The crucial compromise that made the INF Treaty between the United States and the Soviet Union possible was verification. If verification is possible for arms agreements to ensure improved relations between the United States and the Soviet Union, it should also be possible for human rights treaties.

It is well known that the Soviets have in the past broken the provisions of many treaties, including the Helsinki Accords of 1975. In fact, during the late '70s several Helsinki monitoring groups were set up in the U.S.S.R. specifically to monitor Soviet compliance with the treaty. In order to cover up their noncompliance, the Soviets crushed those groups, sending hundreds of persons into imprisonment, camps and exile.

That was before the accession of Mikhail Gorbachev to the position of secretary general of the Communist Party and the advent of glasnost. Although many prominent dissidents and refuseniks have subsequently been released, many less well-known individuals are still imprisoned. This includes 16 Helsinki Monitors, such as Vitaly Kalnychenko, Mark Niklus and Vassily Ovsienko, who are still in labor camps, and Tatiana Velikanova, who remains in exile. Also approximately 300,000 Jews have applied legally for exit visas from the U.S.S.R. and have been refused.

These cases cannot be dismissed simply as Soviet internal problems because they are covered by the provisions of the Helsinki Accords (Basket III), which is an international obligation the Soviet Union solemnly signed. If Mr. Gorbachev wishes the United States to trust the Soviets, then several steps are necessary. The remaining Helsinki Monitors still imprisoned must be released, and Soviet Jews who wish to emigrate must be allowed to do so according to established international norms.

In order to ensure Soviet compliance with its obligations, an acceptable form of Helsinki monitoring must be in place by a U.S. government agency (such as the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe) or by independent Western agencies (such as the Helsinki Watch Committee and the National Conference on Soviet Jewry) or by independent Soviet groups (such as the Helsinki Monitors).

When individuals can come together in the U.S.S.R. without intimidation to monitor compliance of the Soviet authorities with human rights obligations, then the U.S. public may learn to trust the Russians. Anything less is effective public relations, but little more.

JACK S. COHEN Bethesda