270. Transcript of Telephone Conversation Between Secretary of State Kissinger and Ted Koppel of ABC News1

Koppel: You have just been accused of being helpless and very emotional.

K: Who is that, Jackson?

Koppel: No, the Russians. The Russians are particularly talking about what happened yesterday as a display of helplessness and emotional.

K: What happened yesterday?

Koppel: Funseth’s statement at the briefing.2

K: Oh.

Koppel: What intrigues me though is the Russians seem to be exceedingly optimistic about SALT.

K: If they are I do not know why.

Koppel: You are not?

K: It depends on their answer.

Koppel: The kind of scenario that I could see building, if you had any indication that SALT was alive and well what is possible for political issues to get tough and once the primaries are over we revive the move toward détente.

K: We made this move 3 weeks ago. It is a serious move.

Koppel: It was never linked 3 weeks ago to Angola.

K: That is correct but we were positive they would figure it out for themselves what the reason was. I think we are living in that time now where everybody talks. This was not a high-level decision to figure this out.

Koppel: You were not intending this to be taken as a slap against SALT.

K: No. I wanted it to be taken as a sign the Angolans are not free.

Koppel: They are taking it as a sign this is an election year.

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K: Believe me, we would have done this in any event and this was not intended to come out in the primaries or we could have put it out 3 weeks ago when it would have done him a hell of a lot more good. He did not need it in the primaries.

Koppel: Yes.

K: The time to put it out would have been before Florida.3 This decision was made in the middle of February.

Koppel: As far as SALT is concerned, nothing . . . you know the Russians and how talkative they are in town. Today they are being extremely talkative. Unless you call up, you are lucky to get a good morning out of them. Today they are being very helpful.

K: Good. I consider that to be a good sign. It also means we are getting through to them. The fact they say we are helpless and emotional, that is not the worst thing they could say.

Koppel: That is right. What they find interesting is that they find Jackson particularly interesting as a candidate. He has never openly opposed détente, just you. They say he attacks you, not détente.

K: That is not true but lately he has been shifting on that. I don’t think it is true he has never attacked détente but he has lately shifted on that which indicates something on the public mood.

Koppel: Okay. Good. Thanks very much.

  1. Source: Department of State, Electronic Reading Room, Kissinger Transcripts of Telephone Conversations. No classification marking.
  2. On March 16, Robert L. Funseth, the Department of State Spokesman, announced that, due to Soviet military involvement in Angola, the United States would temporarily suspend its participation in several Soviet-American joint commissions. “In light of the situation in Angola,” Funseth explained, “we felt we could not conduct our business with the Soviet Union as usual.” (Bernard Gwertzman, “U.S., Angry Over Angola, To Delay 3 Soviet Meetings,” The New York Times, March 17, 1976, pp. 1, 4) For background on this decision, see Document 261.
  3. Ford narrowly defeated Reagan in the Republican primary in Florida on March 9.