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164. Memorandum From the President’s Counselor (Marsh) and the President’s Deputy Assistant (Cheney) to President Ford1

Ron Nessen has read to us the proposed statement concerning Solzhenitsyn.2

We strongly believe that the correct statement would be a simple indication of your willingness to see him if he wishes to see you.

We feel very strongly that it would be a mistake to issue the statement linking Solzhenitsyn to détente and our relationship with the Soviet Union. Scowcroft agrees that the two should not be linked in a statement.

Marsh and Cheney both feel that it would be better to say nothing at all than to issue a statement which indicates that you are willing to see Solzhenitsyn and which also discusses U.S. and Soviet relations.

Thus our preferred option would be a simple statement indicating you will see Solzhenitsyn. Our second option would be to say nothing at all until next week. Scowcroft would prefer that you say nothing at all.

We all agree that it would be a serious mistake to issue the statement Ron read to us.

Also all agree that the proposed statement would cause a continuing problem and further aggrevate the Solzhenitsyn situation.3

  1. Source: Ford Library, Cheney Files, Box 10, Subject Files, Solzhenitsyn, Alexander. Secret; Flash. The original is telegram WH51230, which transmitted the text of the memorandum to Ford (via Nessen) in Chicago at 1849Z (12:49 p.m. CDT). The President was in Chicago on July 12 to deliver the commencement address at Chicago State University.
  2. The proposed statement, based on suggestions from Ford, Rumsfeld, and Nessen, included the following passage: “the President would not want any misunderstanding, either in the United States or elsewhere in the world as to the interpretations of such a meeting. It should not be viewed, if it takes place, as undercutting the process of relaxing tensions in the world.” Kissinger and Scowcroft suggested another option: “Say nothing.” (Ibid., Nessen Papers, Box 300, Subject File Accretion, Solzhenitsyn Visit)
  3. An AP dispatch from Chicago on July 12 (2:47 p.m. EDT) reported that Ford had reconsidered his previous decision, on Kissinger’s recommendation, to veto a meeting with Solzhenitsyn. According to White House sources, if asked at the press conference, “Ford would have expressed willingness to see Solzhenitsyn but also would have emphasized that such a meeting would not constitute an endorsement of the novelist’s views or be aimed in any way at undercutting détente.” (Ibid., Cheney Files, Box 10, Subject Files, Solzhenitsyn, Alexander)