155. Memorandum From A. Denis Clift of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1
- Solzhenitsyn’s Washington Visit
Alexander Solzhenitsyn will be visiting Washington during June 27–July 1.2 George Meany has written the President to ask that he attend an AFL–CIO banquet in Solzhenitsyn’s honor on June 30 (Tab C).3 Senators Helms and Thurmond have written the President to ask that he agree to meet with the Russian writer on June 30, and Jack Marsh has endorsed their request (Tab D).4
In response to our request for comments, the Department of State recommends strongly against the President’s attending the AFL–CIO banquet, noting that it will be an occasion for anti-Soviet rhetoric. 5 I concur with State’s recommendation. The memorandum for Jeanne Davis’ signature to Warren Rustand at Tab B would recommend against Presidential participation.
State comments that there will probably be pressures from other quarters for the President to meet with Solzhenitsyn. State recommends that the President not receive him for an Oval Office meeting, but suggests that if a meeting with Solzhenitsyn is deemed imperative [Page 611] that it might take place at a White House social function or a social function elsewhere in Washington. Clearly, the Soviet Government would not be pleased by the President’s meeting with Solzhenitsyn (however, the visit can’t please the USSR in any event). On the other hand, he is a Nobel Prize winning author, a man greatly admired in the United States, and—as noted in State’s memorandum—the Senate has passed a resolution granting him honorary U.S. citizenship.
It is my belief that the President may wish to accede to the Senators’ proposal that he meet briefly with Solzhenitsyn. If this is the case, I believe it unnecessary to contrive a social event. I think one way to handle the matter would be to arrange for Solzhenitsyn to come on a White House tour, during which the President could greet him. If this were to happen, I believe we could follow much the same press line as was followed during the February 25, 1974 White House press conference shortly after Solzhenitsyn’s expulsion when President Nixon said he personally admired Solzhenitsyn as a Nobel Prize winner and as a man of great courage, but that his case was not an issue in current US–USSR relations, that we recognize the differences in our systems, that we will continue to pursue the policy of détente because it is in the best interests of both countries to do so (press conference Q & A at Tab E).6
If you agree that a brief greeting during a June 30 White House tour offers the best solution, the schedule proposal at Tab A would so recommend. (If this is approved, we will, of course, have to follow through with the necessary arrangements to have Solzhenitsyn tour the White House on June 30.)
1. That you sign the schedule proposal at Tab A.
2. That you approve the memorandum for Jeanne Davis’ signature to Warren Rustand at Tab B.
- Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Presidential Name File, 1974–1977, Box 3, Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr I. Confidential. Sent for action. Tabs A–E are attached but not printed.↩
- In a note to Marsh on June 20, Rourke reported: “I spoke with Clint Fuller (Executive Assistant in Jesse Helms’ Office) concerning the Solzhenitsyn matter. Clint agreed to send us a letter, detailing the purpose, dates, etc. of proposed visit. I advised him that I had already run this by Brent Scowcroft and that NSC agreed to expedite action on any request we might pass on.” (Ford Library, Marsh Files, Box 30, General Subject File, Solzhenitsyn)↩
- The letter is dated June 18. Lane Kirkland, Secretary-Treasurer of the AFL–CIO, also signed it.↩
- At Tab D are the letter from Helms and Thurmond and a memorandum from Marsh to Scowcroft, both dated June 23.↩
- Attached but not printed is a memorandum to Scowcroft, June 26, in which Springsteen argued: “Not only would a meeting with the President offend the Soviets but it would raise some controversy about Solzhenitsyn’s views of the United States and its allies.” During an appearance on “Meet the Press” on November 9, George Will of National Review cited this passage and asked Ford whether this memorandum was “evidence of the fact that you did worry about offending the Soviet Union when you decided not to see Mr. Solzhenitsyn.” Ford replied: “The initial reaction was not related to détente as an undercutting of it. It was a decision made at that time for various reasons, and I did reconsider it and we did offer to see him.” (Public Papers: Ford, 1975, No. 666)↩
- For the transcript of the press conference, see ibid.: Nixon, 1974, No. 61.↩
- Kissinger indicated neither approval nor disapproval of the recommendations. In an attached, undated handwritten note to Clift, McFarlane reported: “The General [Scowcroft] has no strong preference as to who (Marsh, Friedersdorf) or how (in writing or orally) we answer Thurmond et al.” On June 26, Rourke notified Marsh that the NSC staff “would not recommend” a meeting between Ford and Solzhenitsyn. “Apparently, NSC feels that this would be something of an insult to the Soviet Union,” Rourke explained, “in that Solzhenitsyn continues to be a burr under the Soviet saddle. There is no indication how adamant NSC is in their position. This matter must, of course, be acted on immediately. I know you will want to consider the Thurmond/Helms, et al., reaction to a direct request for a Presidential meeting for Solzhenitsyn.” (Ford Library, Marsh Files, Box 30, General Subject File, Solzhenitsyn)↩