96. Memorandum From Helmut Sonnenfeldt of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • Soviet Statement on Emigration

Attached is a revised version of the Soviet statement.2 I have put it into somewhat smoother English, but have made no substantive changes other than to eliminate the paragraph about the “noisy campaign.” (Tab A)

As you will see, following the formal text, I have appended, in reasonably smooth English, the additional Soviet points of substance as four points. Again, I have not used those items that are not directly pertinent, i.e., the points about Israel3 and the possibility of Dobrynin meeting jointly with you and Congressmen.4 Dobrynin should realize that once you have made use of the Soviet statement, he and his Embassy will in fact be under pressure to confirm it. (State, once it hears of these texts may well ask to see the original Russian to check the translation.)

You should focus on supplementary point #3. This is the one that emphasizes that the exemption procedure was already provided for in the decree of August 3 and in a Council of Ministers decision based on the decree and that therefore there is no need to suspend or repeal the decree. Indeed, the whole Soviet emphasis, not surprisingly, is on exemption rather than repeal. But this is a key issue for Jackson et al. Even with the Soviet assurance that there is no time limit on the right of So[Page 315]viet authorities to decide to grant exemptions, Jackson will, on past form, demand full repeal of the law; or else he will argue that his amendment should likewise be put on the books, as a weapon to use in case the Soviets decide to terminate or modify the full exemption provisions of their decree.

You should also be aware that CIA (see CIB, April, 11, 1973, page 7)5 and others continue to report that the Soviets remain highly selective in granting exit permission. This relates to the point I previously made to you that the Soviet claim that 95.5% of those who apply receive permission does not reflect whatever numbers may be deterred from applying in the first place.

Tab A

We have received the following official statement from the Soviet leadership6 on the question of emigration of Soviet citizens.

“Applications of Soviet citizens who wish to leave the USSR for permanent residence in other countries are considered, and decisions concerning such applications are made on an individual basis, taking account of concrete circumstances. As a rule these requests are granted. For example, with regard to persons who in 1972 expressed the desire to go to Israel permission was received by 95.5% of those who applied. A similar approach will be maintained in the future. (It may be noted that more than 2000 persons who received permission to leave for Israel in 1972 did not in fact make use of that permission.)

“As regards the refunding of state educational expenses by Soviet citizens leaving for permanent residence abroad, the decree of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet of August 3, 1972, and a decision taken in accordance with it by the USSR Council of Ministers, provide that Soviet citizens who receive permission to emigrate can be exempted fully from refunding the expenses mentioned above. Accordingly, Soviet authorities, in considering the applications of Soviet citizens wishing to emigrate, have the right to decide that only state duties normal in such cases be collected from such persons. The authorities are now being guided by this right. Consequently, only such normal and insignificant duties—which were also collected before the decree of August 3, 1972—are being collected, and will be collected, from those persons who are leaving the Soviet Union for permanent residence in other countries.

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“It goes without saying that as is true with other states, there are cases in the USSR, and there may be such cases in the future, where citizens are denied permission to go abroad for reasons of state security.”

In response to certain questions raised by Dr. Kissinger in connection with the above statement, the Soviet Government has further stated that:

1. The above statement should be regarded as an official one.

2. The phrase in the statement that “only such normal duties—which were also collected before the decree of August 3, 1972—are being collected and will be collected” has no time limit attached to it, and any interpretation implying the existence of a time limit would not correspond to the position of the Soviet Government.

3. The exemption from the requirement to refund state educational expenses is being granted on the basis of the terms of the decree of August 3, 1972, itself and of a subsequent decision taken in accordance with that decree by the USSR Council of Ministers. In the Soviet view, this situation obviates the need for suspending or repealing the decree of August 3, 1972.

5. [sic] The President and members of the Administration are free to transmit the contents of the official Soviet statement and these additional explanatory points to the Congress.7

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 496, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, Vol. 16. Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. Urgent; sent for information.
  2. Dobrynin gave Kissinger the statement on April 10; see Document 95.
  3. The Soviet statement reads: “Concerning a transfer of the information received from us by the White House to the Government of Israel. It is a matter for the President to decide how to use our communication and whom he will inform about its contents. We, on our part, do not want to bind ourselves by this or that advice, which would indirectly mean the acknowledgment of some ‘special rights’ of Israel in this question. There should be no doubt about it, we do not acknowledge any such rights.”
  4. The Soviet statement reads: “Concerning Dr. Kissinger’s idea of holding together with the Soviet Ambassador a meeting with senators and congressmen. We do not consider it to be expedient. It goes without saying that the USSR Ambassador cannot put himself in a position of a ‘person testifying’ to American congressmen. It is for the President himself and for the American side in general to give explanations in general about a real status of affairs in this question, taking into account the communication transmitted by us.”
  5. A reference to Central Intelligence Bulletin, No. 40, 11 April 1973, located in the National Archives, CIA Records Search Tool (Crest).
  6. Kissinger struck out the word “Government” and wrote in: “leadership.”
  7. Scowcroft forwarded Sonnenfeldt’s version of the Soviet statement to Rogers under a covering memorandum, April 17, which noted that Nixon planned “to take up this issue tomorrow with the Bipartisan Leadership Meeting.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 496, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, Vol. 16) No record of Nixon’s meeting with Congressional leaders, April 18, has been found. According to The New York Times, the President told Congressmen that the Soviets were easing obstacles to Jewish emigration to Israel by suspending a tax imposed on educated applicants for emigration. (“President Urges Senators Not to Link Soviet Trade and Exit Tax,” April 19, 1973)