193. Oral Note From the Soviet Leadership1

Moscow has carefully examined the points made by the Secretary of State concerning questions of trade and economic relations between our countries.2

Naturally, one can only welcome the fact that the US Government recognizes the highly abnormal situation that has arisen in this sphere through the fault of the American side, and is demonstrating a desire to correct it. This question is long overdue. It is, of course, up to the President to decide what specific steps he considers it possible to adopt toward these ends. And we do not intend to give advice here. What is important is that artificially created discriminatory restrictions be eliminated.

Our position of principle is well known to the American side. It has been frequently set forth and it remains unchanged. We proceed from the premise that trade between our countries—like that between any other countries—can and must be carried out only on an equal and mutually advantageous basis without being linked with other, unrelated questions. So it is, of course, completely unacceptable in this that there should be any efforts to interfere in the internal affairs of one another. And yet this is precisely the aim of existing American legislation covering the conduct of trade and economic matters with the USSR. Only by rejecting such an approach can one anticipate that Soviet-American trade and economic ties will achieve the necessary scale for the mutual benefit of both countries and will contribute to the positive development of our relations as a whole.

If one examines the procedure that is now being proposed on the basis of this principled viewpoint, the question legitimately arises of what actually would change in substance. For what is referred to is not fundamental change, nor is it change in the existing legislation. To be sure, we are told that in the present instance it is not formally demanded of the Soviet side, as it were, to offer any assurances concerning its policy on the exit of Soviet citizens for permanent residence abroad. However, there is here the qualification that the President [Page 553] would nevertheless have to report to the Congress with respect to some sort of “relevant discussions.” Moreover, we are expected to provide some kind of “tacit confirmation” of the way the American side understands Soviet policy and practice in matters of emigration. Thus, when one proceeds to decipher this concept, it appears that in essence it does not differ from what is required under the provisions of existing American legislation; i.e., it pursues the same aims of interference in our purely internal affairs.

It is hard to conceive that the American side could seriously expect that our principled position on this can undergo any changes. The question arises, therefore, as to what point there is in putting forward proposals which create only the superficial appearance of willingness to resolve this major question in our relations. We would not wish to think, but it is difficult to avoid the impression, that behind this there lies an effort in fact to avoid a real solution to this problem and at the same time to remove certain limitations on US foreign policy in some other quarters.

It appears to us that this is an inappropriate method of handling matters, especially at the present stage when we have the task on a practical level of exerting joint efforts toward smoothing out and fully developing relations between our countries. It is precisely because of this that we have considered it necessary to set forth our views with such frankness, in order that there not be any misunderstanding between us. We would like to hope that this is not the last word of the American side and that it will take genuinely effective measures for resolving the questions of trade and economic relations between our countries on a principled basis.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Office, Outside the System File, Box 53, Chron: 5/19–31/79. Secret. Sent under a May 19 covering memorandum from Aaron to Carter, in which Aaron stated that the Soviet response was “quite negative, stopping short only of outright rejection of our ‘proposal.’” (Ibid.) Carter wrote in the upper right-hand corner of the covering memorandum, “Zbig—To hell with them. J.”
  2. See Document 190.