113. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • President Gerald R. Ford
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State and Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Lt. General Brent Scowcroft, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs

Kissinger: Clements2 is not an intellectual, but he is a square shooter. We used to have fights, but he never bore grudges or leaked. I like him.

President: Let’s talk to Don3 about it.

Kissinger: I have drafted a letter to Brezhnev.4 I made it general so that if he refuses, he is not rejecting you. State can then tell Dobrynin what has to happen.

The more I think about it, the better I think a Soviet rejection would be good. Byrd5 thought that a rejection would hurt Jackson. I told him the consequences—they’d get credits from the Europeans—and he said, “if you can get that across to the public, many Senators will breathe a sigh of relief.”

Perle is a psychopath. You know the emigration issue will be a running sore. Even if Brezhnev’s intention is good, you know there will be discrimination.

President: If they reject it, what will Jackson do?

Kissinger: He will try to cut the unused credits and claim it is a gigantic swindle.

President: How about the Jewish Community?

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Kissinger: They won’t take the blame. They will be shocked and begin to blame us. The leaders who met with you were already making demands on when the restriction would be lifted. It can’t happen fast. If you had $2 billion in credits to offer them, the Soviets might push, but not for $300 million.

I said all along that the word “assurances” would get us into trouble. We will come under attack but I think we can easily turn it.

President: This is all involved in Democratic politics and personal ambitions.

Kissinger: I got the impression that Byrd is no great friend of Jackson. The letter to Brezhnev just restates the détente policy, really.

President: Go ahead and send it.

Kissinger: Jackson wants to have hearings on the Vladivostok agreement. He wants to cover . . . [reads from paper].6

My point is, first, this is a total invasion of Executive authority. The Congressional function is to approve treaties, not to participate in their negotiation.

President: We can’t do that. He would want the notes of the NSC meeting.7

Kissinger: He wants to know every bureaucratic position and why you made the decisions you did.

President: I think our strategy should be—if Jackson comes up with a renegotiated resolution we should get our friends to add a clause that if we tried and the Vladivostok agreement failed, the supporters would vote for additional funds for defense.

Kissinger: Mondale and Kennedy have a resolution that is good.8 It puts the additional negotiation after the agreement is signed. I think you should put out firm instructions to all witnesses as to what they can say.

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President: Would you draft them?

Kissinger: You may have to do it orally—but maybe it should be in writing and confront the issue. If we don’t do this, Jackson will unravel the whole thing. Jackson will rake us over the coals. [Described his experience.]

President: Let’s do it by letter.

Kissinger: The witnesses shouldn’t testify to anything but the final agreement, not internal positions or other options presented to the Soviets.

On air-to-surface missiles, I disagree with Schlesinger. You can’t preempt Jackson this way. And if we try to change air-to-surface, the Soviets will ask for inclusion of subsonic cruise missiles. Maybe that is good, but my people think we are ahead in that.

President: I told Schlesinger that cruise missiles only survived because you insisted.

Kissinger: If we need cruise missiles for bomber penetration, they can be on ships and submarines timed to penetrate simultaneously. If we have to show how we screwed the Soviets, Jackson could sink the Vladivostok accord.

[Omitted here is discussion of international economic policy, the Middle East, and Vietnam.]

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversations, 1973–1977, Box 8. Secret; Nodis. All brackets, except those inserted by the editor to indicate omitted passages, are in the original. The meeting was held in the Oval Office.
  2. William P. Clements, Jr., Deputy Secretary of Defense.
  3. Donald Rumsfeld.
  4. Sonnenfeldt gave Kissinger a draft of the letter on January 4; see Document 108. Kissinger called Sonnenfeldt at 2:34 p.m. on January 7, however, and reported: “The letter isn’t what I need. I need a letter which is heavier on détente and lighter on trade legislation . . . half a sentence, but I wouldn’t rub it in so hard because they are not willing to proceed. Can you do it this afternoon?” (Department of State, Electronic Reading Room, Kissinger Transcripts of Telephone Conversations) In a memorandum to Kissinger later that day, Sonnenfeldt forwarded a revised draft to Kissinger, who wrote in the margin: “I want to take Brezhnev letter to White House.” (National Archives, RG 59, Lot File 81D286, Records of the Office of the Counselor, Box 8, Trade Bill, 1975)
  5. Reference is presumably to Senator Robert C. Byrd (Democrat, West Virginia).
  6. In a memorandum to Kissinger on January 7, Sonnenfeldt and Hyland discussed Jackson’s intention, as Chairman of the Arms Control Subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee, to hold hearings on SALT in order to review the terms of the Vladivostok accords. Kissinger wrote in the margin of a covering memorandum: “SALT paper for President’s meeting tomorrow.” (National Archives, RG 59, Lot File 81D286, Records of the Office of the Counselor, Box 6, SALT, Jan–June 1975)
  7. President Ford is presumably referring to the meeting on December 2, 1974, during which he briefed the NSC on the agreements reached in Vladivostok. (Ford Library, National Security Adviser, NSC Meetings File, 1974–1977, Box 1)
  8. The resolution, sponsored by Senators Kennedy, Mondale, and Mathias and supported by Kissinger, implicitly linked ratification of the Vladivostok accords to the announcement of negotiations on the reduction, rather than the mere limitation, of strategic nuclear arms. In a memorandum to Kissinger on January 8, Sonnenfeldt and Hyland reported on their meeting that morning with Mathias to discuss the resolution. (National Archives, RG 59, Lot File 81D286, Records of the Office of the Counselor, Box 6, SALT, Jan–June1975)