1. Memorandum From the Counselor of the Department of State (Sonnenfeldt) to Secretary of State Kissinger1
Your Meeting with Vorontsov
You will want to make the obvious points at the outset—continuity etc.—but without seeming to be overly concerned that the Soviets will embark on something in this time of transition.2
(Note: The message from President Ford to Brezhnev will be on its way,3 and you may want to give Vorontsov a copy or at least alert him to its transmission through our Embassy. Brezhnev is in the Crimea.)
Points to Emphasize
You recognize that some in Moscow may have linked the attack on the policies of détente to Watergate; there may be a misapprehension that the outcome of the Watergate affair will impact directly on foreign policies.
—Our policies toward the Soviet Union are founded on hard headed analysis of what is in our national interests; true, they have been challenged, and of course President Nixon played a central role in maintaining the course he set with the General Secretary;[Page 2]
—President Ford in his message has already re-affirmed his intention of pursuing President Nixon’s course in relations with the Soviet Union;
—Thus, no basic change is involved; indeed, the fact that our improved relationship rested on a foundation of agreements is a guarantee that personality changes need not lead to policy changes;
—You have discussed this with the new President; indeed, he has participated in the formulation of this policy toward the USSR since the outset and has vigorously supported it in the Congress;
—You will remain as Secretary of State, at the President’s request.
Thus there will be no break in continuity and the general approach that you discussed in Moscow on European Security, on economic relations, on SALT and other arms control questions all remain valid.
In particular, we reaffirm the invitation to the General Secretary to visit the US next spring–summer.
—As for an earlier meeting than was discussed in Moscow, the new President will have to give that more thought.
—The Soviet leaders, we are sure, will understand that in the next months the new President will be besieged by many problems of transition. We do not rule out an early meeting, but let us come back to it later.
We are preparing our position for the next round of SALT, but this too might slip though only by a few weeks; otherwise no changes in scheduling or substance are involved.
—PNE talks to begin around November.
—We will work with our allies on a CSCE position, but Soviets should take a hard look at some way to move MBFR.
A very personal and private note for Vorontsov to convey to highest levels:
—In this country we intend to carry on with our policies, but it is naturally a time of difficulties; many in the Congress and the country were mounting an assault on Soviet-American relations; this will not end simply because of a change in the Presidency.
—You will make a major statement on détente within the next ten days which will commit this administration.4[Page 3]
—The leaders in Moscow must know that their actions will be scrutinized with microscopic care by everyone in this country, for any action that might be cited as taking advantage of our problems.
—Berlin is already being cited, and we are witnessing increased attacks in Vietnam.
—And, of course, the Soviet position on Cyprus—which we believe has been restrained—will be taken as an indicator.
You are only making this point so that Moscow understands the situation not because we have any special concerns.5
- Source: National Archives, RG 59, Lot File 81D286, Records of the Office of the Counselor, Box 8, Soviet Union, Aug–Sept 1974. Secret; Sensitive.↩
- In a televised address to the nation that evening, Richard Nixon announced: “I shall resign the Presidency effective noon tomorrow. Vice President Ford will be sworn in as President at that hour in this office.” For the full text of his speech, see Public Papers: Nixon, 1974, No. 244.↩
- Document 4.↩
- Kissinger was scheduled to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on August 8 on the status of détente with the Soviet Union. “That being the very day that Nixon announced his intention to resign,” Kissinger later recalled, “my testimony was postponed until the middle of September.” (Kissinger, Years of Renewal, p. 244) During a meeting on August 7 to prepare his testimony, however, Kissinger offered another explanation for postponement: “Because I don’t think this is a first-class statement.” “I also didn’t want to enter the debate and exacerbate already exalted feelings,” he added. “I would have to kill myself to get this into shape, and tomorrow it would hit in a bad atmosphere. I think we ought to let the domestic atmosphere cool down.” (Memorandum of conversation; National Archives, RG 59, Lot File 91D414, Records of Henry Kissinger, 1973–77, Box 9, Nodis Memcons, August 1974, Folder 4)↩
- According to his Record of Schedule, Kissinger met Vorontsov in the White House on August 9 at 3:25 p.m. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 439, Miscellany, 1968–76) No substantive record of the meeting has been found.↩