237. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • President Ford
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State
  • Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense
  • Lt. General Brent Scowcroft, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs

[Omitted here is a brief exchange on Iranian oil.]

[The President:] Henry, where do we stand?

Kissinger: I asked Dobrynin for a delay in my trip by a few days.2 He thought it would be impossible, but he is checking. But there is another question—could I go with this uproar on Angola? The conservatives will scream that we are protesting Angola and still toady up to them. If I don’t go, the liberals will scream that we are jeopardizing everything for Angola when we shouldn’t be there in the first place.

The OAU meeting probably won’t be decisive, unless it is negative.

Rumsfeld: Henry has a good point. It is not just the seeming contradiction between our concern on Angola and going to the Soviet Union. There are so many people who will say what the hell is going on.

Kissinger: If I didn’t go, I would have to say that under these conditions it would create the wrong impressions, that we want SALT and will submit our proposals at Geneva and continue working with the Soviet Union. My people think that if we postpone again now we won’t get SALT this year.3

Rumsfeld: I don’t think we should assume we couldn’t get a deal later.

[Page 894]

The President: My feeling is SALT II is in the best interests of the United States and the world. Second, I have the feeling that if we don’t continue to move constructively, we won’t get one in 1976. Won’t your cancellation preclude us moving in a constructive way? What else could we do?

Kissinger: A cancellation wouldn’t really calm the conservatives until Reagan was disposed of. The liberals will scream that we are paying for Angola twice, but they may pressure you to negotiate SALT.

Rumsfeld: That is not bad.

[Discussion of timing, Congressional ratification, etc. Kissinger argued against Option IV, unless put in Geneva. Rumsfeld said the JCS aren’t in concrete and we should discuss the essence of the difference between III and IV.]4

Rumsfeld: Both for your decision making process you should see the essence of the difference between III and IV. George Brown’s judgment is to present IV, then go with G or pieces of III, then let you decide on a fallback.

The President: [Discussed procedure at the NSC meeting.] I would like a military assessment of the difference between these options and no agreement.

Kissinger: Jim [Schlesinger] was really willing at the last NSC meeting to let Backfire run free.

I think on the negotiation we should look at the best reasonable outcome. If you start with Backfire, since they have said a million times they wouldn’t do it, they know there must be a fallback.

  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. During a telephone conversation at 3 p.m. on January 6, Kissinger asked Dobrynin whether it would be “absolutely impossible” to change the dates for his upcoming visit to Moscow. According to Kissinger, “it [had] been suggested to me” that it might be inappropriate to visit Moscow, especially during the President’s State of the Union address on January 19, while news reports charged the Ford administration with “coddling the Soviet Union.” (Department of State, Electronic Reading Room, Kissinger Transcripts of Telephone Conversations)
  3. See Document 235.
  4. See footnote 6, Document 236.