135. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Mr. Max Fisher
  • Mr. Jacob Stein, Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major Trust Organizations
  • Mr. Richard Maass, Chairman of National Conference on Soviet Jewry
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Mr. Len Garment, Counsel to the President
  • Miss Kathleen A. Ryan, NSC Staff, Notetaker

Kissinger: Well, I am sorry I couldn’t see you on the West Coast. I understand you are seeing Dobrynin.

Stein: Yes, next week.

Kissinger: He tells me he does recognize your organization.

Maass: It is our understanding that a meeting without us would start great problems.

Kissinger: None of this ever leaves the White House [referring to Miss Ryan taking notes]. My problem is that if I have to refresh my memory I will have something with which to do so.

Fisher: How do we stand?

Kissinger: At the time of Zavidovo you gave me a list of about 700 names to get some ticklers on.2 The Soviets have about two weeks ago given an answer to that list, which is here. [Tab A]3 And all of this was done since that list was given to him. [Dobrynin].

Maass: The 258 figure was the figure he mentioned when he was here, with the total 750. To our knowledge there have been 58 who have come out.

Kissinger: They add and get 738 names. Dobrynin said there are 80 more that are in the process of being cleared now, which would bring it up to whatever he said.

Fisher: How recent is this?

Stein: 258 is what Brezhnev referred to when arriving.

[Page 549]

Kissinger: The sequence of events is as follows: He gave me some figures. Then I asked for figures in order to talk to Len4 during the week [of Brezhnev’s visit]. There was a lot of confusion and we never got the list during the week. Then I made a formal request. I then pointed out that it didn’t add up to 738 and Dobrynin answered that 80 are in the process.

Maass: It is interesting, Dr. Kissinger, that one month has elapsed since the 258 have been granted permission to leave and they have not been able to leave. There may be many reasons for this. The tourist season, there may be pipeline trouble, etc. As of yesterday there has been no indication of their being able to leave.

Kissinger: These months, I can’t believe they would trick us. That would be absurd.

Max Fisher: I agree.

Stein: There are 80 in the process?

Kissinger: Yes, there are 80 in the process. I assume that it isn’t inevitable that they will get out.

Stein: It is a question of time.

Maass: The class of the 149 that have been denied exit permission for security reasons, there may be a whole variety of reasons. When someone applies he doesn’t know if he will be a security risk.

Kissinger: I have mentioned before the process in which I raise these matters. I have always done it when I was engaged in some unofficial meeting with Brezhnev, such as during a walk with him in Zavidovo. I tell him that this is not official business of the United States, but here is a list and that I have the impression if something is done it would be very beneficial for the Soviet Union. He then takes it.

The same goes for the two points I raised last time. This procedure worked for the exit tax. This is really all that has happened.

Maass: Did you get any feeling from the Helsinki Conference?5 I am speaking of the reformulation of the Soviet citizenship procedures?

Kissinger: You mean on movements of people. In the Conference we will make some progress on these items. Because Western Europe and we pay so much attention to them. I can only tell you what I said last time. We have made more progress with the Soviets with both the exit tax and this than one would believe possible. It would help if you could do something that shows it leads somewhere. Then I can go back to them with another set of proposals.

[Page 550]

Stein: The problem from public visibility is that nothing has occurred. We have the list, but to our knowledge only 58 on the list of 700 or so have been allowed to leave. Certainly if 200 arrived, there would be a favorable reaction. We are looking for a handle to move.

Kissinger: I cannot believe that Brezhnev would communicate a list that would be false. I am not saying that the Russians are not capable of lying. But this I can’t believe.

Stein: I agree.

Fisher: According to the list, 177 have not applied.

Maass: These 177 were included in the list but some may be hardship cases.

Stein: Here they say they haven’t applied.

Maass: Maybe they haven’t reapplied.

Fisher: We have to find out where the people are coming out. I have the emigration figures. We should check the list against the people coming out. I think it is a substantive gain.

Kissinger: I will try to get Dobrynin to move out those on the lists.

Fisher: Fast.

Stein: I think it would be a very substantial achievement if 250 were granted permission, and with the 80 more reviewed. You are dealing with a great number.

Maass: Accompanied by something else. What is the balance of those who want to get out? We would like to know in advance for those who will apply, what their chances are. If they are a new security risk, they should not apply. A security risk, say a recently released man from the army, should know he will have to remain for a certain number of years, before he should apply. Or someone from a space agency in the USSR who has information that has been classified, if he knew the requirement, at least he would not put himself in a position of applying and losing his job.

Garment: I share Henry’s view that this achievement is very considerable. This is a situation that is inherently difficult to codify. The more one tries to do it, it will move in the wrong direction.

Kissinger: They have a domestic problem that the only group that can get out is the Jews.

Garment: You have achieved progress that is not easy to put on a billboard.

Stein: Has there been any response to the 242?

Kissinger: No, I gave them both.

Maass: There has been some progress, they have reduced the sentence of one individual from 10 years to 7.

[Page 551]

Fisher: I think the point is that if we can get some visible results. If you could get Dobrynin to move 258, that would be 50%.

Kissinger: And in a three-month period.

Fisher: Do you have any feeling about the number that is going to be leaving?

