183. Memorandum From the Counselor of the Department of State (Sonnenfeldt) to Secretary of State Kissinger 1

Mr. Secretary:

The thrust of this memo tallies closely with Embassy Moscow’s assessment that the Soviets are making considerable efforts to discourage emigration applications for Israel, including a press campaign highlighting bad living conditions there. As you recall, the Soviets in March gave us an “information sheet” stating that 95 percent of applications [Page 894] for emigration are approved,2 and explaining that the decline in emigration since the October War is linked to unsettled conditions in the Middle East and to poor living conditions in Israel, and to a consequent decline in applications.

Sonnenfeldt 3


Briefing Memorandum From the Director of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (Hyland) to Secretary of State Kissinger 4

Decline in Soviet Jewish Emigration

Soviet Jewish emigration declined 26 percent in the first four months of this year compared to last year. The table below compares emigration for the first four months of this year and last year:

Month 1973 1974 Percent Decline
January 2,700 2,400 11
February 2,400 1,600 33
March 2,600 2,000 28
April 2,700 1,700 37
Total 10,400 7,700 26
Annual Total 34,800 25,800 (projection)

It appears the Soviets are deliberately cutting back the flow of emigrants by a higher refusal rate and tougher application procedures:

—applicants must now obtain clearance from the local police before approaching the exit visa office.

—required employer’s references must date back at least six months, thereby discouraging Jews from quitting before applying to emigrate, since more than four months’ unemployment can lead to prosecution for “parasitism.”

[Page 895]

The Kremlin claims the decline in emigration is due to a drop in applications resulting from disillusionment with conditions in Israel, and is currently conducting a propaganda campaign highlighting difficulties of life there. But this is probably only a marginal factor at the moment. The Israeli Embassy in Washington says more than 4,500 invitations to emigrate are being mailed to Soviet Jews every month, and Jewish activists in Moscow say the desire to emigrate is as strong as ever.

The current decline may represent an attempt to pressure the US Congress on the Soviet-American trade issue by linking continued opposition to MFN and credits with a reduction in emigration. If so, the message would be that a Congressional compromise on the issue might bring the emigration back up again.

The Soviets have manipulated emigration rates before, boosting them in 1972 during the US elections and again in 1973 during House debate on Soviet-American trade and with the FRG prior to the last election. Moscow Jews are speculating that barriers to emigration may be lowered in connection with the Summit, but there is no hard evidence to this effect.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 69, Dobrynin/Kissinger, Vol. 23, May–June 1974. Secret; Eyes Only.
  2. See footnote 7, Document 162.
  3. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.
  4. Secret. Drafted by R. Hagen (INR/RES) on May 30. Additional information on Soviet Jewish emigration is in a June 1974 Department of State Briefing Paper; National Archives, RG 59, Records of the Office of the Counselor, 1955–1977, Lot 81 D 286, Box 9.