WASHINGTON (Dec. 3)
Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger appealed to Congress today to keep the Jackson/Mills-Vanik legislation intact in the pending Trade Reform Bill and not engage in questioning that may Jeopardize what he described as “a satisfactory compromise” that had been achieved “on an unprecedented and extraordinarily sensitive set of issues.” He said it was “now essential to let the provisions and understandings of the compromise proceed in practice.”
The Secretary, who read a prepared statement and submitted to questioning before the Senate Finance Committee today, was referring to the exchange of letters between himself and Sen. Henry M. Jackson (D.Wash.) on Oct. 18 in which an understanding was reached that the Soviet Union would not hamper or restrict the emigration of Soviet citizens including Jews, in return for which the Soviet Union would be granted U.S. trade benefits and credits.
The Finance Committee approved the Trade Reform Bill with the understanding that the Senate would not act on it until Kissinger submitted himself to questions from the committee, a proviso requested by Sen. Harry Byrd (Ind.,Va.).
In his prepared statement, Kissinger revealed that the “basis” for his correspondence with Jackson arose from his conversations with Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko in Geneva last April in Cyprus last May. and Moscow last July, Under questioning by various Senators, be said he had also discussed the matter with Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin, and that Soviet Communist Party Secretary Leonid I. Brezhnev had made “analogous statements” to former President Nixon to President Ford and to the Secretary of State. Kissinger also conceded, under questioning, that the understanding on emigration with the Russians depends principally on “faith.”
NO FORMAL ACCORD ON EMIGRATION ISSUE
In his prepared statement, however, he emphasized that “there will be ample opportunity to test in practice what has been set down on paper and to debate these matters again for stock-taking fore-seen in the legislation” which requires the President to report to Congress on Soviet emigration practices. The only” paper” involved, however, is Kissinger’s exchange of letters with Jackson.
The Secretary emphasized today that there is no “formal agreement” between the U.S. and the USSR on the emigration issue. “I must state flatly that if I were to assert here that a formal agreement on emigration from the USSR exists between our governments, that statement would immediately be repudiated by the Soviet government.”
Kissinger also stressed that he could not give “any assurances concerning the precise emigration rate that may result” if the trade bill is passed and most favored nation treatment is extended to the Soviet Union. He said that the Soviet explanations applied to the “definition of criteria and did not represent a commitment as to numbers” on emigrants.
He said “the Soviet government could not be held accountable for or bound by any such figure.” When the Jackson-Kissinger correspondence was disclosed, Jackson had estimated that, on the basis of applications sent to prospective emigrants, a “bench-mark” figure of 60,000 emigrants annually would be expected.
Kissinger said today “We have every right to expect,” as he noted his letter to Jackson had indicated, “that the emigration rate will correspond to the number of applicants and there will be no interference with applications. If some of the current estimates about potential applicants are correct, then this should lead to an increase in emigration.” Emigration in 1973 was 33.500. but this year, Kissinger said. it had declined by 40 percent. He said the reason for the decline was in the realm of speculation.
NAILING DOWN DETAILS MAY BACKFIRE
Kissinger’s acknowledgement that “faith” was the ultimate testing ground of the understanding with the Soviets was made under questioning by Sen. Abraham Ribicoff (D.Conn.). The Senator observed, “We’ll have to take much of this on faith” and “I personally have faith” in President Ford and Secretary Kissinger that they will “open up” Soviet emigration. Ribicoff also noted that Congress “has retained a whole bundle of powers” to see that the Russians comply.
When Kissinger was asked by Sen. Vance Hartke (D.Ind.) about the apparent assurance in his letter that the Soviet government would adhere to the order of applicants to receive visas, Kissinger seemed to side-step a response, replying “Any attempt now publicly to nail down” specific details would be “likely to backfire.” Under questioning by Sen. Robert Dole (R.Kan.), Kissinger said that the Israeli government had expressed “the view” that it could proceed to absorb “any number in the foreseeable future” from the Soviet Union.
Kissinger said that “strictly speaking” the understanding bearing on Soviet emigration is that it applies to “all nationalities” and that there is “no specific reference only to Jews.” But, he said, “in the legislative history” Jewish emigration “has been the primary focus.” He said that in his conversations with Soviet leaders “we were talking about Jewish emigration.” He also said, with regard to monitoring systems, the “various organizations” in contact with prospective emigrants would form a “Judgment” on “substantial violations.”
During the hearings today Byrd and several other Senators indicated that if the USSR failed to comply on the emigration issue some sort of ceiling would be written into the pending Export-Import Bank Bill which provides loans and loan guarantees. Kissinger warned that if Congress writes a ceiling into this bill there would be a “good possibility” that Moscow would spurn both MFN and American credits. The Soviet Union is anxious to get both MFN and credits from the U.S.