133. Letter From President Ford to Soviet General Secretary Brezhnev 1
In the past few weeks I have given much thought to the state of American-Soviet relations, reflecting on the views you expressed in your recent letters and the extensive discussions held in Geneva between Secretary Kissinger and Minister Gromyko.2
On the fundamental point of preserving and building on the improvement of our relations and the relaxation of international tensions, we are in full agreement. It is on this basis that we can address some of the problems that are currently under negotiation or discussion between us.
First of all, we are committed to make a serious, sustained effort to translate the agreement on strategic arms reached during our meeting at Vladivostok into a full agreement, and to have the final documents ready for signature at the time of your visit to the United States. I have instructed our delegation to conform their position scrupulously to the Vladivostok agreement and the aide-mémoire agreed thereafter.3 There are, of course, issues of importance that our delegations must resolve. Some of these, such as the essential verification provisions, can be technically quite complicated. But with some patience and good will these can be resolved.
I am concerned, however that neither side should advance positions that differ from our understanding and discussions at Vladivostok. On some points our delegation will explain to the Soviet side why the current Soviet proposals seem to us to go beyond the Vladivostok agreement. Secretary Kissinger has already presented certain general considerations to Mr. Gromyko in this regard. Again, these matters should be resolved without difficulty.
As you have pointed out, the work in another area of negotiation—the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe—has been slower than anticipated. In part this is because so far the most difficult [Page 521] issues have been left open. But as a result of the recent discussions between Secretary Kissinger and your Foreign Minister, we have already made some substantial progress on one of the most difficult of the remaining issues—the question of peaceful change of frontiers.
As I see it, the Conference will still require some weeks to complete all the details, and then the results can be referred to governments for final consideration. I anticipate no difficulties, and the United States will raise no problems during this interval. Then, as agreed with you, the final stage can be convened at the highest level of participation for the closing ceremonies. This leaves only the problem of when, precisely, the final stage of the Conference should be convened. After some discussion with our friends and allies, it seems that with good will on all sides the most realistic date would be sometime in July. If this is an acceptable target date, we should commit ourselves to an appropriate work schedule.
In any case, the successful conclusion of this Conference, occurring during the year of the 30th anniversary of the end of the Second World War will be a signal accomplishment for which you, Mr. General Secretary, will deserve great credit. Unlike the situation that led up to both World Wars, we have within our grasp the means for building cooperation and ensuring security in Europe. The inviolability of frontiers, in particular, will be among the key elements of a solemn document. As you know, the United States has long since accepted the frontiers and territorial integrity of all European states, and I reaffirm this position without qualification.
I hope that the spirit of cooperation that has marked our work in the European Conference could also animate our respective policies in the Middle East. The situation there, of course, differs in principle from that in Europe. Territorial and political questions are still explosive issues and the situation remains dangerous.
We have had our differences, but as a result of the very thorough exchange in Geneva between Secretary Kissinger and Foreign Minister Gromyko I am persuaded that our differences are not unbridgeable and, indeed, our views may be converging. We share the same ultimate aim—just and lasting peace. Our differences have been limited to the most effective method of moving toward this goal.
As you are aware, Dr. Kissinger will be returning to the area in the next few days, and is prepared to meet again with the Foreign Minister of the USSR.4 I profoundly believe that it is in the interest of the Soviet Union to support a further partial step, after which the Geneva Confer[Page 522]ence would be convened. The Conference would then convene in an atmosphere most conducive to progress, rather than meeting under the threat of crisis and with the promise of stalemate.
I would like to close on a personal note: I was very pleased to learn that you had recovered from your recent illness. Mrs. Ford and I are looking forward with great anticipation to being your hosts in the United States in the near future.
- Source: National Archives, RG 59, Lot File 81D286, Records of the Office of the Counselor, Box 5, Soviet Union, January–March 1975. No classification marking. No drafting information or date appears on the letter, but Sonnenfeldt forwarded a draft to Kissinger on February 26. (Ibid., Lot File 91D414, Records of Henry Kissinger, 1973–77, Box 6, Nodis Memos, Jan–June 1974, Folder 1) Scowcroft sent the final version with a brief covering letter to Vorontsov on March 1.↩
- See Documents 128–130.↩
- Document 97.↩
- During his trip to Europe and the Middle East March 6–23, Kissinger did not meet with Gromyko; he did meet with leaders in the United Kingdom, Belgium, Egypt, Syria, Israel, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia.↩