33. Editorial Note

On August 30, 1972, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Haig wrote Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Kissinger: “Earlier yesterday, I had talked to Len Gar[Page 87]ment, Special Consultant to the President on Minorities and the Arts, about the problem of Soviet Jewry which is apparently growing and which McGovern hopes to exploit. This was complicated yesterday by a letter sent out of the Soviet Union by a group of Soviet Jewish leaders, a copy of which was furnished to McGovern.” Referring to Senator George McGovern, the Democratic candidate for President, Haig wrote that he understood that “McGovern will try to exploit the letter.” Haig had asked Garment to contact Senator Jacob Javits (R–NY) to discuss the matter. Haig informed Kissinger: “I insisted to Garment yesterday and again late last night to tell Javits to reaffirm strongly his conviction that the President and the White House are very concerned about the plight of the Soviet Jews, to reassure him that this matter was discussed during the summit and on his own to urge the Jewish leaders to understand that quiet diplomacy has accomplished far more than an extensive trumpeting so far. Javits, of course, can go much farther on this issue that can any White House official and especially the President.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 995, Alexander M. Haig Chronological Files)

On August 31, Haig forwarded Kissinger the text of a letter from Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, received that day, in which she asked President Nixon to send “a direct confidential message to the people in the Kremlin expressing your reaction to the outrage” of the Soviet exit fees for emigrants. Haig wrote Kissinger in a covering memorandum: “Now that the Prime Minister has formally raised this issue in a direct communication with the President, we will have to consider very carefully the best means by which to proceed. Sometimes our Jewish friends know just what not to do at the right moment.” (Ibid.)

On September 6, Garment phoned Kissinger regarding the Soviet exit fee issue. He told Kissinger that “the Russian issue is flooding my desk and phone at this point and I need some guidance.” The relevant portion of the transcript of their telephone conversation continues as follows:

K[issinger]: Is there a more self-serving group of people than the Jewish community?

G[arment]: None in the world.

“K: I have not seen it. What the hell do they think they are accomplishing?

“G: Well, I don’t know.

“K: You can’t even tell the bastards anything in confidence because they’ll leak it to all their

“G: Right. Very briefly, what seems to be coming through just dozens of conversations is basically this, and there are political as well as some other dangers involved—that the intellectuals and Jewish com[Page 88]munity in the Soviet Union are just saying that in a sense they will have their position compromised by the Soviets through a trick of timing and that the Russians feel secure until November in going ahead with the attacks because of the concern on our part of . . .

“K: They’re dead wrong. After November they’re even safer.

“G: That may well be. I think then in any event . . .

“K: You can say—well, what we are doing, we’ve talked in a low key way to Dobrynin. Next week, we’ll call him into the State Department. If the Jewish community doesn’t mind, after I’ve been in the Soviet Union and have done some national business, so we’ll do it on Wednesday [September 13] or Thursday [September 14] next week. Don’t tell them that.

“G: No, I won’t tell them anything.

“K: But next Thursday, we’ll call them in.

“G: And defer any meetings between any of our people and the Jewish groups until after Wednesday.

“K: That’s right. After Wednesday you’ll be able to say that the issue has been raised both with Dobrynin and with the Minister.

“G: I think between now and November a certain amount of theater is needed to keep the lid on. That’s basically what seems to come through to me. After that I just don’t know; there are various people that are talking about forming committees to raise the money and doing a variety of things.

“K: They ought to remember what this Administration has done . . .

“G: Yes, all of that can be pointed out, but nevertheless, here they are subject to presses [pressures?] of this sort and I’m simply asking.

“K: No, no, you’ve been great on it.

“G: Well, I’m doing a job and all I want to know is how to handle it.

“K: Our game plan is that we cannot possibly make a formal protest while I’m on the way to Russia.

“G: Right. I understand that.” (Ibid., Kissinger Telephone Conversations (Telcons), Box 14, Chronological File)

Secretary of Commerce Peterson also raised the issue of Jewish emigration with Kissinger during a telephone conversation on September 7. He told Kissinger that he had heard “from three different sources that there’s a strong movement on the Hill to tie the Soviet Jewry issue with anything that has anything to do with the Soviet Union.” The relevant portion of the transcript of their telephone conversation continues as follows:

K[issinger]: But that won’t be effective until after the election.

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P[eterson]: Well there’s strong pressure in this one group that I met with that’s been confirmed since then to submit MFN legislation, but to tie the issue to that and then to use the submission of the bill to get extremely vocal about it. Javits and a number of others are very active on it.

“K: Yeah, but they’ll subside after the election.

“P: Yeah, now I don’t know how much it hurts you, however, to do it prior to the election because that’s what they’re going to do. Okay, I just wanted you to know about it.

“K: No, I didn’t know about it; it will hurt me but . . . It will hurt, but what can we do? There’s no sense; you can’t make a deal with Javits on things like this. Don’t you think?

“P: Well, you know him much better than I do. I don’t know what he’d . . . he’s got great respect for you. I don’t know. I’ll tell you what I can do if we can be helpful. I can find out who the Senators and Congressmen are beside him, and if in your absence, you want anybody to try to pacify them so they don’t get out on the floor and create problems for you while you’re over there, that might help. Or I can drop it, whatever you wish.

“K: No, if you could find out in a way that doesn’t draw too much attention to it, that would be very helpful.

“P: All right, you’ll get it in the morning.” (Ibid.)