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


  • Half-Lies and Half-Truths

The Press currently is riddled with them and it seems almost hopeless to try to correct them.

SALT “evasions”; see the Middleton article last Saturday.2 It is almost wholly false in recounting the alleged differences between Schlesinger and you and above all in stating that you have “turned a blind eye” to Soviet “violations.” The “most serious infraction—the 200 new command and control silos—is in fact not the most serious problem at all, either in terms of SALT compliance or in terms of strategic significance. Above all, however, you turned no “blind eye” toward it since it has been raised repeatedly in the SCC and we have acquired information that indicates that at the very least it would take enormous effort and many months work for the Russians to turn these silos into ICBM launchers. The story also ignores our own “violation”—the environmental shelters—which despite repeated requests by the White House has not been corrected.

—Conceding unequal ceilings to the Soviets at Vladivostok; see the Middleton piece. It is of course false since the unequal aggregates would have been balanced by unequal MIRV limits in our favor. The [Page 849] decision was in fact made by the President at Vladivostok and the difference in terms of strategic impact is nil. Nor did the President reject your alleged position “out of hand.” As I recall it took a walk in the snow plus additional discussions lasting several hours at Vladivostok to decide that there was a marginal political advantage in going one way rather than the other.

—Cruise Missiles; see the Wall Street Journal editorial of November 7.3 Almost totally false. It is not true that the Soviets are trying to “limit” our cruise missiles. They are trying to get us to count them against the 2400 aggregate above a certain range. It is we who are trying to limit Soviet cruise missiles since the Soviets will be faced with the fact that they are already above the 2400 limit and counting cruise missiles forces them either not to have them or to remove some other systems important to them. Moreover, it is we who are proposing to ban certain of them above range limits (with Pentagon agreement).

—Cruise missile verification; see the Wall Street Journal editorial of November 7. You and the President want to rely on Soviet “good faith.” At least half false. The only difference relates to range limits and whatever the limit the verification problems are exactly identical. The one Pentagon proposal extant—to limit cruise missile restrictions to nuclear armed ones—would indeed depend solely on Soviet “good faith” for implementation.

—Cruise missiles: You want to limit them, Schlesinger wants to have them. Wall Street Journal. False on its face.

—“Your Office” wrote a memo to Scowcroft recommending against the President’s meeting Solzhenitsyn because it would “offend the Soviets.” George Will, “Meet the Press.”4 Half truth. A State Department office did indeed write such a memo and it went in the routine Springsteen to Scowcroft channel.5 You may be responsible as you are for everything the Department does, but you never saw, much less endorsed this memo.

—The Soviets refuse to count their “intercontinental” Backfire against the 2400 limit and you agree with it. George Will, “Meet the Press” and others. Half false. The Backfire is intercontinental in certain flight profiles, but by common agreement its basic mission is peripheral. You have not agreed not to count it altogether. Missing from the allegation, however, is the point that hundreds of US aircraft that can attack the USSR in certain modes are excluded and thousands of cruise [Page 850] missiles that could attack the USSR, are under our proposals, excluded from the 2400 aggregate.

—Yours is a policy of “preemptive concession”; you want to be hard on everyone but the Soviets. (Middleton, Whalen)6 These are precisely the kind of smears that have been whispered around town for months, and are now out in the open, which create the kind of “tension” the President referred to yesterday.

—You oppose raising the nuclear threshold in Europe. At best a half truth. The issue is whether we should do this piecemeal or as the result of considered strategic decision; whether it is politically and psychologically wise to do so to such an extent that the nuclear deterrent loses all meaning and whether we and our allies have the resources and priorities to compensate the raising of the threshold with the kinds of conventional forces required as a result. Moreover, who, after ten years time, will be ahead in an out-of-theater cruise missile race.

—The Defense Budget. All kinds of articles imply that there was an issue here. False. If anything, the requirements you have envisaged for strategic and theater forces require higher defense budgets than those coming out of Defense.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Lot File 81D286, Records of the Office of the Counselor, Box 6, SALT, Nov.–Dec. 1975. No classification marking.
  2. Drew Middleton, “Schlesinger’s View of Kissinger Described,” The New York Times, November 8, 1975, p. 2.
  3. Attached but not printed.
  4. Ford was interviewed on the NBC News program “Meet the Press” on November 9; George Will, then an editor of the magazine National Review, was a member of the panel of questioners. For the text of the interview, see Public Papers: Ford, 1975, No. 666.
  5. See footnote 5, Document 155.
  6. Richard J. Whalen, “The Ford Shakeup: Politics vs. Policy,” The Washington Post, November 9, 1975, p. 81.