WASHINGTON (Mar. 5)
Two major Soviet Jewry organizations told Secretary of State James Baker Friday that they do not at present support waivers of the Jackson-Vanik or Stevenson amendments.
The two measures, which restrict U.S. government aid, most-favored-nation trade status and loans to Soviet-bloc countries, could be waived this year by Congress should Soviet human rights improvements be judged sufficient.
The National Conference on Soviet Jewry and the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews, in separate meetings with Baker, urged him to raise specific concerns at his March 6 meeting in Vienna with Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze.
Both groups were assured that human rights will figure prominently on the agenda.
Shoshana Cardin, chairwoman of the National Conference, said Baker was told that the organization is reassessing its position, which has been to oppose waivers of the amendments.
Micah Naftalin, national director of the UCSJ, said his group told Baker not to support a waiver of the Jackson-Vanik Amendment until the Soviets follow through on promised emigration reforms.
These include elimination, as early as April, of the waiting period for those designated as holding state secrets; resolution of all outstanding refusenik cases; and an increase in emigration to levels approaching the 1979 high of more than 51,000.
In a UCSJ report submitted to Baker, the group said the Stevenson Amendment should be lifted if all of the above promises are met and emigration reaches somewhere between 30,000 and 35,000 Soviet Jews annually, Naftalin said.
“Baker made it clear that he fully understood our position” on Jackson-Vanik, Naftalin said. But “he did not make a specific commitment to any single point we made.”
CONCERN ABOUT ANTI-SEMITISM
Other administration officials at both meetings included Robert Kimmitt, undersecretary of state for political affairs; Richard Schifter, outgoing assistant secretary of state for human rights and humanitarian affairs; Dennis Ross, director of the policy planning staff; and Alexander Vershbow, director of the State Department’s Soviet desk.
Cardin said her group urged Baker to support both freedom of emigration for Soviet Jews and freedom to practice one’s “cultural heritage” on Soviet soil. The conference presented Baker with a list of 2,597 refuseniks who want to emigrate.
Both groups expressed concern about the rise of anti-Semitic groups under glasnost. At the UCSJ meeting, Naftalin said Baker responded that “whatever else we hear about the improvements under glasnost, there are adverse effects” that have led to more anti-Semitism.
On possible increases in the U.S. refugee ceiling for Soviet Jews, “the secretary did ask us to recognize that there are budget constraints,” Cardin said.
The National Conference also said it wants to see the new Soviet Jewish cultural center codified under Soviet law and that Hebrew be recognized as the official language of Soviet Jews.