152. Memorandum From the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Scowcroft) to President Ford1

Secretary Kissinger asked that I pass the following report to you on his second day of talks with Gromyko.

“I spent some six hours with Gromyko today, including two private sessions. The meeting took place in the garish Soviet Embassy built along Stalinist architectural lines. We skipped lunch to allow more time for talks. He continued genial in tone and manner and anxious that our meeting should be portrayed positively in public.

“In the plenary discussions, however, Gromyko was almost completely unyielding on SALT issues. He reviewed all the currently disagreed issues—including inter alia, verification, bomber armaments and cruise missiles, Backfire, mobiles, increases in silo dimensions, timing of follow-on negotiations on reductions—and almost literally recited positions already given Alex Johnson in Geneva. The only slight move was to indicate that follow-on reduction negotiations might begin as early as 1977. I responded in stark terms, stating that at this rate there can be no agreement this year and that Soviets were misusing our Presidential channel by merely reiterating unacceptable Geneva positions. I pointed out that in conjunction with unhelpful Soviet positions [Page 604] on CSCE, impact could be quite negative on whole détente outlook. I deliberately overdrew negativism of Soviet positions to see if this would smoke out any flexibility. Gromyko himself merely urged that we not overlook hopeful elements in Soviet positions (in fact, there were none in his formal presentation which closely followed a set of handwritten notes). But Dobrynin later spoke to me privately to explain that Gromyko has no leeway inasmuch as SALT issues are largely between Brezhnev and Grechko. He implied that Gromyko’s report to the Politburo of my blunt rejection of their positions will produce movement. In particular, he indicated that Soviets would come around to “complex” approach to verifying SS–18 MIRV numbers, would probably accept counting certain Backfires as strategic bombers within 2400 total, and might be receptive to banning landmobiles as part of a scheme whereby cruise missiles of various types would be free below some range like 2500 KM and counted above it. I had suggested that we might conduct some very private technical talks in Moscow or Washington in the next few weeks, and Gromyko indicated they would agree to doing it in Washington. I also proposed delaying regular Geneva SALT talks for three weeks and Gromyko indicated they would respond shortly, presumably accepting the suggestion. In sum, on SALT, they seem to be having considerable argument in Moscow which hopefully will be speeded toward positive solutions by my blunt rejection of Gromyko’s presentation. My impression is that we will have an agreement.

“On CSCE, Gromyko produced amendments to the western compromise proposals on the rights of journalists. These are extremely restrictive and will require a good deal of further haggling. I agreed that these issues can be reviewed by our representatives in Geneva on condition that Soviets provide comments on the whole western counterproposal and that all outstanding texts on journalists, broadcasting and human contacts be examined. As I indicated yesterday, I think these matters will eventually be settled, but only after a miserable series of haggles. There also was some slight give on maneuver notification. Gromyko agreed to 18 days advance notice instead of 12—and here too I think after some horsetrading there will be a resolution.

“On the Middle East, my strategy was to hold out the prospect of possible cooperation with the Soviets while making no commitments, so that none of your options would be prejudged for your meetings with Sadat and Rabin. We succeeded in this regard, even though the Soviets sought very specific and concrete indications of our position. The Soviets wanted to move promptly to Geneva, but I made no specific commitment on date. While I said our reassessment has not been completed, I pointed out the dangers of aborting a conference or coming to an early impasse risked confrontation between us if there [Page 605] were inadequate prior preparations, and I pointed out that you wished first to consult Sadat and Rabin. Gromyko pressed for an immediate invitation to the PLO to participate in the Geneva Conference. The Soviets had an actual draft ready to go. I rejected the proposal for what it was—a propaganda gambit which the Soviets knew we could not take seriously and which they tried just to put themselves in a position of being able to tell the Arabs and Palestinians that they pressed to get a prompt Geneva Conference and PLO invitation and we rejected the proposition. Playing on Soviet concerns that they too could be blamed for an aborted Geneva Conference, I said the PLO issue is something to be decided at a later stage of any Geneva Conference. I thought it necessary and desirable, however, to assure the Soviets that we would pursue detailed talks with them on the Middle East after you completed your talks with Sadat and Rabin. For this reason I offered Gromyko another meeting in July. This would follow your speech on the Middle East (of which Gromyko is of course unaware).

Gromyko and I agreed tentatively to meet again in July to continue talks on Middle East and SALT. He also indicated that Brezhnev now firmly intends to come to the U.S. in October. This is probably realistic in view of the great amount of work remaining on SALT and the fact that CSCE finale may well not be feasible by late July. Brezhnev’s health is also a factor that was not clear.”2

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, KissingerScowcroft West Wing Office Files, 1974–1977, Box 32, USSR, Gromyko File (25). Secret; Sensitive. Sent for information. Ford initialed the memorandum.
  2. In message Tohak 45 to Kissinger, May 22, Scowcroft reported: “The President said that he had been thinking about Gromyko’s stonewall positions on SALT. He said that if they were a reflection of Soviet attitudes at this point, perhaps we should think about using the leverage of the convening of the CSCE summit conference. I pointed out to him that Gromyko had never been a principal SALT negotiator and that Dobrynin had substantially softened Gromyko’s positions. The President concurred, but said we ought to keep this possibility in mind, because CSCE was for us a minus, not a plus, and there is no reason we should give it away for nothing. I think this reflects the unease which the President has discussed several times with you about CSCE, obviously from the Baltic-American groups.” (Ibid., Trip Briefing Books and Cables of Henry Kissinger, 1974–1977, Box 9, Kissinger Trip File, May 18–23, 1975, Europe and Middle East, TOHAK [5])