campaigners of fueling the cold war by opposing both NATO alliance and Soviet nuclear armaments.
The letter also criticized the Western groups for favoring ties with nonofficial dissident peace movements in Eastern Europe. And it expressed irritation that the Soviet Peace Committee would not be allowed to participate in planning a major antinuclear rally scheduled for West Berlin in May.
''The leaders of the Russell Foundation and of the nuclear disarmament movement in Europe pretend to ignore the facts and continue to impose their concepts of equal responsibility'' for the arms race, Zhukov wrote to the heads of the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation in London and other similar antinuclear groups.
The attack comes in the wake of accusations by Western officials that some Western disarmament groups and activists have links with Soviet-bloc organs. They claim the groups are trying to emphasize their independence by encouraging nonofficial dissident counterparts in the East. At a strategy session in Brussels attended by many peace activists some months ago, speakers underlined the need to foster similar campaigns within the Warsaw Pact countries.
The most active example of such independent Eastern support has come from religious groups in East Germany, which have increasingly embarrassed the regime there.
Zhukov's letter went on to charge that the number of cruise and Pershing II missiles to be installed in Western Europe would ''surpass by three or four times'' the 572 announced in the official NATO decision. He added the United States also intended to deploy such missiles in Israel.
Ken Coates, the director of the Russell Foundation, dispatched a caustic reply dated Feb. 1 which told Zhukov his letter ''does a disservice to your committee with its crude attempts to present us as mere agents provocateurs under the influence of Western powers.'' He added that ''today the Soviet Union is one of the big powers and is no longer a besieged island that is trying to open the way to a new order.''
Coates said that only a truly nonaligned movement has a chance of obtaining sufficient public support in the West to effectively lobby against the NATO deployment, and ''the price of a nonaligned movement,'' he continued, ''is that it be nonaligned.''
A similar theme was sounded by Claude Bourdet, president of the French movement for disarmament, peace, and liberty. Bourdet told Zhukov that the Western peace movement had no role in the organization of Soviet and other communist-backed meetings and that the Soviet committee would, therefore, have to be satisfied with a similar role as a participant or observer and not an organizer of the May Berlin meeting.