WASHINGTON (Jun. 14)
National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft told the National Conference on Soviet Jewry on Wednesday that he felt the group’s conditional support for a waiver of Jackson-Vanik Amendment sanctions came at “the right time.”
In an interview outside the White House, Shoshana Cardin, chairwoman of the National Conference, said Scowcroft welcomed her group’s support for a waiver should President Bush receive “appropriate assurances” on four emigration issues. She spoke after a delegation of NCSJ leaders met with White House officials, including Scowcroft.
The group’s Board of Governors voted 48-3 Tuesday, with one abstention to support the waiver, as long as there is a sustained high level of Soviet emigration; the Soviets codify promised emigration reforms; there is progress on resolving the cases of long-term refuseniks; and they reverse emigration refusals to those who allegedly had access to state secrets.
The Jackson-Vanik Amendment has denied most-favored-nation trade status and U.S. government trade credits to the Soviet Union since 1975. The amendment permits a waiver of trade sanctions if the Soviets make substantial improvements in their emigration practices.
Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Thomas Downey (D-N.Y.) are planning to introduce a non-binding resolution in Congress this week calling for a waiver of the amendment, provided that the administration receives various assurances.
Brian Connally, Moynihan’s press secretary, said he had not seen a draft of the resolution, so he could not specify the assurances being sought.
UNION OF COUNCILS DISAGREES
On Capitol Hill Wednesday afternoon, both the National Conference and the other principal Soviet Jewry umbrella group in the United States, the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews, testified before two House Foreign Affairs subcommittees holding joint hearings on the U.S -Soviet trade relationship.
The Union of Councils has criticized the National Conference’s decision to conditionally favor a Jackson-Vanik waiver as a “premature major concession” to the Soviets.
David Waksberg, the group’s national vice president, told the two House panels Wednesday afternoon that to waive Jackson-Vanik in advance of promised Soviet regulatory reforms “would be tantamount to betrayal” of refuseniks and the Soviet emigration movement.
The Soviets understand that “if we give a waiver now, it means we are fully satisfied now” with emigration reforms to date, said Waksberg.
But Cardin of NCSJ noted, in testimony prepared for delivery to the congressional panels, that her group is “not satisfied with the progress achieved thus far.”
She said that between 400 and 600 long-term emigration cases remain unresolved and that denials based on access to alleged state secrets are still a major problem. The group is also “seriously concerned about the rise in anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union,” she said.
Nevertheless, Cardin said the National Conference believes it is time to abandon the “stick approach” and use the “carrot approach” to try to “move the Soviets to address their emigration policies and practices that are still deficient.”
WILL SUPPORT PRESIDENT’S POSITION
Attending the White House meeting Wednesday morning were Cardin; Martin Wenick, NCSJ’s executive director; Mark Levin, the group’s Washington representative; and David Harris, Washington representative of the American Jewish Committee.
In addition to Scowcroft, they met with Richard Haass, senior director of the National Security Council for the Near East and South Asia, and Condoleezza Rice, NSC director for European and Soviet affairs.
Scowcroft, for his part, “welcomed our understanding of the need to help move Soviet U.S. bilateral relations, and he feels that this is the right time,” Cardin said.
The NCSJ “assured him that it is our intention to support the president as he seeks assurances” from the Soviets, she said. They did not discuss a timetable for Bush to provide such assurances, she added.
“I made it clear from our perspective the president has the responsibility to develop the assurances that he believes are necessary,” she said.
Scowcroft and the NCSJ did not discuss the Stevenson Amendment, a less-powerful measure that withholds U.S. government loan guarantees from the Soviets. “He asked, ‘Have you focused primarily on Jackson-Vanik?’ and we said, ‘Yes, that’s really where our concern has been,’ “Cardin said.
The meeting was the group’s first with Scowcroft. Before a high-level NCSJ delegation visited the Soviet Union in late May, it met with Commerce Secretary Robert Mosbacher, Cardin said.