Former national-security adviser Brent Scowcroft predicts a US-Soviet arms control stalemate for the rest of this year. But the retired Air Force lieutenant general anticipates ''fairly active negotiations'' next year, regardless of who is elected president of the United States.
General Scowcroft visited Moscow last month carrying a personal letter from President Reagan to the Soviet leader, Konstantin Chernenko. But Scowcroft was not given an opportunity to meet with President Chernenko and did not deliver the letter.
In a breakfast meeting with reporters here on Friday, Scowcroft declined to comment on reports about the letter or on his role as a ''postman'' for President Reagan. But he did say that he came away from Moscow convinced that the Soviets ''do not want to do anything which might turn out to help Ronald Reagan be reelected, and I think all their actions are . . . designed in this direction.''
Scowcroft, who headed President Reagan's bipartisan Commission on Strategic Forces, said it was difficult to explain the logic of the Soviet approach, because it did not seem to serve the Soviets' own fundamental interests.
''If they come to the conclusion that Ronald Reagan is going to be reelected, then it would seem to be strongly in their interest to try to do something before the election, while they have some leverage with him, rather than afterward,'' said Scowcroft.
Scowcroft sums up the Soviet attitude as follows: The Reagan administration, after attacking us for three years, is now saying it is ready for negotiations, and ''we, the Soviets, are supposed to come running.''
He said that power in the Soviet Union may now be ''fractionated'' to the point where the Soviet leaders are not able to show much flexibility toward the United States. Mr. Chernenko was recently named president, but Scowcroft said the Soviet leader's position is still ''very much in doubt.''
''He was rejected by much of this same leadership group once before, and now he's been chosen . . . because the old men weren't prepared to have power move to a younger group; because he was the only one of the old ones who was acceptable; and maybe because he was rejected before and perceived to be weak,'' said Scowcroft.
''Even if Chernenko represents the Brezhnev tradition, which is certainly toward negotiations, detente, and so on, he may not have the kind of authority to impose that,'' he added. ''In any case, they're sorting themselves out . . . and the easiest thing to do is nothing.''
But the former national-security adviser said the Soviets' current hard-line position toward the Reagan administration may backfire by giving extreme conservatives within the administration a chance to say, ''We told you so. You can't deal with the Soviets. The only thing they understand is really harsh toughness.''
In the end, Scowcroft reasons that the Soviets will return to the nuclear arms control negotiations, in part because of their concern about ''the technological and productive capability of the United States.''
''I think they definitely want to keep that capability in bounds, and therefore I think that they're not interested in an all-out arms race,'' Scowcroft said. ''And certainly the mood in this country is not in that direction. . . . I would anticipate negotiations in 1985, regardless of the (presidential) election outcome.''
Scowcroft argues that the Reagan administration's nuclear arms control proposals now offer ''a basis for serious negotiation.''
''In strategic arms control, the administration does offer trade-offs between the things that worry us most and the things which seem to worry the Soviets most,'' he said, adding that in his view, there is now ''a lot of flexibility within the administration.''
The Soviets have had little to say about the Reagan administration's attempt to use General Scowcroft as an emissary. He was in Moscow in March, as a member of a private group of US foreign policy experts, to engage in informal talks with Soviet officials.
On March 27, the official Soviet news agency, Tass, gave its version of what had happened to the presidential letter that Scowcroft carried to Moscow. It said the Soviet side had expressed readiness for Scowcroft to be received by the Soviet deputy foreign minister, but Scowcroft did not avail himself of that opportunity. It said this showed that Scowcroft ''had nothing essential to say.''