208. Memorandum of Conversation1


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

President: I thought I would fill Henry in on the talk with Schlesinger.2

Kissinger: I haven’t had a chance to talk to Brent about it.

President: He asked for the meeting, but I don’t know if we got to his subjects. We started on personnel. It looks like we will lose Ellsworth. I offered a couple of jobs to him but he wanted to stay where he was, but with a higher title. I said I couldn’t see making two deputies in Defense. He asked about an undersecretary rank. I said send me the papers.

Kissinger: I have no problem with that, but DOD should get out of foreign policy.

President: Then I hit him on the Détente article by Dr. Wynfred Joshua3 a classified analytical paper, criticizing détente, which was, I said, was amateurish and shouldn’t have been released. He agreed. Then I said he hadn’t done his work on the Hill on the Defense budget. He said no organic harm had been done, but I said it was not perceived that way. Then Brent came in and we discussed the budget cut I wanted him to take. Then Brent says he went back and talked to him for some time.

Scowcroft: [Described Schlesinger conversation with me]

Kissinger: There is something every day. Today it is Les Gelb.4 Vladivostok was a real achievement. They are after me but it is going to get to you.

[Page 832]

President: That is correct.

Kissinger: When we were at Vladivostok they didn’t have us push on Backfire. On missiles, they just asked us to protect the SRAM, not cruise missiles [See exchange of messages from Vladivostok, Tab A].5 Schlesinger is making it tough for you with the Reagan bunch, but if you move to the right, the liberals will kill you in the election for sabotaging détente.

President: Are we working up anything new on our SALT position?

Kissinger: I don’t think we should until the Soviets respond to us.

President: What does Haig think about cruise missiles?

Kissinger: He is not all that enamored with them. He thinks Schlesinger’s objective is to get all the tactical nuclear weapons out of Europe. Except on SALT, Schlesinger is on the very liberal side.

If we don’t cap the cruise missiles, the Democrats will kill you with the claim there is a gap you can drive a truck through.

In Canada, he is saying we are falling behind in Defense with the Soviets. That is okay with a Congressional committee but not with foreigners. He also told them about using cruise missiles in response to an attack in Northern Norway. That is dangerous—indicating we would not respond to an attack with the full force of NATO.

The Democrats will have a field day if you support his SALT position and there will be no agreement.

President: I want a SALT agreement. I want to let my conversation with Jim sink in and then talk to him next week.

Kissinger: I think you must tell him that what should be coming from the Pentagon is simply support for your position. I earlier did some talking points to that end, but you don’t really need them.6

President: Give them to me. I want to pursue my talk with him in a more general sense.

Kissinger: Haig says he [Schlesinger] wants to be President.

[There is discussion of whether or not Schlesinger will resign.]

President: Give me the talking points.

[Omitted here is extensive discussion of issues unrelated to Soviet-American relations.]

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversations, 1973–1977, Box 16. Secret; Nodis. All brackets, except those inserted by the editor to indicate omitted passages, are in the original. The meeting was held in the Oval Office.
  2. Ford and Scowcroft met with Schlesinger in the Oval Office the previous evening. A memorandum of conversation is ibid. It is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXXV, National Security Policy, 1973–1976.
  3. Document 184.
  4. Leslie Gelb, “Pact with Soviet on Missile Curbs Reported in Peril,” The New York Times, October 16, 1975, pp. 1, 9.
  5. Not attached. See Document 97.
  6. Not found.