MOSCOW — A U.S. Army deserter who defected to the Soviet Union says he is unhappy with his new life in a remote region and wants his expected child to be an American.
But Wade Roberts, who fled his unit in West Germany last March, is unrepentant about his defection, saying it was due to harassment inside the Army, not a reflection of his political ideology.
Roberts and his pregnant West German wife appeared in Moscow on Wednesday after months of refusing contact while settled in the remote city of Ashkhabad. The couple's trip appeared to reflect plans to return to the West, though he refused to say when that could come.
"It's time for me to speak," said the 22-year-old former resident of the San Bernardino-Riverside, Calif., area. "I want the public to know what really happened."
Roberts, interviewed while sitting beside his wife, Petra Neumann, in a hotel bar, said he had trouble with the Army when based in Colorado for two years.
When he transferred to West Germany in November, 1986, "they turned around and constantly harassed me," he said.
The Soviet press has portrayed Roberts as a human rights campaigner who fled inhuman U.S. military treatment and became a contented resident of the remote desert republic of Turkmenia.
But Roberts bluntly said: "We do not like it. The cultural difference was too much to handle."
Neumann's pregnancy and the fears of medical standards in Central Asia--the worst in the country--led the couple to take a flight to Moscow.
Roberts said there were more arguments over the medical care in Moscow, and their goal now is to go to East Germany for the birth, expected in the next two or three weeks. His wife has relatives there, and Roberts would still be protected from U.S. prosecution for desertion. The Soviets have approved the trip.
"We want the child to be an American," Roberts said. "I never gave up my citizenship."
Roberts said he thought he had been sent to Ashkhabad because Soviet authorities thought the arid climate would suit his California background and because he had asked to work with snakes.
"That was the scariest job I ever had," Roberts said.