As any serious student of Soviet affairs will tell you, the jury is still out on Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev's much-ballyhooed policy of glasnost , or openness, in discussing problems facing the Soviet Union. There is a promising, though still limited, new willingness to allow open discussion of internal problems. But Soviet propagandists have plainly not abandoned their dirty tricks in dealing with the outside world.
Charles Z. Wick, director of the U.S. Information Agency, had a revealing meeting last weekend with Valentin M. Falin, head of Novosti, an official Soviet press agency. Falin told him that the United States had developed a poison gas for use in Africa that was deadly to blacks but not harmful to whites. Wick protested in the most effective way he could. He walked out, to his credit.
Wick, who was in Moscow to preside over the opening of a U.S. technology exhibit, emphasized that his meetings with Soviet editors and other officials were overwhelmingly friendly. But that did not stop Novosti from actually distributing a report about the alleged American "ethnic weapon" that was uniquely deadly to blacks.
Unfortunately, this is not the first instance in recent years of Soviet "disinformation"--the word used among propaganda specialists to describe a deliberate campaign of falsehood. The Russians already have been peddling the absurd charge that the global tragedy of AIDS resulted from a U.S. military biological experiment. State Department officials say that spurious U.S. documents, actually concocted by the Soviet KGB, are on the rise all over the world.
Gorbachev seems to be an intelligent man. As such, he should be capable of understanding that such antics needlessly poison the atmosphere and do him and his country a disservice.
If \o7 glasnost\f7 is to be worthy of respect, it must embrace not only a freer flow of information inside the Soviet Union but also a greater respect for truth in reporting events in the outside world. By that standard, Soviet propaganda practices still fall woefully short.