Supporters of Soviet Jewry React to Gromyko’s Letter

Supporters of Soviet Jewry reacted swiftly today to the Gromyko letter released by Tass in Moscow this evening repudiating any understanding between the U.S. and the USSR on Soviet emigration practices. Stanley H. Lowell, chairman of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry, expressed “shock and consternation” in a statement released in New York today.

Members of the Senate-House Conference Committee currently resolving differences in their respective versions of the Trade Reform Bill indicated that the Jackson Amendment will remain in the legislation and that Moscow will have to comply with the terms of the understanding on emigration or forego U.S. trade benefits. Under the legislation, President Ford has 18 months to determine whether the Russians are complying.

Lowell stated: ‘We assume that Secretary Kissinger will pick up the ‘not line’ between Washington and Moscow to obtain prompt clarification. First reports indicate that this (Gromyko’s letter) is a total rejection of the entire basis upon which the Congress and the Ford Administration contemplated passage of the Trade Reform Act.” He added that Kissinger had asserted that assurances of harassment would be ended, as spelled out in the Kissinger-Jackson letters, by Gromyko in his meeting with Kissinger and Soviet Ambassador Anatoly F. Dobrynin at his meeting with Ford and Kissinger.

CONGRESSMEN SAY LETTER IS MEANINGLESS

Sen. Russell Long, chairman of the Senate-House Conference Committee, brushed off the Gromyko letter today. “I don’t pay any attention to what the Russians say anyway.” he told newsmen. He said the Tass announcement “doesn’t affect me one way or the other.” A similar reaction was given by Sen. Abraham Ribicoff (D.Conn.) who with Sen. Henry M. Jackson (D.Wash.) and Sen. Jacob K. Javits (R.NY) played a key role in negotiations with President Ford and Kissinger on Soviet emigration practices.

“It’s meaningless at the present time,” Ribicoff said, meaning that the Gromyko repudiation will not affect U.S. expectations expressed in the Jackson Amendment. He recalled that Kissinger appeared before the Senate Finance Committee Dec. 3 “and at that time he indicated that what was worked out was satisfactory to the Soviet Union.” One Congressman said the Soviet announcement may have been intended for internal consumption.

Jackson said he was not concerned over the Gromyko letter which he speculated was “probably in the face-saving category.” But he said it was “important to see the contents of the letter and to get the full and true meaning of it.” Asked if he had any evidence that the Russians were tightening restrictions on Jewish and other emigration, Jackson replied that “everything has been to the contrary.” He noted that the trade bill had adequate safeguards on the emigration issue in its present form.

SEE DETENTE AS UNDERMINED

In Washington, B’nai B’rith president David M. Blumberg said that if Gromyko’s letter “is not mere propaganda aimed at placating the Arabs on the eve of Communist Party chief Leonid Brezhnev’s visit to Cairo, then the Soviets have bargained in bad faith and reneged on their assurances to Secretary of State Kissinger.” Moreover. Blumberg added, “they have undermined detente itself.”

He said the trade bill had been passed on the assumption that 60,000 Soviet immigrants would leave next year and “that figure was not pulled from the air. It was realistically based on assuming that the Soviets would end their policy of obstruction and harassment of the applicants for visas to leave the country.” But, Blumberg added, “if the Gromyko statement is Soviet policy and practice, then the Soviets may be sure that the trade concessions will not be permitted by Congress.”

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