27 AUGUST 1948, Page 2

Mrs. Kosenkina and the Consuls

The fact which has most deeply impressed the whole American people about the leap of the Russian school-teacher, Mrs. Kosenkina, from a window of the Soviet Consulate in New York was that one woman should have risked her life to stay in America and avoid an enforced return to the Soviet Union. The strongest reaction of the Soviet Government is a desire to save face, which expresses itself in vehement and abusive denials of plain facts. In the outburst of pent-up emotion which this incident has released the State Depart- ment has expelled the Soviet Consul-General for abusing his privi- leged position, and the Russians have closed two Russian and one American Consulates and cancelled their consent to the opening of another in Leningrad. So far both sides have behaved exactly as might have been expected. It has been demonstrated already that a clear personal injustice is more likely than the most profound clash of major policy to stir mass emotion in the West and to arouse incredulous anger in the East. On the other hand, the complete failure of the Soviet Government to behave with the dignity and forbearance appropriate in a Great Power, or to acknowledge even the shadow of a fault, is per- fectly well known and predictable. If the killing of fourteen people in the air disaster at Gatow last April was met only with denials and counter-accusation, then it was unlikely that the maim- ing of one woman would produce a more reasonable reaction. But some day the Russians may come to realise that their present con- tempt for personal freedom is bound to lead them into more and more scrapes of this kind, and that, far from strengthening their position in the world, it must weaken it.