198. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Emigration; Trade


  • US
  • Secretary Vance
  • Secretary Blumenthal
  • Marshall Shulman
  • USSR
  • Ambassador Dobrynin

Secretary Vance handed Dobrynin an oral note, text of which was as follows:

“In your message of May 16,2 you indicated that you hoped our earlier message on emigration matters is not our last word on the subject. This note responds to that hope.

“We would like to propose that, at the Summit, President Carter raise the general subject of emigration with President Brezhnev. This discussion of emigration would be quite separate from any discussion at Vienna of other matters.

“President Carter would express the satisfaction of the American people with the existing trends in emigration from the Soviet Union in accordance with Soviet law, and he would say that he would like to be able to tell the American people that such trends can be expected to continue.

“We would hope that President Brezhnev would respond positively to President Carter’s interest in this area. We would be prepared to deal with any questions the Soviet side might raise regarding U.S. immigration law and policy.”

It was made clear to Dobrynin, who undertook to inform Moscow, that the questions to which the President would wish to have a positive response included whether any changes were contemplated in Soviet law or policy, whether the circumstances of applicants for emigration would be improved, whether the efficiency of emigration processing would be enhanced, and whether the criteria for refusal would be regularized.

[Page 575]

Secretary Blumenthal, taking up a separate subject, outlined to Dobrynin the importance we attach to trade with the USSR. We had proposed communique language emphasizing this interest.

He told Dobrynin that we wished to break the impasse on MFN. The President is prepared to move, but there is no realistic possibility of changing the law. Our intention would be, at an appropriate time after the Summit, to initiate the procedure for granting MFN to the USSR under existing law.

Secretary Blumenthal indicated that in this process the President would make no explicit reference to any conversations at the Summit. Cabinet members in their Congressional testimony would confine themselves to statements that our action was based on enunciation of Soviet policies by responsible Soviet officials, including explanations given to Members of Congress visiting Moscow.

He noted that we were under pressure to grant MFN to China, and the Chinese are willing to give us assurances. It would not serve our mutual interests for US-China trade to be normalized without a parallel step in US-Soviet trade.

For the time being, we would propose to grant MFN without changing the provision of law which requires the President to recommend continuation each year, and gives Congress the opportunity to disapprove. Dobrynin asked whether this meant a year-by-year situation. Secretary Blumenthal responded that the agreement would be for three years, but it would be necessary to recommend a continuation each year.

Secretary Blumenthal expressed our view that this approach would be a significant step forward. He said we did not exclude the possibility that there might be some change in the law at some future time.

  1. Source: Department of State, Office of the Secretariat Staff, Special Adviser to the Secretary (S/MS) on Soviet Affairs Marshall Shulman—Jan 21, 77–Jan 19, 81, Lot 81D109, Box 4, CV–AD, 6/5/79. Secret; Sensitive. Drafted by Shulman. Vance’s stamped initials appear on the memorandum.
  2. See Document 193.