121. Memorandum From the Counselor of the Department of State (Sonnenfeldt) to Secretary of State Kissinger 1


  • Talk with Perle

Perle was calm enough. He started by asking about the sequence of events leading up to your announcement.2 I simply recited what you said last night. Perle implied we did not have to go through the various steps but I pointed out to him the requirement for an exchange of notes and for taking account of the 18 month duration of the waiver. He asked for a text of the Soviet note.3 I said we had paraphrased it last night and I did not think that we were planning to make the actual text available, though the Soviets might of course publish something themselves.

Perle then asked whether the Soviets had seen the contents of the October 18 letters before they were issued.4 I said they had seen the contents. He said that had been Jackson’s assumption. It seemed therefore that the Soviets had been prepared to accept on October 18 what [Page 445] they refused to accept now. I said that was probably not how the Soviets would describe the situation. Things had changed since October 18: public statements had been made about the letters, there had been victory claims and statements how toughness produced results, there had been changes in the legislation that were discriminatory and invidious.

Perle said he had always assumed that the EXIM bill had made the difference. I said that certainly was a major factor and we regretted the things that had been written into the bill. Perle said they had not been active on that, in fact Jackson had voted for cloture during the Byrd filibuster. I said I would not speculate on what motivated Stevenson.

Perle said he hoped there would be no backgrounding along the lines of “we told you so” and “you overplayed your hand.” I said that the long-standing doubts of the Administration about the wisdom of the methods used over the last two years were on the public record. We can’t control what journalists write. There also was a record of backgrounding since October about Jackson’s victories as well as some implications of bad faith. You had been conciliatory and factual last night and avoided all recrimination. But there would be a response if there were any recrimination. I said I strongly urged them not to issue a recriminatory statement in any direction.

Perle said he thought their statement would give the sequence of events leading up to the letters and the waiver—“factually.”5 I said we’ll see but we can only urge in the strongest terms that all charges or implications of bad faith were avoided. Perle said there would be none against you. I said that a broadside against the Russians could only lead to further difficulties.

Perle asked what the Russians have said about what happens next. I said that had not been discussed. We would hope, as you indicated last night, to continue on an even keel. Many parts of the trade agreement had been implemented independently and we hope that will continue. On lend-lease the agreement itself stipulated what would happen.

Perle asked what we meant by seeking new legislation. I said this had not been decided but you might seek advice from the Foreign Relations Committee. Perle said that if the Russians thought we might seek improved legislation they might turn the heat on the Jews to show how tough they were. If so, Jackson will immediately move to stop technology. I said we had no information on Soviet plans; you had made [Page 446] clear our fundamental view on emigration. But any threats of further punitive action could have very serious results at a time when it must be in our interest to contain the effects of what happened. I said they should think twice before they try to remove what few instrumentalities we have left for influencing Soviet conduct. Perle said he was just telling me privately what they would do if there is new repression. I said I hoped they would not set out to provoke the Russians.

I concluded by saying again that you had given the lead last night in looking to the future and engaging in no recrimination. This line will hold as long as there is no provocation. We have our own view of what happened and why but that is past and we now need statesmanship all around. He again mentioned backgrounding. I said I had told him our position.

My guess is there will be a recital of events from Jackson which highlights Soviet change in position since October 18, with stress on Jackson’s “assumption” that the Soviets agreed to the October 18 letters.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Lot File 81D286, Records of the Office of the Counselor, Box 8, Trade Bill, 1975. Eyes Only. The original is incorrectly dated January 15, 1974.
  2. See Document 120. In a memorandum to Kissinger that morning, Sonnenfeldt reported that Perle had requested the meeting to “talk about what statement they will make.” “I won’t volunteer any suggestions for their statement,” Sonnefeldt added, “but, depending on what they propose to say, point out how conciliatory you were last night. If they want to charge either you or the Russians with bad faith on emigration I will urge them not to and point out that that can only lead to mutual recrimination. If they want to threaten additional punitive legislation or hearings, I will point out the consequences of that. In short I will try to get them to follow your lead of last night, so we at least have a record of having tried. If Perle asks for the Soviet written note, I will refuse and simply say that your statement summarizes the Soviet position.” (National Archives, RG 59, Lot File 81D286, Records of the Office of the Counselor, Box 8, Trade Bill, 1975)
  3. Document 117.
  4. Documents 60 and 61.
  5. Later that afternoon, Senators Jackson, Ribicoff, and Javits and Congressman Vanik released a joint statement that called Soviet rejection of the Trade Bill “a disappointing development.” (National Archives, RG 59, Lot File 81D286, Records of the Office of the Counselor, Box 8, Trade Bill, 1975)