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Saving whales: a better way

At first glance there are elements of farce - reminiscent of the 1966 American movie ''The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming'' - to the landing in Siberia of five orange-suited members of the environmentalist group Greenpeace. Armed with cameras, they were seeking evidence that the Soviet Union is violating current world whaling law; they quickly were taken into custody by the Soviets, then soon released.

But the ramifications of their nonviolent landing could have been serious. The US and the Soviet Union are in potential conflict on many fronts. No matter how well-intentioned its motives, for any organization knowingly to trespass on Soviet shores as Greenpeace did runs the risk of heightening US-Soviet tensions dramatically and unnecessarily.

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Further, Greenpeace's actions could set a dangerous precedent. Militant anti-Soviet groups, seeing how easily the Greenpeace contingent slipped ashore, might be tempted to set foot in the USSR or some other nation armed with more than cameras.

One can sympathize with the frustrations of whaling opponents when they believe current world regulations are being broken, especially as five nations (including the USSR and world-leader Japan) already have served notice they will defy the worldwide ban on whaling scheduled to take effect in 1986. Yet appropriate avenues of protest exist - including through the International Whaling Commission, now holding its annual meeting. It is naive and potentially dangerous to protest by trespassing on a foreign power's soil.

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