A major East-West human-rights conference is already scheduled to take place sometime in 1991 - but where? The Soviet government insists that the right place is Moscow, but the Reagan administration has been resisting.

According to a State Department spokesman, Washington will agree to meet in Moscow only if it sees "significant steps by the Soviets to improve their human rights performance" and "guarantees of access and openness by the Soviets to anyone who wishes to participate." Concretely, that seems to mean that the Gorbachev regime should release its remaining 250 to 300 political prisoners, allow former prisoners and other dissidents to speak at the meeting, and show much more progress in areas such as freedom of emigration.Those conditions make sense, but they should be tied to something more important than the mere location of a meeting. How about instructing the Commerce Department to link them to further concessions in U.S.-Soviet trade?