Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky yesterday expressed deep satisfaction with his White House Meeting Tuesday with President Carter and Vice President Mondale, calling it "an event of considerable historical significance" that probably already is having an impact on the Soviet people.
Speaking to reporters in the living room of a friend's northwest Washington residence, Bukovsky said millions of ordinary Russians have doubtless heard about his White Houe visit through foreign radio broadcasts. "I'm sure they will find much encouragement and hope and strength in this," he said through an interpreter.
The 34-year-old Bukovsky, who was in a Soviet prison camp ten weeks ago, admitted to being "tense" at being ushered into the presence of the top officials of the U.S. government. "I took it (the meeting) with a very great sense of responsibility . . . feeling responsible for all those who are still in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. This weighs very heavily on me," he said.
Bukovsky said he placed no significance in the fact that press photographers were limited to pictures of himself with Mondale, with no opportunity to photograph him with the President. "I saw no evidence whatever of any desire on the part of the administration to belittle the event . . . The Soviet authorities couldn't care less whether we were photographed together, or whether we kissed. What counts is that we met," he said.
Bukovsky said a White House photographer took pictures of him with the President. No such photograph has been distributed for publication, however.
Bukovsky was freed from prison in December in a trade for imprisoned Chilean Communist leader Luis Corvalan. After a few more days in Washington, he plans to go to New York for about a week and then to take up residence in Europe.
The former prisoner said he expects to write a book and sometime next year to resume his studies of biology at Cambridge University. He was studying biology at Moscow University in 1961 when he was expelled for involvement in dissident activities. Since then he has spent 11 years, nearly a third of his life in Soviet prisons and mental hospitals.
Bukovsky said he was not surprised by Soviet statements attacking him and belittling Carter's human rights campaign, and indicated he expects that "it can get worse" for dissidents in the Soviet Union in the short run as a result of Soviet government policy. The long-run reaction, he said, would depend in large part on how constant and firm U.S. policy turns out to be.
"I am deeply, deeply satisfied by the President's statement that his administration's commitment to human rights is permanent, and that he does not intend to be timid in his public statements and positions," Bukovsky said.
Calling for more than words in the cause of human rights, Bukovsky said the U.S. government, business and labor should condition further trade with the Soviet Union on progress toward greater human freedom within the Soviet system. He said his ultimate objective is not to provide a model for a new Soviet system, but "to make it possible for people to express themselves" within the Soviet Union.