Andrei Sakharov says his visit to the West indicates the Soviet Union's commitment to perestroika. But the man who developed the Soviet hydrogen bomb and the Nobel Peace prize winner who endured six years of internal exile for his views on human rights said that the process of reform must be viewed with open eyes.
Mr. Sakharov said he emphasized both the negative and positive aspects of perestroika to underscore the contradictions now apparent in the Soviet Union. He met the press in Boston yesterday.
``All the processes now taking place in the Soviet Union must take place under observation,'' Sakharov said. Concern in the West should take the form of shared interest, not pressure or interference, he said.
Sakharov said that if perestroika were to fail, and he were to be returned to Gorky, the threat to him personally would be insignificant in the face of the world tragedy that would result.
``The great danger to the world as a whole would be the failure of perestroika,'' Sakharov said. ``[It] would mean the simultaneous failure of internal reform that would necessitate external expansion of the military-industrial complex.''
Regarding arms control and the Strategic Defense Initiative, Sakharov said that the superpowers have reached a point in history that would make a 50 percent decrease in strategic nuclear weapons possible, but to achieve this goal both countries would have to demonstrate ``maximum flexibility.''
The great challenge of perestroika, said Sakharov, is that its commitment to internal reform represents an ``extraordinarily serious process'' that has sometimes been perceived as a threat to the West.
``These interests of the Soviet Union,'' Sakharov said, ``are the same goals of the world, including countries in the West.''
The shared values fundamental to democratic principles, however, are threatened by three draft laws now under discussion in Moscow, he said.
These draft laws deal with the right of assembly, the power of local authorities to resort to martial law when necessary, and the right to publish. Under this last law people with copying machines or computer printers may be imprisoned for the ``uncontrolled distribution of information.''
Sakharov often tied the issues of political reform to the issue of human rights. He said that while he has been granted the right of free travel, the prisoners of conscience who remain in exile or without full rehabilitation must not be forgotten. For example, Vazif Meilanov remains in prison for his protest in defense of Sakharov.
Sakharov said his respect for America comes from this country's respect for human labor and fundamental democratic structure.
``I respect in America her democracy, I respect her dynamism, her self-criticism. It is a very rare quality in the world arena,'' Sakharov said. ``In most countries public opinion is structured to support the image of that country.''
Sakharov said the beauty of democracy lies in making decisions like the invasion of Afghanistan impossible. He called for the UN to help normalize the situation there and said that ``the sovereign rights of Afghan people must be taken into account.''
After his visit with family members in Newton and Westwood, Mass., Sakharov is expected to go to Washington to attend a board meeting of the International Foundation for the Survival and Development of Humanity, the first such session outside the Soviet Union. The foundation, formed in January by Soviet and US scientists and educators, has embarked on a worldwide campaign to raise $10 million for research on global problems.