WASHINGTON (May. 14)
Natan (Anatoly) Shcharansky said Tuesday that he told President Reagan that he has the “historic opportunity” to bring about the emigration of all Jews who want to leave the Soviet Union.
“The fate of 400,000 Soviet Jews, to a great extent, is in his (Reagan’s) hands,” Shcharansky said at a press conference following his more than 30-minute meeting, with Reagan at the White House. “I am sure that he is the President who can reach success, who can help make the Soviet Union to open the gates.”
Shcharansky explained that Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, more than his predecessors, understands the “catastrophic situation” of the Soviet economy and that it needs trade with the United States.
He said it was thus up to the President not to be “deceived by cosmetic improvements” in human rights while Congress must not lift trade barriers until Jews are allowed to emigrate. The latter was a reference of the Jackson/Vanik Amendment.
THANKS REAGAN FOR HIS STRONG CAMPAIGN
Shcharansky arrived at the White House accompanied by Secretary of State George Shultz. Others attending the meeting were Vice President George Bush, National Security Advisor John Poindexter and White House Chief of Staff Donald Regan.
Shcharansky said that after his arrival in Israel he telephoned Reagan to thank him for his efforts in gaining his release after nine years in Soviet prisons. He said on Tuesday he was able to express “my deepest gratitude” personally.
“I am sure that my release would never have been possible if there were not such a strong, open campaign for me, and if President Reagan personally did not take such a strong, open position on my behalf,” Shcharansky told reporters outside the White House.
The White House did not release any details of the meeting in keeping with its quiet diplomacy approach on human rights. Shcharansky, who said he was “very encouraged” by the meeting, said he was not surprised that there should be differences between him and the President.
“We sit in different chairs,” he said at the press conference. “He is the President of the United States of America and I am previously a Prisoner of Zion and now, thank God, an ordinary citizen of the State of Israel.”
OUIET DIPLOMACY AND PUBLIC PRESSURE
But he stressed to reporters at the White House that “quiet diplomacy, from my point of view, can help only if it is supported by strong public pressure, so that for the Soviet Union there will be no illusions that the question of human right, the question of Soviet Jews, the question of emigration are very closely connected to their economic and political interests.”
Shcharansky said at his press conference that the Reagan Administration “deals much better than its predecessor” with the Soviet Union. He said he was “deeply impressed” by Reagan’s “understanding of the problem of Soviet Jews and his commitment to the struggle of the right of our people to leave the Soviet Union and to join my people in Israel” as well as for human rights in general.
He said he told the President about the “strong impression” his speeches made on Soviet Jews in prison camps. Shcharansky was very careful not to reveal directly any comments made by the President. When a reporter pressed him, he quipped that the KGB failed in trying to break him down and so “you have no chance with me.”
After leaving the White House Shcharansky went to the District Building, Washington’s City Hall, where Mayor Marion Barry presented him the key to the District of Columbia.