28. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Draft Statement before Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Détente


  • The Secretary
  • Helmut Sonnenfeldt, Counselor of the Department
  • Winston Lord, Director, Policy Planning Staff
  • William G. Hyland, Director, Bureau of Intelligence and Research
  • John Newhouse, ACDA
  • Mark Palmer, S/P
  • Robert Blackwill—C (Note Taker)
  • (Jerry Schecter of Time, Inc., was also in attendance.)

Kissinger: Is Larry2 here? I have been thinking of the 19th for the détente thing—what do you think?

Hyland: Have you re-read the statement since the last time we met?3

Kissinger: That’s what I wanted to discuss with you. Do I need to do it at all now?

Sonnenfeldt: I think you’ve got to do it.

Kissinger: (to Eagleburger) What are you going to do about my schedule tomorrow? Are wives supposed to come?

Eagleburger: I’ll check.

Kissinger: I can’t possibly go to that.

Eagleburger: I know.

[Page 72]

Kissinger: I’ve got to see him.

Eagleburger: Yes.

Kissinger: That has to wait until Saturday.

(Eagleburger leaves.)

Sonnenfeldt: You can’t not do it. The entire hearings are built around you.

Kissinger: That’s my view too. When the resignation occurred, I had worked my way through the first section, then we worked it again. My concern is that we are giving the Russians assurances by having an all-out détente statement so soon after the change of Administrations.

Hyland: That doesn’t bother me. But much of the language is geared to the previous Administration . . .

Kissinger: That all has to be changed. That’s why I am seeing you.

Hyland: We have to decide whether we want this to be a pledge of continuity or a candid discussion of the difficulties of détente.

Kissinger: There are two separate problems. First is the content—the long defense in the statement of what the Nixon Administration did will have to be condensed. And the emphasis now needs to be changed. We need not be so defensive now. For example, the section called the Administration’s perception of East-West relations, that section can’t be called that, whatever else it is called. The analysis of that section is correct, and should be retained, but much of the rest of it can go.

Sonnenfeldt: We have to affirm the strategy and analysis of our position . . .

Kissinger: That’s what I am saying, where it dominates the issue we should state it, but we don’t need to be so historical. The first two sections are very good. What is the third section? My folder is such a goddamn mess. Balance of risk? The first two are fine. We can refer to 1969, but we should do it in an analytical way not historical. 1969 was a watershed but whether we want to go through the history in Section 3 is another thing. I don’t think we need that. What we need is . . . Palmer, do you know you will be a pain at cocktail parties the rest of your life?

Palmer: How’s that?

Kissinger: You’ve worked on food problems, détente, all in one week. Condense the history in section 3. Use the analytical part at the end of section 2 and relate it to 1969 and 1971 without going through the events that got us there. What do you think Hal?

Sonnenfeldt: I think that section can be summarized.

Kissinger: In section 3, from pages one to six, we can condense them to two pages. Then at point C, the principal elements of détente, our bilateral cooperation, economic cooperation, the definition of principles can be in a separate section. In pages one to six the historical [Page 73] treatment can be condensed to 1½ pages. Now on the strategic issues we have two papers.

Newhouse: What you have on the strategic questions has been boiled down from 19 pages.

Sonnenfeldt: That’s what’s in here now.

Kissinger: I’ve got to mark that up. The problem with the strategic statement is that it is too essayistic. The others are analytical. We have to reconcile the style of the two and bring them closer. But I want to look them over again.

Newhouse: I’m not sure I see the distinction.

Sonnenfeldt: The section is more expository than the others.

Newhouse: But I think in order to explain this complicated subject you need more exposition.

Kissinger: Your part is more elegant than these less-cultured creatures have been able to produce, and also in some cases less precise. Let me read it in detail. But it is least in need of detailed discussion right now. I went over the first three sections carefully before the interruption in our political process and made some remarks in the margin.

Sonnenfeldt: Can we get those typed up?

Kissinger: It won’t do much good. What about the next section? Does it need revision?

Hyland: I think it is pretty good.

Kissinger: Did you write it?

Hyland: No.

Lord: I think it will hold up without much change.

Kissinger: Who wrote it? Sonnenfeldt, did you write it?

Hyland: He wrote most of it.

Lord: We all worked on it.

Kissinger: No wonder, Sonnenfeldt, you thought it was good, you wrote it.

Sonnenfeldt: As a matter of fact, you re-wrote part of it yourself, especially the questions.

Hyland: We have to do something about the defensive tone.

Kissinger: When this was written it was essentially an answer to Jackson. But he hasn’t attacked recently and maybe I should wait for him to attack before I respond. The first few pages are fine. But take the defensive tone out of it. It’s not necessary now. We could make the questions expository sentences instead and that would tone it down a good deal.

Sonnenfeldt: The questions can be re-written as “do we run the risk”—that change will make them less polemical.

[Page 74]

Lord: That problem can be easily fixed.

Sonnenfeldt: But the analytical material is worth keeping.

Kissinger: Who is going to do what? What we need most now is an agenda for the future. We should put out some challenges to the Soviet Union. This was written pointing to the end of an Administration in 1976 and should now be changed to reflect the beginning of a new Administration. Yes, détente has been good, but it has to be more than simple atmospherics, and these are the challenges for the future: you should mention arms control issues, the impossibility of political relaxation existing in the climate of an all-out arms race, the importance of restraint in crisis, and so on.

Hyland: Those should be the main points at the end.

Kissinger: We will agree to the 19th. I have to go to this bloody Business Executives meeting. When could we have this revision? I don’t want to hurry you because I want a good product.

Sonnenfeldt: Why don’t you do the strategic part and we’ll work on the rest and have it ready by Monday night.4

Kissinger: OK, I’ll work on the strategic part but the changes will be editorial and not substantive. I will propose the sort of minor changes I made in the next to the last draft.

Lord: It will help.

Kissinger: OK. (shuffling through papers in folder) I was working from the wrong draft. The period of confrontation can be condensed to one page. Then the elaboration of the principles, the political dialogue, economic cooperation—all of this should be kept. Maybe it could be condensed a bit and tied less to specific events. So we need to re-do section 4, the end, re-do the beginning. Make the entire statement a defense of the new Administration’s policy. Emphasize the beginning, building on the achievements of the Nixon Administration. I’ve got to go now. (To Sonnenfeldt, pointing at paper.) What’s this? Will you stay behind for a moment.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Lot File 81D286, Records of the Office of the Counselor, Box 3, HS Chron—Official—Aug–Oct 1974. Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only. Drafted by Blackwill. The meeting was held in Kissinger’s office at the Department of State.
  2. Lawrence Eagleburger.
  3. In late July and early August, Kissinger met regularly with Sonnenfeldt, Lord, Hyland, and other senior officials to prepare his statement on détente for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Records of these meeting are in National Archives, RG 59, Lot File 81D286, Records of the Office of the Counselor, Box 3, HS Chron—Official—Aug–Oct 1974; and in Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 416, Congressional Hearings, Senate, Committee on Foreign Relations, Chronological File, Aug.–Sept. 1974. Drafts of the statement are ibid., Statement Drafts, July–Aug. 1974; and ibid., Box CL 417, Congressional Hearings, Senate, Committee on Foreign Relations, Sept. 1974, Statement Drafts, Sept. 1974. Kissinger delivered his statement on détente to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on September 19. For the final text, see Department of State Bulletin, October 14, 1974, pp. 505–519. Excerpts were published in The New York Times, September 20, 1974, p. 18.
  4. September 9.