132. Memorandum From the Director of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (Hyland) to Secretary of State Kissinger 1

Soviet Overture to Senator Jackson

The Soviets recently made an indirect overture to Senator Jackson inviting him to Moscow and blaming the trade bill failure on Ambassador Dobrynin’s inept handling.2

The channel chosen, according to an FBI report (Tab A),3 was the notorious Victor Louis, who is widely believed to be a KGB agent, with considerable freedom to operate in sensitive areas.

—Louis told a member of Jackson’s staff (unidentified) that the present impasse on the trade bill could have been avoided through a face-to-face meeting with Senator Jackson, which would have dispelled any questions Jackson might have had about Soviet intentions.

—In a long harangue, Louis criticized Dobrynin for his ineptness, and suggested that Dobrynin’s reading of the American political situation was defective and thus contributed to the present state of affairs.

—Louis suggested that the Senator come to Moscow, but was evasive about promising a meeting with Brezhnev.

Comment: Louis is generally used to launch trial balloons that Moscow can easily disavow. Given the strident campaign against Jackson in the Soviet press, perhaps Moscow thought it prudent to establish a channel that would keep open a line to a man who might become President.4 Nevertheless, it is ominous that Dobrynin should be [Page 519] made the scapegoat, since this line scarcely encourages further dealings with him, and suggests that some quarters in Moscow have lost confidence in him. In any case, contacts of this sort allow Jackson to claim that he has a line to Moscow other than the Embassy, and reinforce his argument that the Soviets, not he, must be blamed for the failure of the trade bill.

The Soviets are obviously playing a double game at present.

—On the one hand, they are setting up Jackson in public as the scapegoat for the failure of détente; this in itself is worrisome since it suggests that, in fact, the Soviets may anticipate a breakdown in relations, and are constructing a rationale to explain it and to exonerate themselves.

—On the other hand, the Soviets must know that they cannot refuse to deal with whomever becomes President, and that a means of contact may be prudent insurance.

The unanswered question is whether the Soviets are angling to settle the trade bill stalemate behind the Administration’s back.

Taken together with other oddities on the Brezhnev visit, the relations between Gromyko and Dobrynin, and Dobrynin’s absence from Washington—all add to the mystery of what, indeed, is going on in Moscow.5

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Lot File 91D414, Records of Henry Kissinger, 1973–77, Box 10, Nodis Memcons, Feb. 1975, Folder 1. Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only. The original is an uninitialed copy.
  2. In a memorandum to Kissinger on February 24, Sonnenfeldt reported: “Dobrynin told me at dinner in Geneva that they had been considering what to do about Jackson in Moscow especially in light of all the stories that they are trying to kill off his candidacy. Dobrynin said the Soviet conclusion is that the US does not have policy options significantly different from those being followed by the present Administration and that whatever Jackson says now, he as President would sooner or later come to the same ‘realistic’ conclusions as Nixon. So, said Dobrynin, they were relaxed. As you are aware, there already are Soviet nibbles at the Jackson staff. I think more can be expected. While Dobrynin’s story is more relaxed than is probably the actual case, it basically rings true.” (Ibid., Lot File 81D286, Records of the Office of the Counselor, Box 5, Soviet Union, January–March 1975)
  3. Not attached and not found.
  4. On February 6, Jackson announced his candidacy for the 1976 Democratic nomination for President.
  5. During a meeting at 10:22 a.m. on February 25, Kissinger briefed the President on the Soviet overture to Jackson and then added: “Now there is another report that Brezhnev gambled and lost on the trade bill, playing into the hands of Suslov and others—who are saying ‘I told you so.’ Jackson then went to Dinitz to ask his opinion about going to the Soviet Union as Louis suggested. An unbelievable symptom of our times—that a senior Senator would do this rather than coming to the President or the Secretary of State.” (Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversations, 1973–1977, Box 9)