166. Memorandum From Secretary of State Kissinger to President Ford 1


  • [less than 1 line not declassified] Report [less than 1 line not declassified]

[4 lines not declassified] provides an insight into Soviet policy on a broad range of questions, along with some very frank statements about a number of countries. Two themes are particularly striking: their continuing obsession with China, and their basic decision to maintain relations with us. Japan and Germany are also major concerns.

The 27-page report is at Tab A.2 Following are some of the highlights:

Détente and U.S.-Soviet Relations

—Détente is not absolute, but it is substantial and real. Deliberate war with the U.S. is impossible, but war could come by mistake, or provoked by the Chinese. Détente kept the 1973 Middle East War from getting out of control.

—The ABM Agreement of 1972 prevented a technological race in which the Soviet Union would have lost out.

—Present-day Western imperialism, though suffering its most serious economic crisis in a long time, nevertheless has learned much and possesses large enough economic possibilities.

—The U.S. overestimated the Soviets’ need for credits. In the last three years the Soviets got “practically nothing” from America. “After all, 30 million tons of [Soviet] oil are going to the free market.” They can now pay cash for some foreign projects being built in the Soviet Union.

—“We have destroyed Jackson as a political figure. . . . My God, it’s worth the money to keep that swine out of the White House.” The U.S. will probably revise the trade limitations, most likely just before the 1976 elections. But if worse comes to worst, the Soviets can wait for the next Congress.

—The Soviet Union’s peace program is only part of its foreign policy. The main part is the battle for strengthening world socialism. [Page 665] The second main part is solidarity with revolutionary movements. The third part is the struggle for détente, for the creation of favorable conditions for the first two parts.

—The “central issue” is the present correlation of nuclear missile power between the USSR and USA. Nixon said to Brezhnev that in view of the equality of our power, we must proceed from the necessity of mutual economy and seek agreement. “And that is now the decisive factor in our world policy.”


—The Chinese proceed from the thesis that China will be confirmed as a world power if the Soviet Union and U.S. destroy each other in a nuclear war. Mao allegedly said to Kissinger in November 1973: “The détente between you and the Soviet Union is only apparent. It will generate new conflicts, and China will be on America’s side in these conflicts.” [There is no such quote in the record of my meeting with Mao.]3

—Chinese policy is deeply rooted, and nothing will change when Mao dies. The generation that replaces Mao will be leftists and will kill each other off. Only the next generation after that will be pragmatic enough to talk to. Only then will Sino-Soviet relations be adjusted.

—The West is wrong to think that Chou and Mao have defeated the Leftists. There are now a significant number of leftists in the government; Chang Chun-chiao will eventually be Prime Minister and is already, practically speaking, the number two man in the Army, under Mao. The leftists also still control the Party apparatus.

—The Americans are feeding the Chinese information and disinformation to keep the quarrel going. But America has limited possibilities. The U.S. can prevent a rapprochement but not bring things to a conflict. The prospects of Japanese-Chinese rapprochement are more dangerous. The USSR must therefore bind Japan economically to the Soviet Far East.


—Miki is a little better than Tanaka. “He will be less inclined than Tanaka to play the Chinese card.”

—Under certain circumstance the USSR would return two of the northern islands to Japan, but not the other two. The development of economic ties with Japan will assume such a character that this problem will somehow disappear of its own accord.

[Page 666]

—The Soviets are not bothered too much by the prospect of a Chinese-Japanese Friendship Treaty. This will be a purely political document, much weaker than the Soviet-Indian treaty, with no alliance obligations. The Soviets are saying nasty things to the Japanese to complicate the situation and annoy China, but they can’t prevent such a treaty and should not dramatize it.

Middle East

—If the October War had lasted two or three days longer, the Arabs would have been utterly crushed.

—In a new Middle East war, Israel could easily seize the Persian Gulf. A war would cause a very serious U.S.-Soviet confrontation and “would present us with a number of extremely serious problems.”

—The Soviets are staying involved in the Middle East because the imperialists would fill the vacuum otherwise. “We want nothing more than that.” The first task is to prevent a new war, because the Arabs would be defeated. The second task is not to let the Americans, Sadat and Israel force the Soviets out. The Syrians and Palestinians are a useful “bludgeon.” Geneva, plus the threat of an oil embargo, will in the final analysis force America and Israel to a political settlement. Brezhnev called off his trip partly for health reasons and partly because he didn’t want to be witness to those “backstage machinations being cooked up by Sadat, Kissinger and Israel.”


—“We gave help to Wilson and the Labour Party in their return to power.” The Labour victory “was advantageous to us, and we are assisting it.”

Pompidou’s departure was “not advantageous” to the USSR.

Brandt’s departure was “extremely disadvantageous.” If Schmidt had been in power earlier, “we wouldn’t have signed a single agreement with West Germany in the last five years.” Brandt left because the Socialists were losing their position. “But evidently it won’t be possible to correct the situation, and we have to prepare for the advent of a coalition with Strauss.”

—“Brandt’s line is just as imperialistic as Strauss’s. Strauss wanted to frighten Europe with the atomic bomb, but Brandt considers that even the Socialist camp can be broken up by soothing.” DeGaulle once told Adenauer: Recognize those Polish borders, then we will tear Poland away from Russia. That was the intention. “Nevertheless we grasped the positive elements of that policy and . . . effectively solved our European problems.”

—The imperialists lost heavily in Cyprus. The Greeks and Turks moved against each other, and the NATO Command, according to the Washington Post, discovered that both armies were “trash.”

[Page 667]

—“We must keep an eye on the situation in East Germany. They are nourishing some painfully large illusions there about widening relations with the West.”

—“We have no confidence that Yugoslavia will remain a Socialist country after Tito’s death.” The Yugoslav republics will probably start fighting again, and some will seek Soviet help and some will seek American help.

—“The Romanian comrades are getting carried away in the field of foreign policy.” They are seeking to end the big powers’ veto at the UN, are “complicating” the European Security Conference, and are making territorial claims against the USSR. With delicacy, restraint, and patience, the Romanians must be brought to see “they have nowhere else to go.”


—As time goes on, the USSR will receive less and less support from the Third World. Disagreement with them is inevitable, for example, on Law of the Sea. They oppose détente. The food crisis also “creates a number of problems.”

—India is an “imperialistic country.” Iran is “stupefied by the dollar.”

—[early 1975:] 85% of the South Vietnamese population lives in Saigon’s territory, and it is increasing. There will be no political settlement. Perhaps the two sides will set up two parallel governments and be preserved for a while; or perhaps they will slip into a new war.

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Presidential Country Files for Europe and Canada, 1974–1977, Box 17, USSR (16). Top Secret; Nodis. Sent for information. All brackets except those that indicate text not declassified are in the original. Ford initialed the memorandum; a stamped note also indicates that he saw it.
  2. Dated June 16; attached but not printed.
  3. The record of Kissinger’s meeting with Mao in Beijing on November 12, 1973, is printed in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XVIII, China, 1973–1976, Document 58.