195. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski) to President Carter1


  • Aftermath of the Prisoner Exchange—Treatment of the Families (S)

The US-Soviet agreement on the prisoner exchange specified that members of the five prisoners’ immediate families would be allowed to leave the Soviet Union “without obstacle or delay”. The definition of “members of the immediate family” was not specified. (S)

While it seems likely that all members of the families who wish to leave will be allowed to do so (with the possible exception of the Ginzburg’s “adopted” son) the Soviets have made every step of the process as difficult and unpleasant as possible. Numerous obstacles have been thrown in the path of the families’ orderly departure. (S)

Both Mrs. Ginzburg and Mrs. Vins have been subjected to heavy surveillance in their homes, and whenever they venture out. Both have [Page 559] also been treated with varying degrees of rudeness, reaching to outright intimidation, by local officials. Mrs. Vins’ first attempt to meet with US officials about her departure was aborted when she was snatched into a car outside the US office. She was taken to a local police station and held for several hours. Despite numerous efforts, Mrs. Ginzburg has been unable to convince the authorities to turn her telephone back on so that she can cope with the job of disposing of three apartments, arranging her papers, settling her possessions, etc. (S)

Friends of the families who have tried to help out (collecting or selling possessions, help with photographs and documents, etc.) have been regularly harassed. Friends of Mrs. Ginzburg who drove to Tarusa to get some of her husband’s belongings from his home there were stopped and thoroughly searched on their way back to Moscow. (S)

As happens so often in the USSR, the families often find themselves trapped in a Catch-22 situation. Mrs. Vins has been told that the power of attorney sent to her by her husband cannot be recognized because he is no longer a Soviet citizen. Mrs. Ginzburg is having trouble selling her husband’s home in Tarusa because her power of attorney was taken from her by a bureaucrat who now refuses to give it back. (S)

There has also been the problem of false deadlines. On Friday, May 4, Mrs. Vins was informed by local officials that she would have to be prepared to leave the USSR by 11:00 a.m., Tuesday, May 8. Otherwise, she was told, the Soviet government would inform the US Embassy in Moscow that she declined to emigrate. Several other false deadlines have been set for Mrs. Vins and for the others. (S)

Two “members” of the families who wish to leave have so far been denied permission to do so. The Ginzburgs have an “adopted” son who has lived with them for eight years, though he was never formally adopted. He is currently serving his military tour and, as of today, the Soviet position is that he will have to complete it before he can leave. Pastor Vins has a niece who is very close to the family and who wishes to leave with them. So far she has been denied permission. Mrs. Vins has said that she will not leave without her, and the case is still being debated. (S)

In most of these cases, US protests—from Washington or Moscow—have corrected the problem. It is likely that many of the problems simply reflect the natural inclination of lower level Soviet bureaucrats in their dealings with any dissident. On the other hand, the number and extent of the obstacles indicate, at the very least, that government officials did not go out of their way to insure that the letter and spirit of the agreement be met. (S)

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Brzezinski Office File, Country Chron File, Box 53, USSR: 5/79. Secret. Sent for information. Carter initialed the upper right-hand corner of the memorandum.