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Krasnov, "Soviet Defectors" 6
four different administrations, both Democratic and Republican, I noted "the same pattern of negligence; ineptitude; incompetence; and lack of sensitivity, compassion, and political will that
conclusion of Smith Simpson, a retired U.S. diplomat, that there
devices... are at the root of many of our serious problems (p.
ignorance about the Soviet system, and about the phenomenon of
defection, in particular. This ignorance often breeds suspicion and fear wishin our government agencies that many defectors are
really Soviet spies in disguise. The combination of ignorance,
suspicion and fear encourages the common bureaucratic tendency to
play it safe and to pass the buck whenever possible. This is especially true if a defection occurs at the time when a host
To be sure, the Soviets would want to plant their "moles" in
the guise of defectors, and we should always be on guard against
such a possibility. However, my research, based on a internal Soviet document and non-classified Western accounts, shows very little evidence of Soviet success in this area. Moreover,
excessive suspicion often prevents us from taking full advantage Krasnov, "Soviet Defectors" ?
of the invaluable information and insight defectors can give us
about Soviet society. As long as the law of the land is "innocent
until proven guilty," I fail to see why this principle should not
be used to decide the fate of Soviet defectors whose return to
the USSR is tantamount to years in the gulag and even death.
After climbing over a nearly insurmountable wall at the
risk of death, Soviet defectors presently run into a number of stumbling blocks which few of them are prepared to face. I am not
speaking here only of such usual hardships, as cultural shock and
linguistic barriers, which all immigrants and refugees have to go
am rather speaking of those stumbling blocks which
Soviet defectors have to face as a distinct group among all other
immigrants and refugees.
Some of those stumbling blocks are
consequence of Soviet dcfectors' ignorance of the outside world,
others stem from the West's ignorance about
the nature of the
It is in the interest of
the Soviet regime to
foster and perpetuate these both kinds of ignorance, as it is in the interest of the United States to dispel them.
As far as would-be-defectors are concerned, their attempt at
defection is always a jump into the unknown. Their information
about the outside world is both scant and distorted by Soviet propaganda. They may not know anything about the country in which they defect an opportunity arises. They know little about
immigration laws and procedures in the West. For fear of being
preparation. Having heard so much from Soviet propaganda about
"the anti-Communist designs" of Western governments, some defect Krasnov, "Soviet Defectors" 8
on the naive assumption that they will receive a hero's welcome in the West and treated as cherished allies in a common struggle.
In addition, Soviet citizens have lived under Communism for so
long and became so used to a total dependence on the state, that
they find it extremely difficult to adjust to a free society where self-reliance and individual initiative are indispensable. Victims of the Soviet system, Soviet defectors easily submit to
the mercy of Western bureaucrats who handle them. They frequently
find themselves caught in the vise of having exposed themselves
individual rights, they resign themselves to fate if the decision
is negative. The crafty Soviet diplomats are eager to snatch them
back in the nick of time, whereas Western bureaucrats
cooperate with the Soviets by default, by simply agreeing to have
the incident "closed" quickly and irrevocably.
The bureaucratic ignorance about defectors reflects the prevailing public misconception of the USSR as a just another
social system or another national state which, whatever defects
it might have, is essentially a "mirror image" of our own. Hence,
on the one hand, the tendency to treat defectors as "traitors"
as they have been indeed listed in some Western
reference books. The very term "defector" is pejorative in origin because it suggests that there is something "defective"
about the person who chooses to flee at the risk to his life. On
the other hand, there is a tendency to lump defectors with other Krasnov, "Soviet Detectors" 9
categories of refugees and
to treat Soviet defectors as a distinct group
not to be confused with others trying to enter the United States.
First, Soviet defectors should not be confused with illegal
immigrants. By defecting they act in conformity with the U.N.Declaration of Human Rights that "Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own,
and to return to his country." By seeking asylum in the United States they act in conformity with u.s. laws and long-standing tradition of helping
those fleeing from persecution. If they violate any law it is a
Soviet law which in itself is a violation of international law.
Second, Soviet defectors should be distinguished from legal immigrants from repressive non-Communist countries, such
or South Africa. If they return or are made
blackmailed to the rest of their life for the mere attempt at
defection, even though they may have never engaged in any anti
government activities in the USSR or abroad.
Third, Soviet defectors should not be confused with the
legal Soviet emigres of predominantly Jewish (and also some of
Armenian and German) origin, of whom over 300,000 have left the
1970 and about 100,000 settled in the USA.
selected by Soviet authorities from among a large
pool of applicants; defectors, by contrast, seeing no chance for legal emigration, decide to flee at great risk to their life and
Krasnov, "Soviet Defectors" 10
Fourth, defectors should not be confused with Soviet World
War Two refugees who often and en masse found themselves outside
Soviet borders against their own will.
Fifth, although the plight of Soviet defectors is similar to
defectors from other communist countries, it is still in
many ways more difficult. For one thing, it is more difficult to
obtain a chance for defection because of stricter Soviet rules at
others because they come from the most secretive society in the
world, the one which constitutes by far the gravest threat to the
liberty throughout the world. Therefore the United States should
make every effort to obtain the maximum possible benefit from these "natural allies.
Incomparably smaller in number than any other category of refugees and immigrants, Soviet defectors deserve the highest priority for both humanitarian and national
security reasons. Soviet defectors are the one group which, being
Further confusion is introduced when the media routinely apply the term "defectors" to those in the West who choose to live in the Soviet Union. A recent example is the Lockshin family. The public is fed the distorted notion that free travel from the West is the equivalent of escaping from the Soviet Union.