Behind the Headlines Nixon-brezhnev Summit: Its Consequences Examined
Menu JTA Search

Behind the Headlines Nixon-brezhnev Summit: Its Consequences Examined

Download PDF for this date

Indications should soon be forthcoming on tangible results of Soviet Communist Party Secretary Leonid I. Brezhnev’s discussions in Washington bearing on Soviet emigration policy and the Israeli-Arab impasse. Whether the Soviet leader has swayed Congress into granting him the trade benefits and credits he seeks for “normalization” of commercial relations with the United States, probably will be evidenced within a week or so when the House Ways and Means Committee votes on the Mills-Vanik amendment to the Trade Reform Act.

How the superpowers move towards carrying out “The quickest possible settlement” in the Middle East-as the Nixon-Brezhnev communique on their second summit conference put it-may be clearer in mid-July when the Security Council resumes its “review” on the area’s problems. On this issue, the Kremlin and the White House are so far apart in their strategic, political and economic assessments of the Middle East that it is hardly likely that a “dramatic” change, as a State Department official had said, will occur, although cosmetically there may be a softening of lines to evince some psychological improvement.

In other words, the Middle East problems will drag on through another futile debate in the Council and in next autumn’s General Assembly unless a change takes place within the Arab governments.


The emigration issue, however, harbors expectancy. The stage seems set for an easy victory on the Mills-Vanik measure which, being identical to the Jackson Amendment, insists on legislated guarantees of freer Soviet emigration. More than two-thirds of the Ways and Means Committee itself-17 out of 25 members-have sponsored Mills-Vanik, one more than before Brezhnev arrived from Moscow. In the very week that the Soviet-American summit was taking place, three more Democratic Congressmen and a Republican swelled the number of House sponsors to 284, only six shy of two-thirds of the whole House membership.

Nevertheless, as one astute legislative specialist at the Capitol observed, the outcome in the give-and-take of Committee action does not make Mills-Vanik a certainty. Important tycoons were among the 40 business leaders who met with Brezhnev June 22 at Blair House and pledged assistance to him on trade. The Nixon Administration has repeatedly insisted that the Congress abide by its commitment of giving the Soviet Union most favored nation status. Some powerful media commentators, usually regarded as sympathetic to Jewish causes, helped support the points, looking upon emigration as an “internal matter” and denigrating the National Freedom Assembly here as an “anti Brezhnev” gathering which both the advance notices and the speakers themselves made plain it was not.

Thus far neither Brezhnev’s personal lobbying or his expressed hope on U.S. television that the American people will back the President have brought a turnabout in the Congress. In fact his statistics on Soviet emigration to the 22 Senators and two Representatives at his Blair House luncheon June 19 may have been counterproductive.


Ninety-five percent of all Soviet citizens who had applied for exit visas received them, he said. Therefore, 61,000 emigrated. But the fact is about 170,000 had asked Israel for affidavits to enter and these had been sent to them by certified mail. Brezhnev said only about 800 Soviet citizens were “detained.” But the fact appears to be that 110,000 have not been processed for emigration.

Charges that his figures were wrong, misleading and a whitewash seem to have led the Soviet delegation into protesting that it did not get a chance to brief the media on the Brezhnev luncheon with the Congressmen. In fact, the chief Soviet spokesman for the summit, no less than Ambassador Leonid Zamyatin himself, had two opportunities to tell the world press about it the day after the luncheon and he refused both times.

Doubt on Brezhnev’s accuracy deepened when a cable reached the Fairmont Temple congregation in Cleveland from Mania Girshas in Israel. Brezhnev had said emigration was barred to those who had shared security secrets. But Miss Girshas, a 20-year-old student allowed to emigrate, declared that her father, Simcha Girshas, is a laborer who knows nothing of military matters. Nevertheless, she said, about three hours after the Brezhnev luncheon, police told him that he, his wife, their other daughter and son would never get permission to emigrate.

The resolute insistence of the Congress and the world Jewish community that justice is universal and not an internal matter, analysts here think, must in the end cause the Soviet government to back off from its hard line against freer emigration and move along the road to detente with the Declaration of Human Rights as one of its banners.

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund