WASHINGTON (May. 18)
A Columbia University expert on the Soviet Union suggested today that the West Europeans might be able to exert more leverage than the United States on the Soviet Union in behalf of Soviet Jewry.
But, Dr. Seweryn Bialer, director of Columbia University’s Research Institute on International Change, said that most West European governments, especially West Germany, are “insensitive” to the issue. “They want to have detente with the Soviet Union at any price,” he told the 1981 Policy Conference of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry.
Bialer told the Jewish leaders from across the country, attending the Conference, which ended today, that U.S. leverage is limited now because the Soviet leaders are assessing whether President Reagan’s policy toward the USSR is more than just “tough” talk.
Bialer gave a gloomy assessment of the situation for Soviet Jewry. He said the situation in the 1980s is “dangerous” for Jews in the USSR because the Soviet standard of living will stagnate or deteriorate, especially in the cities, causing unrest among workers; and there would also be increased unrest among the non-Slavic nationalities, whose population is increasing, over the Slavic peoples. He said this will cause the government to use the Jews as scapegoats.
In addition, Bialer predicted that in the next few years, not only will Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev be replaced, but also half of the present Soviet leadership. He said this will bring in a new leadership who came into the government in the post-Stalin era and who will not only be more authoritarian, but will be the most chauvinistic Soviet leadership since the 1917 Bolshevik revolution. He also said that this new leadership will be more anti-Semitic personally than the present generation of leaders.
Among international developments that may be harmful to Soviet Jewry, Bialer predicted a major Soviet drive for influence in the Persian Gulf. He said this may result in the Soviet Union restricting emigration of Jews in order to gain more influence with Arab nations.
RACING AGAINST TIME
Theodore Mann of Philadelphia, who was re-elected to a second term as NCSJ chairman, told the group that “what we have accomplished in a decade is nothing so short of miraculous. But we are racing against time.”
Mann said American Jews must be more involved in the Soviet Jewry movement, making it part of their everyday life. He announced that a letter writing campaign to the White House will be conducted during the next two months to assure that the Administration will “vigorously” raise the question of Soviet Jewry in negotiating a renewal of the grain sales and in other negotiations with the Soviet Union. He also said that the NCSJ leaders will try to get the Administration to spell out the goals they will seek to obtain from the USSR on Soviet Jewry in these talks.
At a session yesterday, Elliott Abrams, Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, reaffirmed Reagan’s commitment to place Soviet Jewry on the agenda of any negotiations with the USSR. “Our strength and our firmness on these issues are the only road to peace.”
David Smith, a Canadian member of Parliament, declared: “The Canadians demonstrate, and have always maintained, a strong position on this issue,” on rights for Soviet Jewry.
Much of the NCSJ’s efforts for the next few months will be preparing for the third annual Brussels World Conference on Soviet Jewry to be held in Paris in October.