27. Backchannel Message From the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Haig) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) in Saigon1
WHS 2136/Tohak 63. Press stories from Moscow that Soviets instituting new system of exit fees ranging from $5000 to $25,000 for educated Jews wishing to emigrate to Israel has stirred up storm among Jewish community. Previously, there had been general $1000 exit fee.
In response to numerous calls, Rogers has agreed to meet with three co-chairmen of Conference on Soviet Jewry Friday.2 They are Stein, Maass and Max Fisher.3 Although in that meeting, Rogers expects only to listen to Jewish leaders he is seeking authority to call in Dobrynin to caution him that if true the above reports will cause major political problem for President.4 I understand John Mitchell and Colson favor such démarche.5 There are also indications that Democrats on Hill may attempt to get some sort of resolution condemning Soviet [Page 73] measures and criticizing President for insensitivity.6 Situation is of course exacerbated by Rockefeller episode.7
Rogers has been trying to reach President on this but so far has not apparently succeeded. I believe in the circumstances a low-key talk to Dobrynin by Rogers is proper course. Would appreciate your urgent reaction.
Recommend the following:
I call Dobrynin in your behest and tell him that this matter could stir terrible domestic political crisis since liberal Democrats are already moving fast to establish barriers against further U.S./Soviet relations, trade, etc. Following this call we could then give Rogers authority to talk to Dobrynin and I will alert Dobrynin that Rogers will formally contact him so that we can publicly confirm that we have discussed with Soviets. Should Dobrynin have some contrary information, we can set the Democrats up for subsequent criticism for over reaction and at the same time not disturb our relations with the Soviets.
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 23, HAK Trip Files, HAK’s Secret Paris Trip, Switzerland, Saigon, Tokyo, August 13–19, 1972, To/Frm 86971 & Backchannels. Secret; Eyes Only; Flash. A stamped notation on the message indicates it was received in the White House Situation Room at 8:23 p.m. on August 17.↩
- August 18. At 6:45 p.m. on August 17, Haig spoke by telephone with Rogers, who warned that the Soviet position on the educational fee could “blow up in a problem for the President quickly,” and promised when meeting the Jewish leaders “to try and cool them off.” (Ibid., Box 998, Alexander M. Haig Chronological Files, Haig Telcons, 1972, [1 of 2])↩
- Jacob Stein, Richard Maass, and Max Fisher.↩
- Rogers checked with Haig during their August 17 telephone conversation about calling in Dobrynin privately. Haig thought the President “will go along, but I think we had better check with him simply because he has been so adamant about this subject.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 998, Alexander M. Haig Chronological Files, Haig Telcons, 1972, [1 of 2])↩
- Colson wrote Haig regarding the Soviet exit fees on August 17: “All of our Jewish experts say that we are about to lose all of the important ground that we have gained with the Jewish vote over the present brouhaha with the Soviets. Is there no end to what has to be done to keep their vote solid? I am sorry to bother you with this one, but our Jewish polls tell us we have real problems.” Haig replied in a memorandum to Colson on August 19: “I can assure you that we are wrestling intensively with this issue. However, for far more important reasons than the Jewish vote, it is essential that there be absolutely nothing said on this subject by any White House officials. I will keep you posted on how this explosive issue evolves.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 995, Alexander M. Haig Chronological Files, Haig Chron Aug 10–24, 1972)↩
- Rogers also told Haig during their August 17 phone conversation that the Democrats wanted the grain deal with the Soviet Union called off unless the Soviets voided their ruling on the educational fee. Rogers suggested that “it could have a serious effect on our relations with the Soviet Union and have a serious effect on the President’s political . . .” (Ibid., Box 998, Alexander M. Haig Chronological Files, Haig Telcons, 1972, [1 of 2])↩
- In a message to Kissinger on August 14, Haig wrote: “We have had exciting 24 hours, with Governor Rockefeller announcing in Israel that you had told him that an agreement had been worked out in Moscow at the time of the Summit which would provide for 35,000 Jews to emigrate each year. Without the benefit of talking to the Governor, I pulled back gently from that position and gave Ziegler the following guidance: (1) The U.S. position on the right of emigration is clear; and (2) up to June of this year there have been over 15,000 Jews who emigrated. At this rate, there will be between 30,000–35,000 by the end of the year. We have nothing more to add other than to confirm in a Question and Answer that the subject was discussed in Moscow.” (Ibid., Kissinger Office Files, Box 23, HAK Trip Files, HAK’s Secret Paris Trip, Switzerland, Saigon, Tokyo, August 13–19, 1972, To/Frm 86971 & Backchannels)↩