153. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • President Ford
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State and Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Lt. Gen. Brent Scowcroft, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs

Kissinger: The Holystone operation is a total disaster. [Substantial discussion]2

I think maybe we should take it to the public.

The President: How do we get hold of this?

Kissinger: I think someone needs to be fired, whether it is justified or not.

I would get Schlesinger and Colby in and say you want a report and you want someone fired—also Ingersoll.

The President: Get those three in here.

Kissinger: On your trip,3 we didn’t get to discuss CSCE.

On CBM’s, the issue left is what territory should be included for notice of maneuvers. The Europeans wanted 500 kilometers inside the Soviet Union maneuvers involving 12,000 troops, and notice 96 days ahead. The Soviet Union proposes 30,000 troops, 18 days ahead, 150 kilometers. The Soviet proposals are inadequate.

On human contacts, it is a total fraud. Only Gromyko can understand the language. The language is very abstract, but even this the Soviet Union won’t accept.

[Page 607]

As for post-conference machinery, the Soviets previously wanted a permanent Secretariat. We wanted an assessment in two years. Now the Soviet Union is on our side; but they want to delay four to five years since they now are afraid Yugoslavia and Romania will use the machinery against them.

I think your position must be hard-line. No more concessions to the Soviet Union. If they want a conference, let them concede.

The President: Did you see the New York Times editorial?4

Kissinger: It was unconscionable. You should see the editorials they had in ’69 and ’70. But the Jews are trying to get the maximum polarization with the Soviet Union.

But on CSCE, I would listen and not get engaged. Say if we can get a decent settlement, fine; if not, wait a few months.

The President: If the Soviets are so eager to get a CSCE, can we use that for SALT leverage?

Kissinger: It would be difficult; it could have been done a year ago maybe, but the Europeans would leave you. We should, three years ago, have linked it with MBFR. But if it isn’t finished by early June, there can’t be a meeting in July. Our negotiation can drag just a bit behind the Europeans and slow it up as much as possible.

The President: I think we should hang back. Will the Europeans care?

Kissinger: Yes. Brezhnev said he wouldn’t come here before the CSCE. I told him that is OK; we are better off domestically on our anti-Soviet line.

On SALT, there is no bureaucratic dispute. The issues are SS–18, cruise missiles, Backfire. On SS–18, they want to have both MIRV and non-MIRV’d. They might agree to verification by complexes. This looks manageable. We couldn’t allow this with 17’s and 19’s.

On cruise missiles, we may be cheating a little because they may honestly think Vladivostok settled it. They may agree to 2500 km.

On Backfire, we are out of ideas. We may have to try not counting those in Southern USSR. Or we may have to count F–111’s.

But there is no dispute within the Verification Panel on these issues.

The President: I notice the paper said there were disputes.

[Page 608]

Kissinger: I don’t know about Schlesinger, but not in the VP.

On the Mideast—I am thinking we try for a separate agreement with Egypt, then go to Geneva later in the year with an overall agreement. Rabin may try to tie your hands on an overall agreement in conceding an Egyptian agreement.

[Omitted here is further discussion of the President’s upcoming trip to Europe, including Spain, Morocco, Italy, Poland, the Pope, Greece, and Turkey.]

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversations, 1973–1977, Box 12. Secret; Nodis. Brackets are in the original. The meeting was held in the Oval Office.
  2. On May 25, The New York Times published a front-page article by Seymour Hersh on a classified intelligence operation, code-named Holystone, which gathered “vital information on the configuration, capabilities, noise patterns and missile-firing abilities of the Soviet submarine fleet.” According to Hersh, critics of the program, including “past and present members of the National Security Council, the State Department, the Navy and the Central Intelligence Agency,” not only argued that the information could be gathered by other means but also questioned “whether such intelligence operations have any place in the current atmosphere of détente between the United States and the Soviet Union.”
  3. Reference is to the President’s upcoming trip to Europe, which included stops in Belgium, Spain, Austria, Italy, and Vatican City. CSCE was an important item on the agenda in Brussels, where Ford attended a NATO summit meeting May 28–31.
  4. The New York Times published an editorial on May 26 calling for “deliberate speed” in the negotiations for a conference on security in Europe (CSCE). “Most important,” the editors concluded, “no commitment should be made to a 35-nation summit conference until détente is back on the track lest self-deception cripple future efforts by the West to defend itself.” (“What Price Security?” The New York Times, May 26, 1975, p. 14)