NEW YORK (Dec. 1)
Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, in an interview with NBC News correspondent Tom Brokaw Monday night, assailed America’s interest in the struggle of Soviet Jews.
The extraordinary hour-long interview, broadcast nationally, was arranged in light of next week’s summit conference between Gorbachev and President Reagan.
Gorbachev claimed the United States is “organizing a brain drain” by pushing for emigration, and the Soviet response is, therefore, one of self-protection. He added that the Soviets “will never accept a condition when the people are exhorted from outside to leave their country.”
Appearing defensive, Gorbachev assured Brokaw that the Soviet Union is considering “all the specific individual cases. . . in a very attentive and thorough manner,” which, he said, Congress and the president know very well.
Assuring Soviet good will, Gorbachev said his government would “continue in a spirit of humaneness seek to resolve every individual case, but within the framework of our own laws.”
Using an unusual phrase for a declared atheist, he warned the United States not to “go into another man’s monastery with your own charter.”
Gorbachev admitted that family reunification was a problem, and he said “we shall do our best to have those problems resolved.”
‘STATE SECURITY’ CITED
The Soviet leader cited “state security” reasons when Brokaw asked what Gorbachev thought “man to man” about long delays in the processing of visas for 4,000 Jews, including cancer victims, who wish to be reunited with their families in “their closing days.”
Gorbachev claimed there remain “only those who cannot leave because of state security reasons. There are no other reasons, and we will continue to act that way.”
In Washington, State Department spokesman Charles Redman disputed this claim at a news conference Tuesday, saying, “There are prospective emigrants who have not done any secret work for 10 or 15 years and they’re getting turned down again and again. That’s a fact and it’s documented.”
Rejoining Gorbachev’s parry that Soviet rules of behavior shouldn’t be fashioned by outsiders, Redman said that the United States is simply asking the Soviets to live up to the human-rights provisions of the Helsinki Accords.
Redman said that “If indeed those are the views, then there are probably going to be some good exchanges” at the summit.
Responding to Gorbachev’s “brain drain” comment, Redman said the Soviets shouldn’t attempt to use that as a basis for emigration visa denials, because the right to emigrate “belongs to all people, whether they are intellectuals, workers or any sort of person.”
‘MORE OF THE SAME’
In New York, Alan Pesky, chairman of the Coalition to Free Soviet Jews, said that Gorbachev had offered “more of the same — and less.” He reminded that under Gorbachev, emigration is “only a fraction of what it was” under Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev.
Persky also cited laws instituted in January “that virtually barred emigration to the vast majority of the tens of thousands of Soviet Jews” who have begun the application process.
Despite Gorbachev’s “unique opportunity to make a substantive statement to the American people” about Jewish emigration and human rights, said Pesky, Gorbachev had instead indicated “that his policies are more, not less, restrictive.”
Meanwhile, the National Conference on Soviet Jewry announced Tuesday that 910 Soviet Jews emigrated during the month of November. To date, 7,250 Jews have left the Soviet Union this year, compared to a total of 914 for all of 1986, only four short of the November figure.
The figures for May through November reveal a series of ups and downs, with the November tally two less than that for October, and the 912 figure for October contrasting favorably with the 724 Jews who left the Soviet Union in September of this year. In May, 871 Jews emigrated; in June, 796; in July, 819; and in August, 787.
Commenting on November’s figure, the NCSJ said, “Jewish emigration has apparently leveled off and in fact fell again for the fourth time this year. This disappointing development indicates that ‘glasnost’ does not work for the tens of thousands of Soviet Jews who have indicated their desire to leave the USSR.”