As noted in a previous post on this blog, the 1974 Jackson-Vanik Amendment haunts Russian-American relations. Designed to punish the Soviet Union for its lack of free emigration, it still applies to Russia even though that nation has relatively liberal emigration policies. While no longer needed, keeping it on the books hurts American national security. As one example, for reasons explained in that earlier post, it hampers our nuclear nonproliferation efforts relative to Iran.
Unfortunately, due to lack of media coverage, most Americans are unaware of this dangerous Cold War relic. Just last week, I had dinner with a group of Stanford undergraduates and, not surprisingly, not one of them had heard of Jackson-Vanik. Russians, on the other hand, are all too aware of Jackson-Vanik. Just yesterday, the Moscow Times had an article that noted:
New START is the only tangible example of President Dmitry Medvedev’s singular foreign policy achievement — the reset with Washington. Other reset deliverables are either yet to materialize — for example, repealing Jackson-Vanik — or constitute largely “reputational gains” for Moscow when it buys international goodwill at a cost, such as Medvedev’s arms embargo on Iran.
While there were other constituencies that advocated for adopting this law in 1974, the American Jewish community played a major role in its effort to remove barriers to the emigration of the Soviet Union’s persecuted Jewish minority. As noted in his comment to my earlier post, Jerry Goodman, Founding Executive Director of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry, stated:
As one who helped lead the campaign to adopt the Jackson-Vanik Amendment to trade laws I have long supported the lifting of the restrictions as they apply to Russia. The treatment of the Jewish minority in today’s post-Soviet Russia demonstrates that Moscow has fulfilled its obligations. It is in compliance with the provisions of the Jackson-Vanik Amendment, and Jewish emigration is unhampered. While not linked to the amendment, state sponsored anti-Semitism has also ceased. There are moral as well as political reasons for acting to remove the trade restrictions and continue normalizing ties with Moscow.
If the Cold War really is over, let’s start by getting rid of this dangerous thorn in Russian-American relations that serves no useful purpose.