5. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Ford1


  • Exchanges With Senator Jackson Regarding His Amendment to the Trade Bill


The Jackson amendment to Title IV of the Trade Bill (Tab D) in effect would make it impossible to grant most-favored-nation tariff treat [Page 9] ment to the USSR or to continue its eligibility for EXIM Bank credit facilities because it would first require you to make a detailed report on the status of Soviet emigration and a finding that the Soviets do not deny their citizens the right or opportunity to emigrate and do not penalize persons who seek to emigrate. Such a finding could clearly not be made at this time.

For the past several weeks, I have tried to reach an understanding with Jackson (together with Senators Javits and Ribicoff) concerning the standards that we would apply in judging Soviet emigration practices and a means whereby MFN and credits could go forward at least for an initial period so that the Soviets would have an incentive to improve their emigration performance.

In conducting my talks with Jackson I was able to base myself on discussions I had with Soviet Foreign Minister Gromyko and Ambassador Dobrynin. The issue is obviously one of great sensitivity for the Soviets, the more so since they agreed in writing last year to suspend their special emigration tax only to find that it gained them nothing.

Understanding with Soviets

In their talks with me the Soviets agreed that the Administration could provide Jackson with certain broad assurances that any harassment, punitive action or unreasonable impediments against those wishing to leave the USSR would be contrary to Soviet law and would therefore not be permitted by the Soviet Government. The Soviet leaders were also willing to have us express the expectation that the emigration flow would increase to 45,000 a year (from about 35,000 in 1973). Jackson and his supporters had demanded an emigration level of 100,000. More recently, the Soviets have backed away from being associated with any numbers.

Negotiations with Jackson

A. His Terms

Although the Senators seemed impressed with this movement by the Soviets, Jackson subsequently provided me with a draft of a letter to him from me containing extremely detailed and stringent conditions, although he reduced the number of annual emigrants to 75,000. The problems with this text (which is at Tab B) were its detail, peremptory tone, legalistic formulations and requirement that the Soviets furnish us with all their laws and regulations pertinent to emigration. This not only went far beyond what I could in conscience assert the Soviets had promised, but what any sovereign state would tolerate having another government say about its internal order.

Moreover, the Jackson approach would have left his amendment basically unchanged and merely have added to it a waiver authority for [Page 10] the President in terms such that the President could only exercise it if the Soviets were in full compliance with all the detailed provisions of the Jackson letter.

B. Effort to Compromise

Despite these difficulties, I later furnished Jackson with an amended draft letter which retained the substance of Jackson’s points but in condensed and less peremptory and legalistic form. This draft also in effect gave 45,000 emigrants as a floor and as our “hope” as a result of Soviet adherence to the standards set out in the letter. (This draft is at Tab A.)

In subsequent discussions with Jackson’s staff, they sought to reintroduce many of the details of the original letter. We pointed out that the standards and practices outlined in our letter were already so specific that the Soviets would have difficulty with them, as a matter of prestige even if they were ready to live up to them.

We noted that it would be clear after a few months whether harassments, obstacles and punishments persisted and we could readily monitor the flow of emigration and thus would know whether there was adequate performance.

We would also be ready to have language in the legislation that would permit the President or Congress itself to cut off MFN and credits if after some specified time the Soviets failed to perform. Greater precision would serve little purpose, except to affront the Russians, since we are dealing with readily observable facts. The Jackson people agreed to make an effort to tone down their formulations, but we have not yet heard from them.

Attitude of Jewish Leaders; Issues

Meanwhile, we also supplied our proposed text to three Jewish leaders.2 They thought it showed substantial progress.

—They were concerned about any reference to numbers lest it become a ceiling. More likely, their problem, like Jackson’s, is that their prestige is tied to the publicized demand for 100,000. But the leaders have indicated that there might be some private understanding that under conditions of declining restrictions and harassment a rate within the 45–75,000 per year range would be taken by us as a rough performance [Page 11] standard. Jackson, too, is apparently thinking of such a private understanding. This might be a way out on this problem.

—The Jewish leaders also want to see the references to Soviet practices tied more directly to explicit assurances from the Soviets. (You will note that in the letter at Tab A, we use euphemisms like “we have reason to believe.” This is also a preoccupation of Jackson’s. We might solve this problem by a general statement that all the points in the letter are based on discussions with the Soviets and then use some phrase like “we believe” or even just flat assertions.

—Both the Jewish leaders and Jackson oppose the reference in the first point to the fact that punitive actions against those trying to leave “according to existing laws and regulations” would not be permitted by the Soviets. The argument is that as long as we do not have precise knowledge of Soviet laws and regulations this language gives the Soviets a free hand. But the Soviets have made the point to me that they cannot be expected to permit illegal departures. We may have to get the Soviets to swallow omission of this clause.

—Both the Jewish leaders and Jackson still insist on Soviet performance prior to any exercise by the President of the authority we seek in Title IV. This is a prestige point for them and Jackson’s people have indicated some possibility of flexibility if there is some initial test period.

Next Steps

Although these are in the main issues in my current efforts, we must anticipate that Jackson’s next draft will still contain more specifics than we, and above all, the Russians will find acceptable. It should also be noted that the EXIM authorization bill will have in it a number of restrictions on credits for the USSR on grounds other than emigration. Consequently, Soviet incentives to perform on the emigration issue will be reduced.

One possibility, which Jackson’s people are considering, is that Jackson might make a private response to our letter setting forth particulars, such as numbers, that would serve as more precise performance standards. We could then respond with a brief letter stating that we would agree that these standards would be applied by us also. We have to recognize, however, that there are likely to be disagreements about Soviet performance, particularly if numbers do not rise rapidly.

If another round of exchanges with Jackson, Javits and Ribicoff does not get us within reach of an acceptable set of formulations, we will have to consider whether to deal with other Senators, less driven by concerns with highly committed constituencies. We have after all proposed a set of standards unprecedented in relations between sovereign states and sufficient to judge performance.

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Presidential Subject File, 1974–1977, Box 23, Subject File, Trade (1). Eyes Only. All tabs are attached but not printed. Haig forwarded the memorandum to the President on August 11 with the following typed note: “You may wish to discuss the Jackson position on the Trade Bill in your 9:00 a.m. meeting with Secretary Kissinger tomorrow. The memorandum is lengthy primarily because of the sensitivity of the issue but well worth your detailed reading.” A note on the memorandum reads: “The President has seen.”
  2. Stanley Lowell, Chairman of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry; Rabbi Israel Miller, Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations; and Max M. Fisher, a prominent Detroit businessman and Jewish philanthropist. Leonard Garment, Counsel to the President, briefed the three Jewish leaders on the proposed texts of the letters during a meeting in New York on August 5. (Memorandum from Sonnenfeldt to Kissinger, August 6; National Archives, RG 59, Lot File 81D286, Records of the Office of the Counselor, Box 9, Trade Bill, August 1974)