A Message from Reagan to Gorbachev

President Reagan told Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in Reykjavik that “sustained improvement in Soviet human rights performance, including the treatment of Soviet Jews, is indispensable for an improvement in overall U.S.-Soviet relations,” it was reported here last Friday.

At a news conference, Morris Abram, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, made public a letter he had received from the White House in which the President described his conversations with the General Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party in Iceland last October.

The President’s letter, dated December 5, states: “Please accept my assurances that the tragic circumstances of Soviet Jews will continue to be an issue of the highest priority in all our dealings with the Soviet Union.” He added: “We will not forget how much they suffer because of their desire to live in freedom and practice their religion without persecution, and we will do everything in our power to help them.”

Asserting that “the plight of Soviet Jewry is a matter of deep personal concern to me and to the other members of the U.S. government,” Reagan said in his letter to Abram: “Private organizations such as those you represent make an important contribution to our efforts to bring about an improvement in the human rights situation in the Soviet Union. Your commitment and activism provide a concrete example of how deeply Americans care about human rights and freedom of movement.”

Of his conversations in Reykjavik, the President wrote: “We discussed with the Soviets many areas in which progress is possible, such as regional issues and the vitally important area of arms control. I made it very clear to the Soviet leaders, however, that sustained improvement in human rights performance, including the treatment of Soviet Jews, is indispensable for an improvement in overall U.S.-Soviet relations.

“The American people simply will not have it otherwise,” Reagan wrote.

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