59. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1

SUBJECT

  • Soviet Jewry

Leonard Garment’s memorandum of September 192 reviews various aspects of the Soviet Jewry issue including the political problems we may confront with regard to the imposition of exit fees on would-be Soviet emigrants.

There can be no doubt that the Soviet Government views this issue as lying totally within its internal jurisdiction. The Soviets believe themselves under no obligation and do not wish, as a general rule, even to discuss this internal issue with other governments.

Viewing in this perspective, I believe the current U.S. policy on Soviet Jewry and the related problem of exit fees is the correct policy and should be continued in the coming weeks.3 Under this policy, the United States shows deep sympathy toward the problems being experienced by Soviet Jews. At the same time, we maintain the correct diplomatic posture.

In brief, the U.S. policy on Soviet Jewry states that the United States Government deeply sympathizes with the plight of those who are denied the fundamental human right of emigration. It offers the assurance that the steadfast commitment of the United States to the principles contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has been made known to the Soviets.

While criticism of this policy can be expected from various quarters, especially prior to the election, I believe it is a policy which is respected by responsible Jewish leaders in the United States. Further, we should not let the possibility of Congressional moves linking improved U.S.-Soviet trade relations to the Soviets’ dropping of the exit fees dictate a change in U.S. policy. This issue does not have to be faced until after a trade agreement has been reached and parts of that agree[Page 212]ment, as required, are submitted for Congressional approval. At that time, I believe the Administration will be able to offer a sound defense of its policies on Soviet Jewry and improved U.S.-Soviet trade.

Accordingly, I do not think it would be wise to branch out with new policy moves on Soviet Jewry at this time. I would specifically recommend against the idea of encouraging the establishment of a non-governmental commission that would get involved with compensation to the Soviets for Soviet Jewish emigrants.4

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 721, Country Files—Europe—USSR, Vol. XXVI. Confidential. Sent for information. A stamped notation at the top of the memorandum indicates the President saw it. Under a September 22 covering memorandum, Sonnenfeldt forwarded the memorandum to Kissinger, with the recommendation that he sign it. (Ibid., Box 720, Country Files—Europe—USSR, Vol. XXV)
  2. Document 48.
  3. Nixon underlined most of this sentence and wrote in the margin: “I agree.”
  4. Nixon bracketed the entire paragraph, underlined its first sentence, and wrote at the bottom of the page: “K—I totally agree. If the U.S. Jewish groups go for McGovern—that gives us a freer hand to do what is right for U.S.—as distinguished from internal Jewish political interests.”