235. Message From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Scowcroft) and the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Hyland) to Secretary of State Kissinger in Jamaica1
Tohak 29/WH52625. Subject: Moscow Trip.
We are not at all sure that postponing the Moscow trip is a real option, even if SALT process in Washington does not yield maximum results. Any change of more than a few days would be immediately interpreted as linking SALT with Angola. This would be an effective linkage only if we could guarantee that the threat of abandoning SALT, or slowing it down, would yield results in Angola. This would be major calculated risk. The Soviets are committed to the MPLA; they have resumed their airlift, and given us no encouragement. From their viewpoint they are playing strong hand in immediate future (leaving aside the longer term problem of supporting anti-guerrilla war or wearing out their welcome). Linkage of SALT and Angola might shore up position of Kremlin hardliners who pressed Angolan operation. They would argue that US policy is hardening across the board, and that there is no reason for Soviets to try conciliatory tactics. They must have argued that Angola was worth some risk in any case. Even if they had argued they could score a quick cheap victory and are now faced with the consequences of a miscalculation, we are not sure that moderates in Kremlin, including Brezhnev, would have political punch to repudiate Angolan adventure just before a Party Congress.
In short, we are inclined to believe there is better than even chance that deferring your visit will not yield a change of Soviet policy in Angola, but may well put an end to SALT negotiations until after the elections.
Nevertheless, we have to recognize that SALT negotiations in Moscow on January 19 will occur under most inauspicious circum[Page 890]stances. This is precise time when Congress will return, and Angolan debate will flare up. By then OAU will have taken place,2 and probably yielded inconclusive call for peace negotiations and foreign withdrawals. In wake of this meeting MPLA will probably pick up some fence sitters. By that time South Africans will have begun complete disengagement, and situation in rest of Angola will be about the same, with UNITA forced to give some ground. Soviet build up will begin to have more telling effect, though rainy season in East Angola prevents major offensive operations.
On the other hand, our programs will begin to have some effect mainly in the north, with appearance of 300-man force now being recruited, and use of helicopter missile ships. Nevertheless, Soviets will almost certainly calculate that over long haul their forces will prevail, and that they need not make any concession beyond cosmetics to placate African opinion. If Congress were to cut off further funding during your visit, this would be bad psychological blow in any case.
In sum, we have a dilemma. Proceeding with visit and negotiations will confirm in Kremlin that Angola is in fact a low risk operation, and that they simply have to stick it out for a while longer.
Threat of cancellation might have some sobering effect in Kremlin, but will not alter situation in Angola or cause Soviets to terminate this adventure. Consequences for SALT will be ominous, particularly since it will be hard to argue that we can easily resume negotiations at later stage. Moreover, we have invested some capital in argument that SALT is in our overall interests and is not directly linked to other aspects of Soviet-American relations.
Our only recommendation is that you might want to engage in some private brinkmanship with Dobrynin after your return. You could hint that visit is not definite in light of Soviet response on Angola and defer any announcement of date until few days before departure. We also could leak out that visit is being reconsidered. And you could try some reverse linkage by saying to Dobrynin that only a guarantee of a forthcoming Soviet SALT proposal could justify visit in light of circumstances. In other words, you would argue that only a very favorable SALT agreement resulting from your visit would contain critics of détente. Moreover, you might argue for a gesture of Soviet restraint in Angola, such as terminating airlift, and announcing willingness to support ceasefire.
One final point is how would we proceed if Moscow negotiations are stalemated and Angola deteriorates. We would have to give [Page 891] thought to broad change of policy in an election year. You might want to underscore this consequence for Dobrynin.