INT: You were saying that there were certain aspects of Kissinger's policy that Senator Jackson and yourself disagreed with.
RP: 'Scoop' disagreed profoundly with Kissinger's effort to draw the Soviet Union into a relationship characterized by many interactions, that together would in the Kissinger theory, tie the Soviets down, Gulliverise them and there was a memorable cover of The Economist, which showed Brezhnev tied down by a thousand threads and little people pulling on these threads and the threads were meant to be agreements on science and technology and economics and endless number of agreements, the theory being that if we interacted on a broad enough front, it would somehow socialize, by which I mean civilize. So... the Soviet Union, bring them into the world political order, which was dominated by Western norms and values and it was highly theoretical and he thought profoundly mistaken way to approach the Soviet Union.
INT: You were particularly active in helping Senator Jackson frame what became known as the Jackson-Vanik Amendment, can you tell me about that?
RP: Oh yes. It was in the spring of 1972, the Soviet Union began to collect a new tax, an education tax on would-be emigrants, most of whom at that time were Jews. following the '67 war in the Middle East, a sense of Jewish identity and consciousness had begun to develop among the Jews of the Soviet Union and they started asking for permission to leave and permission was being reluctantly granted, capriciously and at the whim of the Soviet authorities, but a stream of emigrants had begun to leave. Then, in 1972, June I think it was, along came an education tax, which demanded payment vastly larger than any Soviet could manage to muster. In theory, repaying the state for the education they'd received as they were leaving and it looked to 'Scoop' and to many others as though this was the device by which the Soviet authorities had decided they were going to shut the door on emigration., 'Scoop' was very keen to keep that flow of emigrants open, for a lot of reasons, some emotional reasons - he strongly identified with the plight of the Soviet Jews - for political reasons - he believed that the opportunity to emigrate was a source of pressure on governments to make life tolerable for people, so they wouldn't vote with their feet. he was eager to see open borders, he thought it had a democratizing and a civilizing effect on governments. So he was very anxious to keep those doors open and about that time, some legislation was required by the administration to implement a trade agreement, which had been signed between the United States and the Soviet Union, a trade agreement that was one of the détente agreements intended to develop new avenues of co-operation, and 'Scoop' saw an opportunity and he seized it. he drafted legislation that made that trade agreement's concessions to the Soviet side, the most favored nation status and access to credits, contingent upon free emigration. And he then set about building majority in the Senate and then ultimately working with Congressman Charles Vanik in the House, a majority in both Houses, to legislate that Jackson-Vanik amendment, which made as a matter of American law, concessions on trade contingent upon free emigration.
INT: What was the reaction of the Nixon administration?
RP: Well, Nixon and Kissinger, of course, were dismayed because the amendment threatened one of the key elements of the package of détente agreements, the trade agreement, and it was a blow to Soviet prestige as well, because to deny them a set of trade arrangements that had been negotiated over a period of time on human rights grounds, was very difficult for them to take. so the administration was dead set against it. They tried very hard to stop it. I think they realized that they would have trouble stopping it, and in any case, Nixon was a supremely political animal. It was 1972, it was an election year and 'Scoop' had a meeting with Nixon, which I think has probably never been reported, it's certainly not widely known, in which he said to Nixon, a lot of Republicans are eager to co-sponsor this amendment, they're not doing so because of White House pressure, which was coming from not only from his lobbyists, but from Kissinger. this bis going to die at the end of this Congress, because all of our legislaexpires when the Congress adjourns for a presidential election, so why don't you let them sign up, you know it isn't going to pass and they will be able then to take a position they wish to take, in many cases their constituents want them to take and it's good politics for you and good politics for them and it will send a message to the Soviets as well. And Nixon agreed with that and so the moment he agreed, we got, in addition to a great many Democrats who had signed up, a slew of Republicans, to the point where, as we went into the 1972 presidential election, we had I think, seventy eight co-sponsors for the Jackson amendment - at that point there was no Vanik amendment. the Vanik amendment in fact was the Jackson amendment, simply offered in the House by Congressman Vanik, the identical words., but we had seventy-eight co-sponsors and that sent a powerful message to the Soviets. What Nixon didn't calculate, but 'Scoop' of course did, was that having co-sponsored before the election, it was going to be very difficult for those Senators who returned, not to co-sponsor after the election and that turned out to be the case and we re-introduced the legislation after the election with roughly the same seventy eight co-sponsors and that sent a real shock wave through the White House and the Kremlin.
INT: Did you have any dealings with the Soviet embassy here in Washington, with Ambassador Dobrynin on this issue at all, directly?
RP: The only occasion I can recall a direct meeting with Dobrynin, other than the occasional encounter at a social event, was when Dobrynin asked to come and see 'Scoop', didn't explain why. He came up, he sat in 'Scoop's' office and he invited him to make a visit to the Soviet Union. 'Scoop' said I think to Dobrynin's surprise, he would be delighted to come, very eager to come. he said, of course, if he came there were certain people he would insist on seeing. Dobrynin, I think, thought he was going to say he would insist on seeing Brezhnev, because every other Senator wanted to be seen with the top man. 'Scoop' just assumed he would see Brezhnev if he went, but the person he wanted to identify, right up front, so there would be no misunderstanding, so he wouldn't have to have this meeting furtively,... was Andrei Sakharov and Dobrynin's eyes rolled at the suggestion and he said, I'll have to go back to Moscow on that, and the invitation was withdrawn. But there was no way and so 'Scoop' never did go. There was no way he was going to go to the Soviet Union and not see Andrei Sakharov.
INT: What were the perceived disadvantages of trading with the Soviet Union, increasing trade with the Soviet Union as détente theoretically would allow, apart from obviously the issue of the Refusniks?
