April 28, 1979 – A day of swapping spies for dissidents and a day for campaigning in the run-up to the British elections.
The swap in question was a carefully negotiated agreement between Washington and Moscow to give back two of their spies in exchange for five Soviet dissidents – it was the first such swap on record; exchanging spies for Soviet citizens and the White House was giving out high-fives to the State Department.
The Carter administration was very pleased with itself over the exchange. One of the negotiators for the U.S. said it improved the overall atmosphere between the U.S.and the Soviet Union and could contribute to resolving other outstanding issues, including the impending agreement over the strategic limitation over nuclear arms. The exchange could also help persuade some members of the U.S. Senate to support the SALT Agreement, when and if it is achieved. The negotiation of the swap of the two spies for the five Soviet dissident had been in the works since the previous Fall, taking place at a very high level, including Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin and his deputy and U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, with final approval given by President Carter and Soviet Premier Brezhnev. Hints were also dropped that negotiations were still underway for another prominent Soviet dissident, Anatoly Sharansky, whose wife lived in Israel and who had campaigned vigorously for her husband’s release. The two Soviet Spies, former UN employees Valdik Enger and Rudolf Chernyayev arrived in Moscow earlier in the morning.
In other news – A collision between two oil tankers off the Brittany coast in France was shaping up to being yet another nightmare. Barely getting over the previous devastating oil tanker spill a year earlier, which was their worst in history. This new one from a Liberian tanker, though reported to be not leaking from its 32,000 ton cargo of heavy crude oil, was nonetheless leaking fuel oil from its engine, and the slick was estimated to be some six miles long at last report.
And British election campaigning was winding down, with this being the final weekend before Britons headed to the polls the following Thursday. Tensions were rising in candidate Margaret Thatcher’s campaign, fueled by doubt that she would be able to lead her Conservative Party to power. The problem confronting Thatcher and her Conservatives was the fact that Prime Minister James Callahan and his Labour Party are narrowing the gap in the polls and closing in fast. Some polls have indicated that Margaret Thatcher and her Conservatives had blown a 20 point lead in the previous week and a half. Most polls agreed that Callahan and Labour now only trailed Thatcher by three points. Furthermore, in personal popularity, Callahan had always led Thatcher, and as the election had drawn nearer, Callahan’s popularity continued to go up. The fact that Margaret Thatcher was seeking to become Britain an Europe’s first Woman Prime Minister was an issue, but it was one that opponents did not discuss publicly for fear of creating a backlash. London casinos were still betting on the Conservatives as the favorites, but the odds were getting slimmer.
And that’s a small slice of what went on in the world, this April 28, 1979 as reported by The CBS World News Roundup.