In today’s edition of the National Review, Conrad Black articulately points out how RN successfully secured the emigration of Soviet Jews, giving substantive context to an exchange Secretary of State Henry Kissinger had with the President in 1973:
This was a regrettable comment by a man who was a Jewish fugitive from the Nazi atrocities, and an unbecoming sentiment for the president’s principal foreign-policy collaborator. But the conduct of those trying to tie Jewish emigration to every aspect of the Soviet-U.S. relationship was exceedingly irritating, and it was counterproductive, as the Nixon administration secured a vast increase in the numbers of such emigrants when it ceased to be a matter of direct disagreement between the two countries.
In the end, the President felt he could accomplish more by taking a tactful approach. He was right. RN in his own words:
I felt we could accomplish a great deal more on the Jewish emigration issue when we were talking with the Soviets than when we were not. As I said to one group of American Jewish leaders, “The walls of the Kremlin are very thick. “If you are inside, there is a chance that they will listen to you; if you are outside you are not even going to be heard.” That was the approach we adopted. Although we did not publicly challenge the Soviet contention that these questions involved Soviet internal affairs, both Kissinger and I raised them privately with Brezhnev, Gromyko, and Dobrynin. This approach brought results. In March 1973 Dobrynin informed Kissinger that the high exit tax, which the Soviets described as the repayment of state educational expenses by those who wanted to move abroad, had been removed and only a nominal fee was now required of emigres from the Soviet Union to Israel. He said that a similar approach would be maintained in the future. Brezhnev sent me a personal note claiming that 95.5 percent of the requests for emigration visas to Israel during 1972 had been granted. Whether or not this claim was exaggerated, the statistics are proof of undeniable success: from 1968 to 1971 only 15,000 Soviet Jews were allowed to emigrate. In 1972 alone, however, the number jumped to 31, 400. In 1973, the last full year of my presidency, nearly 35,000 were permitted to leave, this figure is still the record high.