15. Note from the Counselor of the Department of State (Sonnenfeldt) to Secretary of State Kissinger1

Mr. Secretary:

Attached is a counterdraft from Jackson, et al. plus additional memorandum on interpretations, numbers and other issues.2 These were delivered by Perle late this evening.

I have done comments on this material in the form of a memo from you to the President, should you wish to hand it to him.

As noted in that memo, the drafting changes in the basic letter are not too serious, though they naturally tend to raise the demands upon the Soviet Union some more.

The interpretations, which would be incorporated in a letter of response to which you, in turn, would respond with an acceptance, pose the familiar problems of excessive detail and specificity.

The additional issues involve complex arrangements with other Communist countries, the dubious waiver procedure and the absurd point about not counting emigrants leaving the USSR under agreements with countries other than the U.S.

I think the President should use his current political clout to tell the Senators we have run out the string. The letter is barely tolerable and the interpretations go beyond what can be asked explicitly of the Russians. If we are going to have a compromise, our letter should do it and adequate review language in the legislation will protect everybody’s interests.

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Draft Note From Secretary of State Kissinger to President Ford3

Mr. President:

Late last night, Senator Jackson sent us a revised draft of our proposed letter, plus a memorandum on the interpretative response the Senator would make to the letter and some other issues.

The revisions in the basic letter (attached at Tab A) are not too serious and could probably be accepted by us. They do, however, in each case place a somewhat greater burden on the Russians in meeting the proposed performance standards and thus make the likelihood of actual Soviet compliance in practice that much less.

The proposed interpretations (attached at Tab B) pose more serious problems. In each case, the Soviets would be obliged to accept stringent definitions of impermissible or required practices. It is doubtful that we could do more than intimate to them the nature of the demand; they would almost certainly decline to provide the required assurance, whatever their intention regarding compliance.

The Senators are prepared to reduce their earlier demand for a 75,000 per annum rate to 60,000, but would regard this as a benchmark for measuring progress to the eventual level, which they define as “corresponding to the number of applicants.” (Jackson currently claims that there are some 300,000 potential emigrants and that they would wish to leave within some four to five years. This would mean an annual rate of some 60–75,000 by his requirements.) There is little or no chance that the Soviets would associate themselves with this arithmetic.

Jackson also raises a series of other issues (attached at Tab C),4 which involve difficulties.

First, he demands that the number of emigrants resulting from our arrangements with the Soviets must not include emigrants leaving the Soviet Union by virtue of arrangements with other countries, such as the FRG. (Several hundred ethnic Germans leave the USSR each month.) We could probably accept this as an internal U.S. interpretation, but it would hardly wash with the Soviets.

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Second, Jackson wants us to negotiate separate emigration arrangements with all East European countries (and presumably China) affected by Title IV of the Trade Bill before they could qualify for MFN and credits. In these instances, however, Jackson’s requirements are less stringent than for the USSR; they would deal mostly with dual nationals and special hardship cases.

Third, the Senators stick to their waiver approach. That is there would have to be a finding that the USSR is in compliance with the terms of our letter plus interpretations before the full terms of Title IV could be waived for no more than one year at a time. (Jackson’s staff continues to imply that the Senator might be flexible on this concept if the rest of the deal is acceptable.) Our concept is that the Bill should permit at least a trial period during which MFN and credits could be granted and Soviet performance would be tested. I see no chance of Soviet compliance until we first deliver MFN and credits (which the Soviets believe, correctly, were promised them as part of the comprehensive trade agreements of 1972).

Henry A. Kissinger
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Lot File 81D286, Records of the Office of the Counselor, Box 9, Trade Bill, August 1974. Eyes Only. Printed from a copy that bears neither Sonnenfeldt’s initials nor his written signature.
  2. The draft letter from Kissinger to Jackson and the memorandum, both dated August 14, are attached to Sonnenfeldt’s draft, printed below, but not printed. A typed note on each indicates that both were from Senators Jackson, Javits, and Ribicoff.
  3. Eyes Only. The note is unsigned; no evidence has been found to indicate whether or not Kissinger gave it to the President.
  4. Attached but not printed.