262. Memorandum of Conversation1


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

Kissinger: My own view is that if this fails, we should suspend SALT until after the elections. This option is so much worse than Option II, but you can’t even get an honest discussion of the issues. Under IV, DOD was willing to give them 230 Backfire. They are not planning more than 450–500, they couldn’t be. And with reductions, the Backfire would be wholly offset. If the Soviets buy this, it will be in terms of [Page 1001] Backfire and cruise missile running free and no reductions. I am lukewarm in support of Option II, but I am not bleeding for it.

President: Rumsfeld, Brown and those people don’t understand. I agree with you.

Kissinger: The smart way would have been to pick up their points and build on them. If Reagan and Jackson get knocked out, the Soviets will be tougher.

President: I was so irritated last night that I was ready to junk the whole thing.2

Kissinger: The cynicism of these people is sickening.

President: How do you reconcile the DOD attitude with their screaming about the Soviets going all-out on Defense production? I think under the circumstances we have to go with this option. I am not optimistic but I think to go through the trauma it would take for Option II . . .

Kissinger: No, you can’t do it. It is just that we must recognize that it isn’t the best thing to do.

[Omitted here is discussion of Latin America, Law of the Sea, and China.]

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversations, 1973–1977, Box 17. Secret; Nodis. The meeting was held in the Oval Office.
  2. The President met with Kissinger, Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Scowcroft from 6:06 to 8:05 p.m. on February 15 to discuss SALT. A very brief memorandum of conversation is ibid. Rumsfeld’s record of the meeting is in the digital Donald Rumsfeld Papers.