12. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Ford1


Wednesday, August 14, 1974

11:00 a.m. (30 minutes)

The Oval Office

I. Purpose

The Soviets are eager to establish prompt direct contact with you to assure themselves, after a period of uncertainty, that our relations will continue on an even keel. Your purpose will be to reassure them on this score—as you have already begun to do in your message to Brezhnev3 and talk with Mr. Vorontsov4—while leaving them in no doubt that this is no time for them to take liberties with our interests.

II. Background, Participants, Press Plan

A. Background: Soviet Views. The past months have been a period of uncertainty for the Soviets in their relations with us. They tended to see our domestic difficulties largely in terms of attacks on the President by “forces” hostile to détente. They saw President Nixon as hampered in negotiations by his declining influence on Congress. They were uncertain about your own attitudes. At the same time, they have seen our influence rise and theirs fall in an area of great interest to them and where they have traditional ambitions: the Middle East. They have been [Page 27] largely impotent in the Cyprus crisis. They were irritated by the successful NATO summit in Brussels.5

Brezhnev’s reply6 to your first message seems to reflect a sense of reassurance that you will pursue the basic policy lines of the past two years.

Our View. Our own interest remains in keeping the Soviets on a constructive course through an admixture of incentives (such as benefits from trade) and potential penalties for aggressive behavior.

You should therefore again underline your basic commitment to the policies and agreements resulting from the three summits since 1972. You should stress not only continuity in general but note your strong interest in ongoing and projected negotiations, such as SALT, MBFR, peaceful nuclear explosions. Without being overly explicit, you should stress that it is basic to constructive US-Soviet relations for both of us to operate internationally with restraint and conscious of each other’s interests. Although our respective influence may fluctuate in one or another part of the world, neither of us should set out deliberately to damage the interests of the other.

While stressing the central role of US-Soviet relations, you should avoid any implication of interest in condominium. You should also avoid any suggestion that we are prepared to collaborate with the Soviets against China.

Brezhnev has a personal stake in good relations with us. Thus, you should assure Dobrynin that you want to maintain personal contact and continue to use existing confidential channels of communication. Brezhnev has already accepted your invitation to him to go through with the previously projected visit to this country next year. He is also interested in an interim working summit and you should confirm your own interest in such a meeting when there is concrete business to transact.

B. Participants: Ambassador Dobrynin and Secretary Kissinger.

C. Press Plan: The meeting will be announced and photographs will be taken.

III. Talking Points

1. I am pleased to take this early opportunity to confirm that American policy toward the Soviet Union will continue in this Administration along the positive and promising lines already established. I said [Page 28] this in my written message to Mr. Brezhnev and address to Congress,7 and I welcome Mr. Brezhnev’s positive response.

2. I have vigorously supported this policy both in the Congress and as Vice President.

3. I endorse the goals that have been set forth in the joint communiqués of the Moscow and Washington summits, and the approach to our relations as elaborated in the discussions between President Nixon and General Secretary Brezhnev.

4. I have asked Secretary Kissinger to continue both as Secretary of State and as my Assistant for National Security Affairs. One of his foremost tasks will be to ensure that on the US side we maintain the desired momentum in our relations. The NSC is actively preparing for negotiations with the USSR.

5. The US approach, as discussed in Moscow, on issues such as the European Security Conference, on SALT and other arms control questions and on our economic relations remains positive. I expect that negotiations will proceed as scheduled.

6. As you know, on Monday night I called on the Congress to take quick action on a Trade Bill acceptable to the Administration. We are actively working on a compromise on the emigration issue.

7. At the same time that I reaffirm our policy, I will be frank in pointing out that within the United States there will be many people watching for signs of any action that might be cited as taking advantage of this transition period.

8. For this reason, it is all the more important that the US and USSR continue to work toward improved, mutually beneficial relations. Restraint and respect for each other’s interests are the key.

9. I value the exchanges that have been conducted at the highest level between summit conferences, and you should assure General Secretary Brezhnev that the channels of communication remain open. The exchanges we have already had show this.

10. As I said in my message of August 9 to the General Secretary, I am looking forward to his visit to the United States in 1975. I am glad he has confirmed his intention to come here. I am prepared to consider a working summit before year-end. We can plan for it when we see how negotiations are progressing and after talks with Foreign Minister Gro[Page 29]myko when he comes here for the UN. I will also look forward to visiting the USSR in 1976.

Ambassador Dobrynin’s biography is at Tab A.8

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Presidential Country Files for Europe and Canada, 1973–1977, Box 16, USSR (1). Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only. In an August 12 memorandum requesting the appointment on August 14, Kissinger commented: “Ambassador Dobrynin has asked to see you to present a message from General Secretary Brezhnev. Dobrynin has just returned from the USSR, where he has been since mid-June. Since that time, he probably mixed business (including a Central Committee plenum on July 24) and pleasure (his annual home leave). The message from Brezhnev is probably a personal reply to your message to him upon taking office last Friday.” (Ibid., White House Central Files, Subject File, 1974–1977, Box 50, CO 158, USSR Executive) In a memorandum to Scowcroft on August 12, David Parker, Special Assistant to the President, requested “an appropriate briefing paper for the President’s use at this meeting.” (Ibid.)
  2. According to the President’s Daily Diary, Ford and Kissinger met with Dobrynin in the Oval Office on August 14 from 11:09 to 11:38 a.m. (Ibid., White House Office Files) No substantive record of the conversation has been found.
  3. Document 4.
  4. See Document 2.
  5. The North Atlantic Council met in Brussels June 25–26. During the meeting, President Nixon briefed Allied leaders on his upcoming trip to the Soviet Union.
  6. Document 7.
  7. Reference is to the President’s address to a joint session of Congress on August 12. In addition to his remarks on the Trade Bill, Ford declared: “To the Soviet Union, I pledge continuity in our commitment to the course of the past 3 years. To our two peoples, and to all mankind, we owe a continued effort to live and, wherever possible, to work together in peace, for in a thermonuclear age there can be no alternative to a positive and peaceful relationship between our two nations.” For the full text, see Public Papers: Ford, 1974, No. 6.
  8. Attached but not printed.