President Bush on Monday took the first in a planned series of steps to extend aid to the Soviet Union's economic reform program. The move came as administration officials tried to clear away obstacles to a hoped-for summit meeting in Moscow this month.
The step was large in symbolic importance but limited in practical impact: waiving for another year the restrictions of the Jackson-Vanik Amendment that bar the Soviets from participating in U.S. export subsidy programs.
The Jackson-Vanik measure was adopted in 1974 to prod the Soviets into easing their emigration laws, particularly for Soviet Jews, and was a highly contentious issue between the countries until Bush first granted the Soviets a waiver in December.
Renewing the waiver amounts to a vote of confidence in current Soviet policies, under which the numbers of Soviets emigrating rose from 2,000 in 1986 to more than 370,000 in 1990, the White House said.
The chief practical impact will be to allow the Soviets continued access to credits with which to buy U.S. grain. But the waiver also is a prerequisite for giving the Soviets Most Favored Nation trade status, which White House officials expect Bush to recommend to Congress later this month.
Meanwhile, administration negotiators began work on what could be the final round of talks leading to a nuclear weapons reduction agreement between the two superpowers. Administration officials differ on how much work needs to be done. One source said Department of Defense officials complain that pressure to resolve the arms talks in time for a summit could cause U.S. negotiators to make too many compromises with the Soviets.