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Reagan Pledges to Press the Issue of Soviet Jewry Meeting with USSR F.m.

September 15, 1987
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President Reagan pledged Monday to continue pressing the “plight of Soviet Jews” in his meeting with Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze and at any summit meeting with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

In a letter read by Micah Naftalin, Washington representative of the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews (UCSJ) to the UCSJ’s annual meeting here, Reagan also said: “Let me assure you that I and the whole of my Administration support the continuation of the Jackson-Vanik and Stevenson Amendments and shall scrupulously abide by their provisions.”

Reagan’s stress on support of the legislation which links trade with increased Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union was apparently in a reply to a letter from Naftalin and UCSJ president Pamela Cohen expressing concern about his nomination of William Verity, Jr., as Secretary of Commerce.

Verity, a former steel company executive, has expressed opposition to Jackson-Vanik in the past. At his confirmation hearing last week, he said he supports Jackson-Vanik, although he has reservations about its effectiveness.

Reagan is scheduled to meet Shevardnadze Tuesday before the Soviet official begins three days of talks with Secretary of State George Shultz. The meetings are expected to lead to a Reagan-Gorbachev summit later this year.

“I shall press for major improvements in the plight of Soviet Jews and for full freedom of emigration, just as I have in previous meetings,” Reagan said in his letter to the UCSJ. “We shall maintain constructive political pressure, the pressure of public opinion, of allied governments, and of a courageous Jewish community within the USSR, buoyed by our support. We must preserve and use the instruments of policy that advance the cause.”

Reagan noted that there have been some recent “positive steps” by Soviet leaders with the release of some political prisoners and increased Jewish emigration.

“We applaud these moves because they inspire hope for more progress which we wish to encourage,” the President said. “But these positive steps are not only far from enough, their timing and nature suggest a quest for diplomatic effect, not justice. And they coexist with ominous indicators of possible future tightening of emigration and of a growth in anti-Semitism in some quarters.”


Reagan’s words were echoed by his National Security Council’s director of European and Soviet Affairs, Fritz Ermarth, in a speech to the UCSJ Monday.

The recent Soviet action is “so transparently a manipulative policy” that “it contains an implicit threat that it could be reversed, that it could be turned off, that it springs from a mentality that regards people as hostages and material for political and diplomatic bargaining,” Ermarth said.

“We are looking for justice, not gestures,” he stressed. “We will take the gestures appreciatively, but it can’t stop there.”

Ermarth warned that the policy of “glasnost” which is causing political, economic and social “turbulence” in the USSR presents a danger for Soviet Jews. He said it is already resulting in “popular anti-Semitism” and may also lead to “official and sub rosa victimization and scapegoating.”

At the same time, Ermarth noted that “attention to the plight faced by Soviet Jews has done more than any other single phenomenon in the past decade-and-a-half to register on the thinking of Americans and the world as a whole that the internal nature of the Soviet system and its external behavior are intimately linked… It is thus vital that we maintain that appreciation in the years ahead.”

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