The Soviet Union called off one more battle in the Cold War this week.
The Kremlin did so when it ended 38 years of jamming the U.S.-financed broadcasts of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty that provide objective news reports to millions of listeners in Russia and Eastern Europe.But the victory won't be complete until the Soviets also stop jamming Radio Free Europe broadcasts to Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria, and Voice of America broadcasts to Afghanistan. The jamming of other VOA broadcasts to the Iron Curtain stopped in 1987.
Keep in mind, too, that the Russians can resume the jamming just as easily as they ended it.
Even so, this week's move is still a significant sign of self-confidence on the part of the Kremlin, which once claimed the broadcasts were tools of subversion. The end of the jamming is particularly impressive since it comes at a time of unusual unrest within the Soviet Union, with ethnic clashes in Armenia and Azerbaijan and a democratic revolt in the Baltic republics.
The Soviets gain from this move by saving the $1.25 billion a year it cost them to jam the broadcasts. By ending the jamming, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev also shows that he is serious about new his policy of "glasnost" or openness. That signal should help improve relations between Moscow and Washington as Gorbachev prepares to visit President Reagan and President-elect Bush next week.
During that visit, Reagan and Bush should encourage Gorbachev to follow up on this week's encouraging gesture with further improvements in the flow of information between the East and West.