Old Saint Basil's Cathedral in MoscowJohnson's Russia List title and scenes of Saint Petersburg
Excerpts from the JRL E-Mail Community :: Founded and Edited by David Johnson

Wall Street Journal
November 5, 2001
Bush Seeks to Lift Cold War Sanction As U.S.-Russia Relations Warm Up

WASHINGTON -- As a sign of the warming U.S.-Russian relationship, President Bush is urging Congress to lift the Jackson-Vanik amendment, the last major Cold War economic sanction on Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin raised the issue when the two presidents met last month in Shanghai, China, and White House officials have moved quickly to try to make it happen.

The 1974 legislation sought to pressure the Soviet Union into allowing unfettered emigration for Soviet Jews by denying it normal trading status. During the past decade, the White House routinely has issued waivers to Russia, but the fact that it is still on the books is an embarrassment for Moscow that also stands in the way of its application for membership in the World Trade Organization.

President Bush could announce his commitment to doing away with the sanction when Mr. Putin comes to the U.S. next week, although the legislation probably won't make it through Congress until early next year.

U.S. and Russian officials are playing down hopes that next week's meetings in Washington and Texas will lead to a breakthrough on the difficult issue of missile defenses, and Mr. Bush is eager to keep up the momentum on the warming relationship.

Mr. Putin's decision to back the U.S. war on terrorism is stirring critics at home, and he needs tangible evidence that Russia is benefiting from its closer alignment with the West.

The White House's eagerness to win one for the Russian leader illustrates the significant change in the relationship since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Karen Hughes, the President's top communications adviser, said that Mr. Bush sees the Russian leader's immediate expression of support -- as well as his commitment to share intelligence and his acceptance of the basing of U.S. troops close to Russia's borders -- as "the response of a friend."

During the three weeks since Shanghai, the administration has rounded up key congressional sponsors for legislation lifting the sanctions on Russia, most notably California Democratic Rep. Tom Lantos, the only Holocaust survivor serving in Congress. It has also reached out to the U.S. Jewish community to tamp down any possible opposition. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, a Russia expert, has taken the lead, meeting twice last week with Mr. Lantos.

The White House had hoped for quick action, but Mr. Lantos made clear it will take a few months to settle all the issues involved. Although there are few Russian Jews left to be affected by emigration policies, the issue remains a sensitive one to the U.S. community mainly because Mr. Putin is seeking to extend the legislation to other former Soviet republics.

Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said that top administration officials have contacted his organization and that there is a "general consensus" Jackson-Vanik should be lifted against Russia. "We understand the president's need, and we want to be supportive," Mr. Hoenlein said.

Mr. Lantos said he will discuss the issue with Mr. Putin next week in Washington, and a congressional trip to Moscow is in the works for later this year. To satisfy concerns in the Jewish community, Mr. Lantos is also considering the creation of a commission to help resolve the issue of property confiscated from religious institutions under Communism.

Mr. Lantos said the Sept. 11 tragedy has led to "a dramatic shift in Russia-U.S. relations, and this is a piece of that mosaic."

Back to the Top    Next Article