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


  • Your Meeting with Ambassador Dobrynin, Tuesday, November [December] 9, 1975, 4 p.m.

This will be a somewhat delicate meeting because of the need to postpone my previously set visit to Moscow, the difficult situation in Angola and the Soviet effort to participate in Middle East diplomacy. These are the subjects for discussion.

Our current relations with the Soviets are clouded in part because of escalating public rhetoric in both countries. The Soviets are reacting with increasing bitterness to attacks on “détente” in this country;

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Brezhnev in Warsaw this morning was quite sharp in commenting on alleged Western failure to live up to the CSCE agreement (though he refrained from singling out the US). The Soviets have stalled the previously promising negotiations for renewal of the maritime agreement, possibly because Brezhnev is under attack at home for paying too much to make up the disastrous Soviet harvest. On Angola, the Soviets have made an apparent overture to Zaire to cool down the situation but their active support, and Cuba’s, of the MPLA continues space.

The present time is probably quite fluid in Moscow because of the preparations for the Party Congress at which time Brezhnev will have to make a rather basic, programmatic statement on domestic and foreign affairs. This is bound to be affected by Soviet perceptions of where the US is headed and these perceptions, in turn, may well be subject to controversy, as they always have been in the past. There continues to be evidence that Brezhnev himself wants to keep relations with us on an even keel so that he can pursue his economic programs and safeguard his place in history. He probably wants a SALT agreement, but his military—always more influential when the leadership picture is uncertain—have programs that they will not be prepared to sacrifice. (In practice, for example, counting Backfire would mean that the Soviets would have to dismantle deployed ICBMs or SLBMs to stay within the 2400 limit.) Brezhnev undoubtedly sees himself as having made substantial concessions at and since Vladivostok and his concern with a potentially massive US cruise missile program seems genuine, if only because he is not anxious to make the huge investments required to match it rapidly. He probably is also stung by the debate about SALT “violations” here.

Talking Points


—we have been intensively examining ways to deal with the current deadlock on Backfire and cruise missiles;

—it had been our hope to have fully thought out considerations by next week so that Secretary Kissinger could conduct the fruitful conversations in Moscow which we agreed we should have in our recent exchange of correspondence;

—however, we now find that more work remains to be done and that the commitments of the senior cabinet officers are such that we cannot schedule the required high-level meetings during the next 10 days;

—since we would like to be in a position to forward some views and considerations to the Soviet side a week or more before the Secretary’s visit, so that your leaders can review them. I would like to sug[Page 865]gest that Secretary Kissinger make his visit during the week of January 19;

—I would of course welcome any substantive Soviet views in the meantime so that our own work might have the benefit of them;

—I want to stress that my sole concern is to assure that a visit will be constructive; I believe an unsuccessful visit would be against the interest of both our countries at this time. I proceed from the assumption that this is Mr. Brezhnev’s view also.

—I regret any inconvenience the proposed postponement might produce for Mr. Brezhnev but I hope he and his colleagues will understand my reasons and that the sole purpose is to produce progress.

2. Angola

—this is a very disturbing situation;

—we have no direct interests in Angola and want to see the country at peace and independent;

—but it is clear that if one external power becomes active and pursues unilateral interests, others are bound to take notice;

—it is clear that Angola’s neighbors and other African states are deeply disturbed by Soviet and Cuban intervention;

—we for our part, as we have stated in diplomatic communications, are deeply concerned by Soviet/Cuban actions. Whatever the original motivations, these actions are now clearly aimed at creating a bridgehead for external powers in a strategic area of Africa;

—this is not in conformity with our many formal and informal understandings not to exacerbate tensions, not to intervene in the affairs of other countries and not to seek unilateral gains at the expense of the other side;

—we want to see the factions in Angola compose their differences and we want to see all external interventions ended. To this end it is essential that Soviet and Cuban involvement—beyond normal interstate relations—be ended;

—when this happens we would be ready to join in UN or other moves to bar external interference and to help bring about domestic tranquillity in Angola;

—I must stress that if the present situation persists it cannot help but affect other relationships.

3. Middle East

—Secretary Kissinger has informed me of your proposal to conduct bilateral consultations over the coming year;

—I am prepared to do this in a constructive spirit and on a regular basis and would assign Under Secretary Sisco to this task;

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—exchanges could be conducted here, in New York and in Moscow as convenient to both sides;

—we would look to the resumption of the Geneva talks in a manner acceptable to all concerned. At the moment that condition does not pertain but we would hope that our consultations might contribute to bringing it about.

Note: A letter from you to Brezhnev proposing postponement of my Moscow trip until January is attached2 so that you can hand it to Dobrynin.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Lot File 81D286, Records of the Office of the Counselor, Box 7, Soviet Union, Oct.–Dec. 1975. Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. The original is an uninitialed copy. Copies of recent correspondence, Documents 212, 214, 217, and 219, are attached.
  2. Printed as Document 225.