The best way to get this business of terrorism in perspective is to figure out what recent acts of terrorism would not have happened if the Soviet Union did not exist.
The most recent acts of criminal and violent terrorism have been the attempted assassinations of Pope John Paul II in Rome and of President Reagan in Washington.
There is every indication that the man who fired at the Pope was a criminal psychopath. If he had accomplices or an organization background it was apparently of a right- wing variety. There is no serious suggestion that the deed was motivated from Moscow or the man trained by Moscow or by its agents.
the man who shot at President Reagan was presumably a psychopath. There is no evidence whatever of Soviet influence or training behind him.
Some of the worst acts of terrorism in recent times have been the killings of political reformers and dissidents in El Salvador by hit squads employed by members of the former oligarchy. The total number over recent years is in the thousands. The victims have included Roman Catholic nuns and experts on land redistribution from the United States.
Unless you can believe that the right-wing former landowners of El Salvador, most of whom are living in the Miami area, are agents of Moscow, you have to attribute these large-scale killings to the political right. Moscow probably has provided some of the funds and weapons which have kept a guerrilla army in the field in El Salvador. They have done their share of killing. But the number killed from the right exceeds heavily those killed by the left.
Previous to the political terrorism which has wracked El Salvador was the mass suicide on Nov. 18, 1978, of some 800 followers of Jim Jones, leader of a religious cult called the People's Temple, in jonestown, guyana. The deed was attributed to fanaticism. There was no known Soviet connection.
One of the world's worst killers since World War II was Idi Amin of Uganda. The number of his victims has never been officially tallied. It must have run into many thousands. He was motivated by power, greed, and enjoyment in cruelty. There is no evidence that he was motivated from Moscow or supported by Moscow, although Moscow did not shun him. he might have had some weapons from Moscow -- for cash.
The staff of the United States Embassy in Tehran was held hostage by Iranian students for more than a year. The motive was anti-Americanism arising out of years of US support for the former Shah of Iran. There is no serious suggestion that Moscow had any hand in the motivation or training of the students.
The worst horror in modern times (some historians would say in all time) was of course the liquidation of the Jews of Central Europe by Adolf Hitelr's Nazis.
The Khmer Rouge forces in Cambodia are widely believed to have massacred as many as a million of their compatriots. But they have in turn been nearly wiped out by the Vietnamese who are armed and supported by moscow. The Chinese give some support to the remainder of the Khmer Rouge.
What role then has Moscow played in international terrorism?
At the beginning of World War II the Soviets executed some 13,000 Polish officers who had surrendered to them when Soviets and Germans collusively invaded Poland.
In more recent times Moscow has provided encouragement, support, and probably guns to a number of "popular liberation movements." The best known and most publicized of such movements has been the Palestine Liberation Organization. PLO leaders reportedly have been trained in Moscow. But the movement grew out of the Arab-Israel wars. The PLO recruits from among Palestinian refugees whose condition stems from Israel's conquest of Arab lands. The Palestine resistance movement would exist without Moscow.
Other popular resistance movements spring from local conditions. Moscow moves in to support where there is a prospect of future advantage to the Kremlin.But it is difficult to document any long list of such movements which were initiated in Moscow or which would disappear without Moscow's support.
The CIA keeps a tally of incidents of violence and terrorism around the world. Its findings do not support the Reagan administration's assumptions that most world terrorism comes from Moscow. The CIA has been asked to restudy the matter. The administration hopes that the result the next time around will be more supportive of administration preferences. CIA officials say privately they are finding it difficult to find the evidence to support the administration's view.