Kissinger: That the number will be the number you received, yes.

Stein: 30,000–32,000.

Kissinger: I don’t know where the number 36,000 comes from, but it comes to my mind.

Stein: That is close to last year’s figures.

Maass: 32,000–33,000 last year.

Fisher: And the 200?

Garment: The parole authority.

Kissinger: We will get that done. We will do it in with a formal request from the State Department.

Maass: At no time have we felt that the numbers have been insufficient and false. They have been consistent. We don’t pay much attention to monthly figures. One month they are down and another they are up. They fluctuate. Because a six-month figure is down, that has not been a problem. They have been fairly consistent in the flow.

Today there was an article in The New York Times 6 on the distinction of the nature of emigration from Georgia and the problems of Israel. There is a trickle from major population centers. They represent the higher education Jews.

Stein: They make up the bulk of the list.

Kissinger: I don’t mind telling Dobrynin for a big break and not to trickle out slowly.

Our problem is the MFN problem. I understand your position; you don’t want to give up the pressure prematurely. I have talked to Jackson, who is a friend of mine. He can yell, but at the last minute I hope he will agree to a compromise. He might be willing to do this. That is what we have to have in the light of where we are all going.

Stein: We were thinking of a reformulation that Mills, Jackson and you can take. This frees the Jewish community not to be caught between the White House and Congress.

Kissinger: We will have to be cautious.

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Maass: Mr. Stein uses the word “reformulation.” I am not talking semantics when I use the word reformulation. I think this word is better than compromise.

Kissinger: I agree. We have not to give intransigence a push.

Stein: I think a considerable restraint was given during Brezhnev’s visit. We were acting according to possibilities and to realities.

Kissinger: I agree and we are thankful.

Fisher: I talked to people in Rome [who had recently emigrated from the USSR] and I asked if it is easier now.

Kissinger: Is it?

Fisher: Yes. If this works—reformulation is the word—it is going to be necessary that we have the understanding, cooperation and drive of the President and yourself. You know the Russians, as you have said yourself.

Kissinger: That is why we don’t mind having something that can be undone in the MFN if they backslide. We don’t mind having it. In turn the Jewish community has to understand why we take our position.

Maass: You once submitted, as I understand, “you have to go down your road, and I mine, and we will meet in the fall.” It is up to the point of final decision of the Jewish community.

Kissinger: Just as long as Mills and Jackson agree to the reform.

Stein: The ones that will be castigated will be Richard and I.

Fisher: People gave up a few credit cards to keep this under control. If we can push out some numbers.

Kissinger: I will talk to him on this.

Maass: The applecart could be upset if any new trials are scheduled. There are three trials for which the KGB has already prepared information, to my knowledge. They will have lost credibility if these go through.

Kissinger: Nobody believes they are pro-Jewish. [Laughter] The KGB seems to be a world in themselves and very powerful. [Mr. Kissinger proceeds to discuss an incident at the reciprocal dinner given by Brezhnev at the Soviet Embassy where he wanted to be seated next to Liv Ullmann.7 He went to the head of protocol who said it couldn’t be done. He then talked to General Antonov of the KGB who immediately arranged it.

Mr. Stein then recalled a luncheon where he described to Antonov all the Kosher laws.]

[Page 553]

Stein: I would suggest that as we are now closer to the critical dates that a larger group have an opportunity to meet with you or the President, to make the task a little bit easier.

Kissinger: My understanding is that the bill8 won’t be close.

Stein: What is the date?

Kissinger: I think the House will vote on it in October. And the Senate in January or February—the beginning of February.

Stein: We were thinking earlier.

Fisher: I think that as far as we are concerned, we can announce certain results. We have to have a better feel at the time of the meeting. One of the things I found among the people I questioned was that most of the Jews were scientists.

Stein: They are of top nature—biologists, chemists, doctors. By the way this will be helpful, if I can tell the folks at the right time. This has just come to Henry.

Kissinger: If this is in the White House’s discretion. Is it?

Garment: Yes.

Kissinger: [To Stein:] When are you going to Europe?

Stein: Not until mid-August. I see ten names listed [on Dobrynin’s note at Tab A]. Do you think we can get the list? [from Dobrynin]

Kissinger: I would ask him. You can ask him more questions than I can. I think it would be better for you to ask him. [The meeting then ended. Mr. Fisher stayed to talk to Mr. Kissinger alone.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1027, Presidential/HAK Memcons, Memcons—HAK & Presidential, April–November 1973, [4 of 5]. Confidential. The meeting was held in Kissinger’s office in the White House. Brackets are in the original.
  2. Presumably the list Kissinger gave to Gromyko on May 6; see Document 107.
  3. Attached but not printed. See footnote 9, Document 134.
  4. Garment.
  5. A reference to the CSCE, which initially met in Helsinki July 3–7.
  6. See “Angry Soviet Georgians in Israeli Port City Await Improvements,” by Terence Smith, The New York Times, July 19, 1973, p. 14.
  7. A Norwegian actress.
  8. A reference to the Trade Bill of 1973, which included the JacksonVanik Amendment (see Document 76). Documentation on the Nixon administration’s attempts to modify the bill and the amendment is in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXXI, Foreign Economic Policy, 1973–1976.