RP: We didn't think there was a lot of potential for trade with the Soviet Union, certainly not in manufactured goods, a bit in raw materials, but raw materials entered the United States largely free of duties any way, so the trade agreement didn't have much of an impact on that., what seemed more likely was a flow of credits from the United States to the Soviet Union, particularly credits associated with oil and gas development, in fact the sort of thing one is now seeing and we were not eager to support that. It seemed to us that our great advantage in the Cold War was the weakness of the Soviet economy and the fact that they were investing already massively in military forces and a predictable and large share of any additional revenue would also go to the military. So we were not at all eager to see a great in-flow of capital, which would in turn create exportable resources.
INT: Of course, there was also the SALT 1 agreement, could you describe your reaction to that and how the Nixon administration was vulnerable to criticism?
RP: Well, what we now recall as the SALT I agreement actually consisted of two things. one was a treaty banning ballistic missile defenses and the second was an agreement on offensive systems and the idea was that if you had an agreement that dealt with defenses, you should have one that dealt with offences as well. That agreement was described by the Nixon administration and in general and in detail by Henry Kissinger as freezing the then obtaining balance between the United States and the Soviet Union in the principal categories of nuclear weapons that were covered by the agreement, ballistic missiles, both land-based and based on submarines, and strategic bombers. we didn't like that agreement much, because it froze the levels at a moment at which the Soviet Union had pretty clear superiority and moreover, it left open competition in areas where the US presented an advantage at the time, but that was an advantage that would be visciated by further Soviet development, so it said, in those areas where the US is ahead, the competition is open for the Soviets to catch up and in those cases where we're behind, it's frozen and we can't keep pace as the Soviets build more. So we saw this as an agreement that had asymmetrical consequences, favouring the Soviet Union and... strange as it may seem, we actually got a very large number of Senators, despite the euphoria of that first arms control agreement, to agree with us and the Senate and eventually the Congress as a whole, adopted a Jackson amendment to the legislation authorizing the entry into force of those agreements. We actually got legislation that said, no future agreement should reflect the kind of inequality that's reflected in this agreement and amazingly enough, that agreement, that amendment, which really reshaped attitudes toward what had been accomplished in the SALT 1 agreement, arose during the Reykjavik Summit, twenty years later, and it was the basis upon which we turned down some initial Soviet proposals that would have perpetuated the imbalance, that was set at the time of SALT 1 and had continued all the way through to 1985.
INT: This is roll number 10548, continuation of the interview with Mr. Richard Perle. Was Kissinger seen as somebody a little bit too keen to make agreements with the Soviets?
RP: We thought Kissinger was much too eager for agreement, that it was easy to get caught up in the negotiating process and that agreements had become rather a means to an end, almost an end in themselves. He vehemently deny that and disagree with it, but that's how it looked at the time.
INT: When the revelations concerning Watergate came out as a consequence of the Watergate Committee in the Senate, were you shocked by them?
RP: I don't recall being shocked by Watergate, so much as shocked that a man as shrewd and intelligent, which he undoubtedly was, as Richard Nixon would have done something so foolish. It was an astonishingly stupid thing to do. quite unlike anything else he'd done, at least anything that we were aware of. It seemed bizarre rather than shocking.
INT: What was the political damage that Nixon suffered as a consequence of Watergate, in terms of foreign policy?
RP: Oh, I think the first effect of Watergate, as it mounted in intensity, was... a pre-occupation with dealing with that crisis, to the exclusion of everything else, including foreign policy and that was followed in turn by something even worse, which was an effort to use foreign policy to try to alleviate the pressure. we were very uneasy about summit meetings under those circumstances, because you had a President struggling to survive, who had become accustomed to adulation for the conclusion of agreements with the Soviet Union and who therefore was in a very vulnerable position at the bargaining table in Moscow and who might be tempted to make major concessions in order to get agreements, in the belief that those agreements would shore up his position at home.
INT: The Yom Kippur War of 1973 followed very sharply after the Watergate Committee hearings. You have a particular view of the importance of Israel in relation to American interests, what exactly is that view?
RP: we believed verystrongly that Israel was the only country in the Middle East with whom we could identify philosophically and in terms of values. that the Israelis were willing and basically able todefend themselves if they got diplomatic and political and eventually some financial support from the United States. That they were a bulwark against the expansion of the Soviet Union in the region, although we recognized that they were also invoked as a justification for the involvement of the Soviet Union in the region. But there was no other ally that we could turn to who was as consistent and reliable as Israel, and in any event, we thought that we could not conceive of standing by if Israel was extinguished by totalitarian forces around them. So it wasn't a difficult conclusion to come to, we were very much for Israel and for strengthening Israel and for off-setting, if we could, the influence and the real power that the Soviets acquired in the region, by virtue of its forging something of an anti-Israeli alliance.
INT: Of course, America has a particular problem in regard to the Middle East, because the Middle East is the place where oil is, in vast amounts, and therefore the Arab regimes are the ones sitting on the oil. How does American policy straddle support for Israel and yet keep an eye on the strategic need for oil?
RP: Well, in the period of the Cold War, it always seemed to us that the interests of say the Saudis and the Israelis were far closer than the interests of the Russians and the Saudis, or needless to say the Russians and the Israelis. There was, in fact, a kind of natural set of common interests, despite the Arab-Israeli antagonism, much of which was on the surface and not deeply reflected in the national policies of countries like Saudi Arabia. we thought there was a natural concurrence of interests between Israel's defiance of the Soviet Union and the Saudi desire to remain independent of the Soviet Union. I mean, the Soviet Union was the imperial power in the region, pursuing its own interests and those interests could be traced back to Catherine the Great in 1788, and they were centered on control over... the region and in the modern, over the oil of the region.