19. Briefing Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Hartman) to Secretary of State Vance 1

Meeting at NSC on Human Rights Problems

Marshall Shulman and I, accompanied by Mark Garrison, met with Brzezinski, Aaron, Schecter and Hyland on February 18 to discuss coordination of tactics in handling human rights problems. Without attempting to reach decisions, we discussed the following points:

—A possible Administration statement, with a worldwide gloss, suitable for use in lieu of addressing specific questions each time a new one arises. No agreement on venue or timing, but a consensus that it would be useful to produce a draft to look at (our contribution is at Tab 1).

—In any case, there was a general feeling that we should try to move away from reacting to every new human rights development, provided that is the President’s desire. Zbig thought the President would listen to advice on this point.

—The Bukovsky meeting at the White House (the Vice President, possibly a handshake with the President at that time).2 Consensus: Bukovsky will make a media circus of it and will probably criticize any effort to come to terms with the Soviets; it would be unwise to tangle with him publicly at that time.

—The President’s press conference, sometime this week: Bukovsky and the Sakharov correspondence will probably be major items.3

—We need some human rights initiatives not related to the Soviet Union (Warren Christopher has a project under way to accomplish this).

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—Agreed that Schechter could be the contact point for assuring a coordinated public reaction—or non-reaction—when new developments arise.

—Consensus that we should push for favorable handling of our own US-interest emigration cases, and consider what can be done to help the most urgent of the dissident cases (specifically Kovalev, the one singled out by Sakharov).

Tab 1

Draft Administration Statement 4

In recent weeks, the attention of our country and the world has focussed again on the issue of human rights. This Administration, reflecting the deeply held views of the American people, is putting into practice what the President said in his inaugural address: “because we are free, we cannot be indifferent to the fate of freedom elsewhere.”

In this imperfect world, we cannot comment on all the wrongs done to individuals, much less hope to correct them all. But no one can now be in any doubt where we as a government and as a people stand regarding injustices, whether perpetrated at home, in those countries which share our values and aspirations, in those countries where hunger and poverty are the most pressing concerns, or in those societies which do not share our basic view of the rights of man.

In pursuing “a just and peaceful world that is truly humane,” our efforts include the negotiation of agreements which advance our national interests, including verifiable and enforceable agreements on the limitation of armaments. Success in these endeavors can also play an important role in establishing a climate in which the best of human aspirations can more successfully be encouraged. And as the President said, success in arms limitation negotiations can mean life instead of death. Maintaining life is fundamental to morality.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840116–1200. Confidential; Nodis. Drafted by Garrison (EUR/SOV). A handwritten notation on the memorandum reads: “CV OBE.”
  2. Reference is to Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky, who was released from a Soviet prison camp in December 1976. For information concerning the meeting with Bukovsky at the White House, see footnote 12, Document 38.
  3. The President’s press conference took place on February 23. For a transcript, see Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, February 28, 1977, pp. 242–48. For additional information about the Sakharov correspondence, see footnotes 2 and 3, Document 18.
  4. No classification marking.