186. Memorandum From the President’s Deputy Assistant (Friedersdorf) to President Ford1

I have talked to General Scowcroft about the strong indication by Congressman Bill Green (D–Pa.) Chairman of the House Ways and

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Means Trade Subcommittee, during the Speaker’s Soviet trip,2 that he has changed his mind on “Most Favored Nations” status for the Soviets and indicated he would be willing to work for restoration of the MFN for the USSR.

Congressman Green expressed this during formal sessions with the Deputies of the Supreme Soviet and also in private conversations with the Deputies and other Soviet officials.

He indicated to me personally that he would like to start working on this when Congress reconvened and would like the opportunity to discuss it directly with Secretary Kissinger at the Secretary’s convenience.

Green said that he has become convinced that MFN is in the best interest of the United States and the USSR because the current status is costing American jobs and the Soviets are going ahead and making their purchases elsewhere—two points that the Soviets stressed in their talks with the Speaker’s Congressional delegation.

Both Green and Phil Burton3 indicated to the Supreme Soviet Deputies that they both thought that repeal of JacksonVanik in the 94th Congress would be difficult if not impossible, although Green indicated his willingness to try.

The Soviets’ very strong statement to the Congressmen that JacksonVanik was posing critical problems in relations with the U.S. and that continuation of it would mean economic losses over five years of $9 billion in American exports to the Soviet and the loss of 240,000 jobs in the U.S., had a strong effect on the Speaker’s delegation and not one member of the delegation disputed the beneficial effects for the U.S. except for a comment that George Meany is worried about imports affecting American labor.

The Soviets emphasized that they are obtaining billions of dollars worth of credit from France, Britain, West Germany, Japan, and Italy and that American insistence on MFN is hurting no one but the U.S.

I believe that when we renew our efforts on MFN for the Soviets we should emphasize the adverse economic impacts more strongly, and indicate to the Congress and public that we are only asking for the same trade conditions that we have with 101 other countries.

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Most of the delegation’s discussions with the Soviets from the American side of the table settled on the insistence that the Soviets live up to the Basket 3 provisions of the Helsinki agreements with major emphasis on the Jewish emigration issue.

The Soviets strenuously objected to criticism on this issue and repeatedly cited figures that 98.4% of the applications are approved. Congressman Sid Yates4 and other members of the delegation turned over a list of several hundred names to the Soviets and they agreed to review them individually and report back to the Speaker on the disposition.

Chairman Mel Price,5 Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, emphasized the necessity for on-sight inspection in the discussion with the Soviets and expressed the opinion that détente could not be fully consummated until the questions of disarmament are settled.

Congressman John Brademas (D–Ind.), Deputy Democratic Whip in the House, was very forceful in all of the discussions and concentrated on the Basket 3 implementation.

Brademas dominated most of the press conferences and seemed to be playing for headlines with strong statements saying that détente could die in 1976 if the Soviets did not adhere to the Helsinki Agreements.

Brademas indicated in a Moscow press conference that Helsinki could become a major partisan issue in the 1976 Presidential election race.

The Soviets insisted, of course, that Helsinki was a great historical document and that the Soviets will abide by its provisions as the U.S. should. The Soviets said that the Helsinki agreements reflected a code of behavior for the participating nations, it represents a principle of non-interference and is a legal document which neither side can choose only the conditions they like, and not abide by the others.

The Soviets insisted that Helsinki represents nothing new in the situation of the U.S. vis-à-vis Eastern Europe because the situation in Eastern Europe could only be changed by force and that the Soviets will abide by the conditions of Helsinki in full.

The Soviets said that the press in America is interpreting Helsinki as some gift given to the Soviets but in fact it represents no gift because the Soviet Union lost 20 million lives in WWII.

The Soviets said that there were no one-sided concessions at Helsinki and that they had reduced by 400 million rubles their military budget because of the improved change in international relations. The [Page 747] Soviets insisted that the Congressional delegation had no right to question the accuracy of Soviet armament figures any more than the Soviets had the right to question ours.

G.A. Arbatov, Director of the U.S.A. Institute, handled a large portion of the Soviet dialogue and he made some strong and pointed statements as follows:

“We have not lived for 200 years with the protection of two oceans. We have sometimes had to hide our weaknesses by secrecy, but we have now achieved military parity.”

“We object to Secretary Schlesinger’s statements about the U.S. using nuclear missiles first; on war heads you have 3½ times our counter-force protection.”

“Secretary Kissinger has no complaints on verification and you have the advantageous geographical components.”

“We have 110 nationalities with no segregation and you have segregation. You are a nation of immigrants and that is nice, but the Zionists through Congress are trying to damage détente.”

“Is the Sinai and Golan Heights more important to you than the security of the U.S.?”

“There are much greater problems than Basket Three such as prevention of a nuclear missile war and a clash between nations. Congressmen should tell the people of the United States that we want no new war and the Soviet Union is sincerely seeking peace.”

“U.S. production of small range cruise missiles which are hideable is destabilizing, as are other mobile systems.”

The Soviets accused the Pentagon of trying to frighten the Congress and the public into higher defense expenditures.

The delegation met for approximately three hours in three separate sessions with 22 Deputies of the Supreme Soviet and also met for over two hours at Yalta with Brezhnev who repeated most of the same comments that we had heard in Moscow from the Supreme Soviet Deputies.

The Congressional delegation was greatly impressed with Brezhnev’s presentation and responses to their questions and their reaction to his physical appearance varied from poor to excellent. Some of the Congressmen thought he looked like a person who is suffering from a fatal disease while others remarked that he seemed to be in robust health.

Congressman Latta6 seemed to think Brezhnev was extremely tired and seemed to be more fatigued as the talks proceeded.

[Omitted here is further discussion of the Congressional delegation’s trip, including their meetings with Tito and Ceausescu.]

  1. Source: Ford Library, White House Central Files, Subject File, 1974–1977, TA–Trade. No classification marking. A note on the memorandum reads: “The President has seen.”
  2. Speaker Carl Albert led a delegation of 18 Congressmen to the Soviet Union August 7–15; the delegation met with Brezhnev at Yalta on August 14. The Embassy in Moscow reported on the meeting with Brezhnev in telegram 11602, August 15. Reports on other meetings the delegation had in Moscow, including one with Jewish activists, are in telegrams 11354 and 11402, August 12, and 11563, August 15. (All in National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files)
  3. Philip Burton (Democrat, California).
  4. Sidney R. Yates (Democrat, Illinois).
  5. Charles Melvin Price (Democrat, Illinois).
  6. Delbert L. Latta (Republican, Ohio).