Journalist Nicholas Daniloff, a former Moscow
correspondent for UPI (1961-65) and U.S. News and World Report (1981-86),
has written his memoirs, Of Spies and Spokesmen: My Life as a Cold War
Correspondent. Mr. Daniloff became
the focus of world attention after he was jailed by the KGB for 13 days and
falsely charged with spying for the United States. He was later traded for an alleged Soviet spy picked up in New
In his book, Mr. Daniloff discusses the 1982 Cuban
missile crisis from a Russian perspective.
Speaking with host Judith Latham of VOA News Now's International
Press Club and with VOA Uzbek editor and television host Navbahor Imamova,
he says the public perception of the crisis in Moscow differed considerably
from the crisis as seen from Washington.
At that time, he says, the Kremlin did not acknowledge that Soviet
President Nikita Khruschev had put missiles into Cuba, and thus Russia's
tightly controlled state press "placed the blame entirely on the United
States." In the 1960's, Mr. Daniloff
says getting information in Moscow was very difficult, and in the Stalin era it
had even been regarded as "criminal" to report anything that had not already
been "publicly published" in the Soviet press.
Nicholas Daniloff says that, although both sides
know more about each other today, there are still many misperceptions. He says, while America tends to view Russia
as a democracy and "probably a friend," for Russians, the "love-hate
relationship seems to live on." He says Russians are quick to blame the United
States for things that go wrong. According to Mr. Daniloff, it has become
almost a "national pastime" for the U.S. press to criticize those in power,
whereas in Russia those in power are suspicious of media criticism. In the
post-Soviet period, he says, the regimes in the successor states, especially
those in Central Asia, see little benefit in "looking problems straight in the
eye" and tend to suppress dissident views.
In the 1960's, Nicholas Daniloff explains, censorship was quite strict
with hundreds of forbidden topics, and it was difficult for foreign journalists
to have "any kind of relationship" with Soviet citizens.
But by the early 1980's, Mr. Daniloff says,
that attitude had begun to change.
Nonetheless, he says, the typical government response to embarrassing
incidents, such as the shooting down of Korean Airliner 007 and the nuclear
accident at Chernobyl, was to try to "cover up" the story. When he was arrested in 1986, Nicholas
Daniloff says what helped most was that his wife, contrary to the advice of the
U.S. Embassy, gave "copious interviews" and mounted an "enormous publicity
campaign" for his release. And six
years later, he adds, President Mikhail Gorbachev publicly admitted that the
arrest was a "prime example of Cold War retaliation."
Nicholas Daniloff is now a professor of journalism
at Northeastern University in Boston, and he has taught many journalism
students in the successor countries of the former Soviet Union. To get around repressive laws in some of
those nations, he says some journalists decide to write for "foreign outlets"
or even for the "desk drawer," to be published at a "better date." Daniloff acknowledges that, "if you step
very far out of line, you are likely to suffer, and your family as well." Sometimes, as in Uzbekistan, he says
journalists who are critical of the government are viewed as "enemies of the
nation" or as liars.
Mr. Daniloff observes that the major interest all
peoples and all nations share is to survive.
During the Cold War, he says, the issue was: is the United States going
to destroy the Soviet Union, or is the Soviet Union going to try to attack and
destroy the American way of life?
Although some analysts today argue that a "new cold war is upon us,"
Nicholas Daniloff says he does not subscribe to that view. Nonetheless, he describes current
U.S.-Russian relations as "troubled."
He blames two things: Russian
criticism of the war in Iraq and American criticism that Russia is not a
functioning democracy and has instead become more "authoritarian." However, he notes that the two nations have
some important common interests – the struggle against terrorism, the effort to
stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and the concern that Iran may
develop a nuclear weapon.