Soviet Dissidents and the "Brain Drain"
In the beginning of 1989, Henry Kissinger met with Mikhail Gorbachev for an informal conversation about the future of U.S.-Soviet cooperation, particularly concerning economic opportunities in the Soviet Union. The problem for U.S.-Soviet trade was the Jackson-Vanik Amendment to the 1974 U.S. Trade Act, which banned normalized trade ("Most Favored Nation" status) with countries that had restrictions on emigration. It was popularly understood in the U.S. to be targeted at the Soviet Union for forbidding the emigration of Jews and other Soviet dissidents. Even in 1989, after Gorbachev had eased some emigration restrictions from his ongoing reforms (perestroika), this trade act was a sticking point in U.S.-Soviet relations. Gorbachev suggested that the "brain drain," or the loss of university-educated men and women through emigration was the source of restrictions on emigration, not the political or religious beliefs of dissidents.
Henry Kissinger, conversation with Mikhail Gorbachev, January 17, 1989, trans. Svetlana Savranskaya, Notes of A. S. Chernyaev, Archive of the Gorbachev Foundation, Cold War International History Project, Virtual Archive, CWIHP (accessed May 14, 2008).