145. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • President Ford
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State and Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Anatoliy F. Dobrynin, USSR Amb. to U.S.
  • Lt. General Brent Scowcroft, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs

The President: I appreciate the letter from the General Secretary. [Tab A]2

Dobrynin: This is just a little memento from the General Secretary. Henry and Brent have seen it.

[General Scowcroft leaves the meeting for a few minutes.]

The President: As I said in the press conference,3 I am pleased with the state of our relations but I think we have to make substantive progress.

Dobrynin: Yes. I think there are prospects for the European Security Conference, then the summit.

The President: We are hopeful that Congress will take some action, but this one is more difficult than usual. Compared to previous ones, there is a division of leadership. We used to condemn Rayburn4 for being dictatorial but he looks good compared to this. But from a long-range point of view, the Congress is losing support with the public.

[Page 557]

Dobrynin: What do you think of the Middle East? The General Secretary said we would do everything in our power to help. We know you are now reassessing.

The President: We are reevaluating—we will be talking to Sadat and Rabin. In the meantime we hope nothing will erupt, but we cannot tolerate a stalemate. Does the General Secretary feel we should go to Geneva?

Dobrynin: Yes. It is a difficult ordeal, but we should do the whole thing rather than ordeal after ordeal. We have the feeling that more and more people in this country support a complete settlement. It is surprising how few cries there are in opposition now.

President: I think there is a change in public opinion. But that opinion fluctuates. We are getting views from a wide variety of people, but we must move soon because we can’t permit stagnation.

[The President hands Ambassador Dobrynin a letter. Tab B]5 Please give the General Secretary my regards and best wishes on this historical day. Where were you on V. E. Day?

Dobrynin: I was a fighter aircraft engineer. I picked up a rifle only when the Germans were ten miles from Moscow. We had a potato garden and my wife and I dug in the garden.

And here is a letter from our Parliament to all allied Parliaments. [Tab C]6

[There was small talk about the future of Vladivostok, and the meeting ended.]

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversations, 1973–1977, Box 11. Secret. Brackets are in the original. The meeting was held in the Oval Office. According to the President’s Daily Diary, Ford met with Dobrynin from 10:04 to 10:19 a.m. (Ibid., White House Office Files)
  2. At Tab A is a letter from Brezhnev to Ford, dated May 8, marking the 30th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe. According to a transcript of the conversation, Dobrynin called Kissinger at 11:50 a.m. on May 8 and requested an appointment “tomorrow for five minutes to deliver the letter.” Dobrynin added: “[A]nd maybe you and the President would like to say a few words in reply to the telegram to the President by Chairman [Brezhnev].” Kissinger promised to “see what we can do.” (Ibid., National Security Adviser, KissingerScowcroft West Wing Office Files, Box 31, Dobrynin/Kissinger Telcons (2)) Kissinger met with Ford before the appointment and suggested: “I would be slightly cool to Dobrynin.” (Ibid., Memoranda of Conversations, 1973–1977, Box 11)
  3. During his press conference on May 6, Ford stated: “I think between now and the end of 1976 we are going to make progress in the negotiations for a SALT II agreement. It hasn’t been finalized, but the atmosphere is good. There is going to be some hard negotiating, but I will approach that important meeting with Mr. Brezhnev aimed at achieving results, and I think his attitude will reflect the same.” (Public Papers: Ford, 1975, No. 243)
  4. Sam Rayburn, former Congressman (Democrat, Texas) and Speaker of the House.
  5. At Tab B is a letter from Ford to Brezhnev, dated May 9, marking the 30th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe.
  6. Attached but not printed.