THE OBJECT OF the three-day struggle between U.S. and Soviet authorities over the fate of Ludmilla Vlasova was not body snatching, after all, or kidnapping or any of the other imaginative techniques the Soviets themselves have so regularly employed to detain and/or repossess the unwilling. So if a fair reading of Miss Vlasova's desires in the matter was taken by the Kennedy airport interview in which she said she in fact wanted to go home, then American officials did not only everything required, but, equally important, everything permitted to make sure she was not being removed from the country against her will.
Certain questions will probably continue to be discussed and elaborated on for some time. How did it come about that Miss Vlasova was aboard the Aeroflot jet before U.S. officials had gained access to her? Was the interview that finally did occur sufficiently private, thorough and confidence-inspiring to ensure that she felt free to speak her mind? But no more information is needed to judge the wisdom of preventing that plane from taking off and of letting it sit there for three days until the Russians let U.S. officials satisfy themselves that Miss Vlasova was not being spirited out of the country under duress. The State Department, directed by Undersecretary Warren Christopher, was absolutely right to have acted as it did in stopping the Aeroflot jet's departure -- and in abiding by the value which holds that great costly, cumbersome and inconvenient acts of state are justified in seeking to protect the rights of an individual.