274. Memorandum of Conversation1
- President Ford
- Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State
- Brent Scowcroft, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
[Omitted here is discussion of the Congress, the Middle East, and former President Nixon’s report on his recent trip to China.]
[Kissinger:] I am worried about the Soviet approach. If we piss on everything, we will lose the whole policy. If they think you are no better than anyone else they can do a lot to harass you. I think we should look for ways to reimpose our commitment to détente. We must show them Angola was unacceptable, but in retrospect I think the public postponement of the joint commissions was a mistake. Don’s approach yesterday was nonsense.2
The President: It didn’t make sense.
Kissinger: I am assuming that even if you don’t want an agreement you don’t want to break off the talks.
The President: I would prefer an agreement, because I think that is in the national interest.
Kissinger: One way to go would be to improve our last proposal, or pick out some of the more attractive aspects of the Soviet January proposal. Or to put together the best proposal we can, based on our old options, with reductions, but make it a final proposal not subject to negotiation.
The President: I like that approach. Especially I think reductions are very attractive. What is our timing?
Kissinger: I think we should do it in a leisurely way. After the meeting next Wednesday,3 you could say you want to think about it some more, until after the Wisconsin primary4 maybe. Then get them in and give them instructions to improve the last offer and also to look at Option II again. I don’t think you can let the process run free like the last time. I think you are in better shape now because in January the Chiefs were positioning themselves against a Jackson victory or against the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.[Page 1027]
The President: Is there an advantage in offering alternates—like extending the dates on the latest one and give them a modification on our earlier one?
Kissinger: I wouldn’t give them two. On the reduction proposal I would do it as a more or less final offer. If we use the latest one, I would just change the date to 1983.
The President: Brent, will you write down these options over the weekend so I can study them.
Kissinger: But I wouldn’t be that specific next Wednesday. I wouldn’t go further than to say you want to work for an agreement but you want to think more about how to go about it.
[There is some discussion of speeches and the political situation, and about Connally and the Secretary’s Dallas speech.]5
- Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversations, 1973–1977, Box 18. Secret; Nodis. The meeting was held in the Oval Office.↩
- See footnote 5, Document 273.↩
- March 24.↩
- April 6.↩
- Brackets in the original. For the text of Kissinger’s speech on foreign policy and national security, delivered in Dallas on March 22, see Department of State Bulletin, April 12, 1976, pp. 457–465.↩