109. Transcript of Telephone Conversation Between Secretary of State Kissinger and the Counselor of the Department of State (Sonnenfeldt)1

K: I have been reading the material on the talk with Dobrynin tomorrow2 and what I want to check is the section on the trade agreement making an exchange of words. Does it require an exchange of notes beyond that one paragraph of which you gave me three versions.

S: Well, that is ok.

K: That particular paragraph is [omission in the transcript] by the Trade Bill . . .

S: To say that the constitutional process has been gone through and the thing would now go into effect.

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K: That has always been in the international agreement.

S: Those 3 paragraphs are alternatives to take care of 18 months problem.

K: Could you give me the text of the entire exchange of notes that should take place with him and give it to me before I see him.3 What is your judgment on what is going on in the Soviet Union?

S: I am beginning to think there is a succession problem going on as well.

K: In the sense that Brezhnev is on the way out?

S: It is probably a longish process and it may be he’s getting telescoped a little bit. So that these various issues may be—we may now be moving into a period of delay and procrastination and not taking a lot of risks and gambles so that for them on this issue we are just talking about simply a delay in the finesse. Maybe the simplest and controversial in terms of debate.

K: I will tell you from my own point of view—I wouldn’t mind it if the Soviets got a little tough. It would bring a security to our operation.

S: One of the difficulties is how it spills over into the Middle East problem. Well they seem to be getting tougher there too. Don’t you think that is the area where their toughness can have the most without any dramatic effect.

K: Sure, but that is what I have been trying to keep understood with [omission in the transcript] and all these wise guys and sob’s. Now we will see how tough we can be.

S: I think in many ways it can have a salutary effect. I am not sure we can stand a tough period with the Soviets.

K: If I didn’t think we could, I would not have pursued the policy I am.

S: So I don’t know where it leaves us in the Trade . . .

K: Yes.

S: It is really a terrible period. Why I guess we are to blame because of the rhetoric of the past year and President Nixon. I am really confused by the issues. I can’t delay what you have said to the SFRC . . . what you have said on the [omission in the transcript] past two years.

K: (Inaudible)

S: If that had only been better understood we might not have come into this case.

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K: In Jackson’s case, he should have had the sense to understand. Do you know that the sob has attacked my oil statement.4

Anyone reading that statement—it was the minimum I could say.

S: It may be the issue [omission in the transcript] arrive without putting you at the front of it.

K: But I regret the part I said about the Europeans. Are they blowing at all or have they been fairly quiet.

S: I gather that the press has been blowing a bit but that will blow over.

K: Should I have a spokesman say tomorrow for Christ’s sake read the Business Week and don’t blow this into an international crisis.

S: I don’t think you need to say anything about this. I think it ought to be permitted to (blow over). I will get you this other thing tomorrow.

K: Right.

  1. Source: Department of State, Electronic Reading Room, Kissinger Transcripts of Telephone Conversations. No classification marking.
  2. See Document 108 and footnote 8 thereto.
  3. In a memorandum to Kissinger on January 6, Sonnenfeldt presented a draft exchange of notes for implementing the trade agreement in case the Soviets decided to proceed with previous arrangements. (National Archives, RG 59, Lot File 81D286, Records of the Office of the Counselor, Box 8, Trade Bill, 1975)
  4. Reference is presumably to Kissinger’s interview on December 23 with representatives of Business Week magazine. Although the interview was published in the January 13 issue of the magazine, the Department of State released a transcript to the press on January 2. For the text, see Department of State Bulletin, January 27, 1975, pp. 97–106.