Magazine article The Nation

Spies and Summits

Magazine article The Nation

Spies and Summits

Article excerpt

Spies and Summits

Made mad by the possibility that one of its own was caught up in the machinations of Soviet Realpolitik, the American press went into a Kremlinological frenzy as uncontrolled as any such seizure since Francis Gary Powers bailed out over Soviet Central Asia a quarter-century ago. Is the detention of U.S. News & World Report's Moscow correspondent, Nicholas Daniloff, an act of retaliation for the arrest of a Soviet employee at the United Nations in New York? Is there a rogue K.G.B. element on the loose? Is a dissident Stalinist faction in the Politburo sabotaging the ruling group controlled by Mikhail Gorbachev? What did Gorbachev know, and when did he know it? Is the whole affair, like the U-2 incident, a manufactured monkey wrench to thwart the superpower summit? Or is it merely pre-game posturing designed to soften up the U.S. team?

We should be accustomed by now to the use of spying --and charges of spying--to manipulate cold war politics. What appears to be a heavy-handed Soviet frame-up of Daniloff does not prove, as some editorial writers would have it, that Russians are indecent and Americans are not. Both sides in the dirty diplomatic game are capable of dishonor, or worse.

This raises the generally ignored question of why the F.B.I. chose to set up the apparently guilty Gennadi Zakharov on the eve of preparatory negotiations for a Reagan-Gorbachev meeting. The last time the Bureau hauled in Soviet U.N. employees who, like Zakharov, lacked diplomatic immunity was in 1978, and the Russians retaliated by picking up Francis Crawford, Moscow representative of the International Harvester Company. The F.B.I. said it had been on Zakharov's case since 1983. Why arrest him at this particularly delicate moment?

A second question: Assuming the President is telling the truth and Daniloff is not a spy, why did the Russians choose him as a bargaining counter for Zakharov? …

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