244. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • President Ford
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State
  • Brent Scowcroft, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs

Kissinger: I presented Modified Option IV to Dobrynin.2 He read through it until he got to Backfire. Then he went up in smoke. He said they want an agreement but there is no way they can count Backfire. He said he had no instructions and maybe he would be surprised but he thought it was impossible.

He asked if there were any other possibilities. I mentioned Option I because everyone seemed to like that. He said that was impossible. I used Don’s3 argument that it deferred the politically sensitive part until after our election. He said maybe it was acceptable if we included ALCM’s for the MIRV counting rules. That would be a concession in two ways on their part: It included the principle of Backfire, lets SLCM’s match off against Backfire, and gives us the counting rules without including all cruise missiles. You and Brezhnev would sign, with a codicil saying there would be an agreement on saying cruise missiles and Backfire by January 1977. They want it done in your term.

I think it would lead to Option III. As I understand Clements, his objection to III is political in this election year. This idea would solve that.

I can’t judge the political impact of the primaries on an agreement, but this would avoid this. I think you should let the Chiefs know about this and get them on board.

[Page 907]

I must tell you that Brent thinks the JCS have already pocketed the MIRV verification rules and will scream “unilateral concession” if we include ALCM’s in a deferral package.

The President: I think Option III is the place to end up and I am willing to defend it politically. This might be a good way to get there. Why isn’t matching Backfire off against SLCM’s a good trade militarily?

[Discussion of the Option IV and III SLCM packages]

Scowcroft: Do you want the NSC meeting on Monday or Saturday?4 Monday might be a bad day.

The President: Let’s wait to see how the State of the Union is coming along.

Kissinger: My press conference went well.5 They were very respectful.

The President: I think we are in good shape on the issues. We certainly made the right decision on your going to Moscow, that’s obvious from the press reports of your press conference. If we had cancelled, they would have screamed that we were jeopardizing SALT and the whole relationship for lousy Angola.

Kissinger: Mahon called me wailing about what to do on the Defense appropriation bill. Maybe you should get the leaders in.

The President: I am having them in on Tuesday on the Budget.

Kissinger: I wouldn’t mix the two.

The President: When are you getting back? We should be able to get the leaders to hold off on the bill until then.

Kissinger: Sunday.6

Scowcroft: But we need a strategy. Perhaps we should figure a way to go in openly for the money.

Kissinger: The problem is how do you administer it? Make Zaire acknowledge openly that they are intervening with our money? That is why we did it covertly.

The President: Let’s meet with the leaders when you get back from Moscow.

Kissinger: Okay, but we shouldn’t be under any illusions that I will bring something back with me. That will take time, if it ever happens.

[Page 908]

The President: I understand, but I think you could at least tell them of your discussion.

Kissinger: Okay, And I am having some books prepared of foreign press comments on Angola and how we are abdicating our great power responsibility.

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversations, 1973–1977, Box 17. Secret; Nodis. All brackets are in the original. The meeting was held in the Oval Office.
  2. See Document 243 and footnote 1 thereto.
  3. Donald Rumsfeld.
  4. The NSC met on Monday, January 19. See footnote 3, Document 248.
  5. During his press conference at the Department of State on January 14, the Secretary announced that the President had approved his upcoming trip to Moscow. Kissinger also criticized the Soviet role in Angola, declaring that the “United States considers such actions incompatible with a genuine relaxation of tensions.” For the full text of the press conference, see Department of State Bulletin, February 2, 1976, pp. 125–132.
  6. January 25.