263. Letter From President Ford to Soviet General Secretary Brezhnev1

Dear Mr. General Secretary:

I have given considerable thought in recent weeks to the state of Soviet-American relations, and, in particular, to the situation with respect to the limitation of strategic arms.

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Before your Party Congress I wanted to share with you my assessment of the situation and some thoughts on how we might proceed.

In a sense we are at a crossroads. We can permit tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union to reappear and the talks on strategic arms to remain deadlocked. Or we can reassert and implement previously enunicated policies of mutually restrained conduct, especially in regard to third areas, and also move ahead to consolidate what we have already achieved in strategic arms limitation. I am firmly for the latter course. But frankly, I am deeply concerned over the current state of Soviet-American relations. First of all, the policy pursued by the Soviet Union in Angola has led to a serious setback in Soviet-American relations; it threatens to discredit our attempt to build a relationship based on the principle that neither side will exacerbate tensions in third areas or seek a unilateral advantage. I must tell you in all candor that another similar event would have the most serious consequences. Second, we have thus far not succeeded in moving toward the translation of the Vladivostok agreements into binding form.

I believe that we must take measures to arrest this deterioration in our relations. It is my feeling that the first step should be to complete negotiations for a treaty based on Vladivostok and sign it as soon as possible. Therefore, I want to offer a compromise solution. It takes into account the requirements and positions of both sides and thus is the only one that offers a realistic hope of leading to an early and positive outcome in the strategic arms negotiations.

The compromise is that we would agree to proceed with the completion of a treaty based on our agreement at Vladivostok and sign such a treaty as soon as possible; and, in addition, we would conclude an interim agreement to deal with those issues for which we have not yet devised a satisfactory solution.

My view is that we should not let any differences at this point jeopardize what has already been achieved. Both sides would clearly gain from the consolidation of our agreement at Vladivostok. I am fully prepared to submit such a treaty to the Congress for early ratification. Moreover, I believe a joint decision to proceed in this manner would be widely acclaimed by both the Soviet and American people.

Mr. General Secretary, I am firmly committed to strategic arms control as a basic element of Soviet-American relations. I am dedicated to building a relationship based on mutual restraint. We now have the opportunity to take a major step forward and it is in this spirit that I offer what I believe is the most effective way of making progress. I will await your reply and should it indicate that we have a basis for pro[Page 1003]ceeding, I suggest that Secretary Kissinger return to Moscow for discussion with you at a time of your convenience.


Gerald R. Ford
  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, KissingerScowcroft West Wing Office Files, 1974–1977, Box 29, USSR, The “D” File. No classification marking. According to marginalia, the letter was “handed to Amb D by Sec. Kissinger at 11:15 a.m. on 2–16–76.” No substantive record of the meeting between Kissinger and Dobrynin on February 16 has been found.