236. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • President Ford
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State
  • Lt. General Brent Scowcroft, Assistant to the President for NSC

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

Kissinger: Dobrynin said the Pravda article on Angola meant nothing.2 If they have something to say to us they will say it. He was very cocky; now intervention means everything except their support of the MPLA.

It is pathetic the African answers to your letter.3 They want help but they don’t see how they can trust us after the Senate vote.4 It was an outrageous thing for the Senate to do.

The key is the OAU meeting. I will meet with the African Ambassadors. If we don’t wrap it up before Congress comes back, I think all hell will break loose. After the meeting we should meet next week, perhaps have an NSC, to coolly decide what to do. If we get a good resolution we can decide—but the press is playing it as another Vietnam.

President: I think there is a little better feeling now about it then two weeks ago, but it is still murky.

[Page 892]

Kissinger: Most of the responses to your letter—Sadat, Kenyatta, have been very good.

We will have a SALT NSC Thursday.5 Whatever the positions, there is an entirely different attitude. Don has basically changed the whole atmosphere. The discussions have been serious and workmanlike.

There are three basic options: (1) Deferral. I am worried that moratoriums are hard to end and I think we should legitimize cruise missiles. After the election the Democrats will go to the left of you. (2) Include Backfire. That’s a good position but nonnegotiable. (3) A mixed package like you and I discussed weeks ago. [He described some of the elements.]6

Dobrynin was afraid when I called him in that we would cancel the trip. If we were stronger, we probably should, but you have rightly said we shouldn’t link grain and Angola, and we can’t then link SALT with it.

President: I agree.

[Discussion of SALT options and President’s support of mixed package.]

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

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversations, 1973–1977, Box 17. 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. For the English text of the editorial, published in Pravda on January 3, see Current Digest of the Soviet Press, Vol. XXVIII, No. 1 (February 4, 1976), pp. 4–5. Kissinger and Dobrynin evidently met on January 5; see footnote 1, Document 239. No substantive record of the conversation has been found.
  3. Reference is to a letter from Ford to the heads of state of Zaire, Zambia, Gabon, Senegal, and Ivory Coast, which was transmitted in telegram 1374, January 3, just prior to the OAU summit. For the text, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXVIII, Southern Africa, Document 168.
  4. See footnote 2, Document 229.
  5. January 9. The NSC met to discuss SALT on January 8. The record of the meeting is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXXIII, SALT II, 1972–1979.
  6. In his memoirs, Kissinger explained the principal options as follows: “The Pentagon put forth as Option IV its familiar position of counting the Backfire as a strategic bomber. To demonstrate flexibility, it also proposed a modified Option IV, which allowed the Soviets (for some inscrutable reason lost in the mists of time) to avoid counting whatever Backfires had been produced by the time the SALT interim agreement ended in 1977, perhaps 110 to 120 bombers. Finally, there emerged an Option III which, in a five-year agreement ending in 1982, balanced 300 Backfires against the right to have 15 cruise missiles of a range up to 2,500 kilometers on each of 25 surface shops, or a total of 375.” (Kissinger, Years of Renewal, p. 852)