For four days, glasnost wore khaki and olive drab, and targeted a privileged audience of one, as United States Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci III was ushered onto Soviet military bases customarily off-limits to foreigners to behold some of this country's most advanced weaponry. For the first time, the Soviets encouraged a top US military official to examine some of the key components of their military machine - including the MIG-29 fulcrum jet fighter and the top-secret strategic bomber known to NATO as the Blackjack.
It was a striking - and highly calculated - break by Mikhail Gorbachev's Kremlin with the centuries-old Russian penchant for secrecy, especially in matters touching on military security.
``As few as six months ago, this would have seemed impossible,'' official Radio Moscow said at one point during the visit, when Mr. Carlucci climbed into the Blackjack cockpit.
One amazed US Army officer who accompanied the Pentagon chief on part of his travels concurred with Soviet radio. ``This degree of openness by the Soviets is unprecedented in the post-World War II era,'' he said. ``Never before have they displayed this willingness to present their capabilities to us.''
Carlucci's visit mirrored opportunities extended to the Soviet military chief of staff, Sergei Akhromeyev, during his tour of US military bases earlier this summer. The back-to-back visits reflect improved superpower relations in the political arena, and the conscious search in both Washington and Moscow for new ways to dispel military tensions.
``The more often we meet, the better understanding we are going to achieve,'' said Soviet Defense Minister Dmitri Yazov after Carlucci landed in Moscow Monday.
Even as they moved to shed even apparent vestiges of militarism, the Soviets - through President Andrei Gromyko - used Carlucci's visit to press the lameduck Reagan administration to increase the pace of the strategic arms reduction talks now under way in Geneva.
``Let us arrange things in such a way so that your arm is never lifted against us, and ours - against yours,'' Mr. Gromyko told the Pentagon chief on Wednesday.
On the final day of the visit, Carlucci was in Sevastopol, home port of the Soviet Black Sea fleet, and Mr. Yazov proudly led his American guest on a tour of one of the newest warships in the Soviet Navy. A US Naval officer in Carlucci's party said it was the first time an American had ever boarded the ship.
Although the visit had given rise to remarkable openness on the part of the Soviets, it left Carlucci far from convinced that the Kremlin has made a break to a purely defensive military posture.
Before traveling to the Crimea, he repeated his contention that despite the warming of superpower relations, the US should be spending more, and not less, on defense. Carlucci asked for a 2 percent ``real'' increase in Pentagon funding.
``The fact that we are having this dialogue does not mean that all our problems have been solved,'' Carlucci told reporters in Moscow. ``We, for example, have seen no change in force structure, nor have we seen any change in the resources going into the soviet military establishment. ... So while this dialogue is going on and while it is important, it is also important for us to maintain our deterrent capability.''