21. Memorandum From the Counselor of the Department of State (Sonnenfeldt) to Secretary of State Kissinger1


  • Aftermath of President’s Breakfast with Three Senators on Trade Bill2

Subject to specific things that may have been said by the President and you to Dobrynin, I think yesterday’s public statements by Jackson et al. are going to raise some serious problems in Moscow. If I were Brezhnev, I would either have to assume that the new President has virtually accepted the Jackson amendment (implying also identification with him on other matters) or is a total cynic who is making commitments he cannot expect to keep (and which the Soviets know he [Page 58] cannot keep, since they are the ones who have to deliver). Jackson’s press conference is at Tab A.3

I think we ought to review the bidding once more before this road is further pursued. Moreover, apart from the immediate impression in Moscow, there is also a time bomb down the road. For whatever the precise solution of the waiver issue, a year after enactment of the Trade Bill—say about the end of 1975—MFN and credits for the USSR would quite probably have to be stopped. How this might affect SALT negotiations, or Congressional consideration of SALT agreements that might have been concluded at next year’s summit, is hard to say. But in any case we could be entering an election year with a serious disturbance in US-Soviet relations.

It seems to me that against the background of what has happened so far, we should somehow try to get agreement that the assurances and interpretations, and the legislation itself, are objectives and that annual findings should be used to measure substantial progress toward reaching them. MFN and credits would be withdrawn when the President finds that the state of compliance with the standards we have agreed on falls appreciably short of the basic goal of the legislation: non-denial of the right and opportunity to emigrate.

This should be expressed not as a waiver but as a discretionary authority for the President, subject, possibly, also to separate action by Congress in the form of a Joint Resolution, to extend MFN and credits for some initial period and thereafter if he finds at a specified annual date that the state of compliance “substantially promotes the objectives” (Jackson’s language) of the Bill.4

I am no lawyer or expert on legislative drafting, so if this is at all in the ball park, perhaps we should get Aldrich and Eberle to do some drafting.

Of course, there would have to be another tough round with the Senators, possibly by the President.

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That you indicate whether you wish to have this matter pursued in the manner indicated above.

Agree, get Aldrich and Eberle into it.5


  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Lot File 81D286, Records of the Office of the Counselor, Box 9, Trade Bill, August 1974. Eyes Only.
  2. See Document 16.
  3. Attached but not printed is a transcript of the news conference, which was held in the White House briefing room at 9:31 a.m. on August 15. When a reporter asked for a “little more detail” on Ford’s initiative on the Trade Bill, including his meeting with Dobrynin on August 14, Jackson replied “that the significant development is the President’s direct participation and as a result of that participation and with Mr. Dobrynin’s return here, there has been movement. Mr. Dobrynin had not planned to come to Washington at this time, but he has made a special return trip early and he has addressed himself to this specific problem in our relations with the Soviet Union. That is the significance of it.”
  4. Reference is to a new subsection in Title IV of the Trade Bill, which Jackson, Javits, and Ribicoff proposed in their August 14 memorandum (see Document 15 and the attachment thereto). The full text reads: “The President is authorized to waive for a period not to exceed one year the provisions of this Section only after finding, and reporting to Congress, that the exercise of such waiver will substantially promote the objectives of this section.”
  5. Kissinger initialed his approval of this recommendation. Aldrich proposed several alternative drafts of the JacksonVanik Amendment in a memorandum to Sonnenfeldt on August 17. (National Archives, RG 59, Lot File 81D286, Records of the Office of the Counselor, Box 9, Trade Bill, August 1974)