288. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Scowcroft) to President Ford1


  • HarrimanBrezhnev Meeting

Averell Harriman has provided our Embassy in Moscow with a report on his nearly three hour meeting with General Secretary Brezhnev in the Kremlin on September 20. During the course of the meeting, Mr. Harriman conveyed Governor Carter’s views—not spelled out in the reporting cable2—on East-West relations to Brezhnev, sought to allay professed Soviet concerns aroused by the U.S. political campaign, conveyed to the General Secretary that Americans are quite serious about CSCE Basket III issues and Soviet Jewish emigration, and on several points defended Administration positions. The following paragraphs summarize Brezhnev’s responses to Harriman, his concerns as expressed in the meeting and points he raised on bilateral issues.

USUSSR Bilateral Relations

Brezhnev said that the whole world knows that the USSR steadfastly seeks relations with the U.S. which will proceed on the basis of mutual advantage. As the result of enormous efforts we now have accords and understandings which have achieved improvements not only in USUSSR relations but for the world as a whole. “These are not illusions.”

—The General Secretary said that it was no fault of the Soviet Union that the process of improving relations had slowed down, that on several major issues there had been a fairly protracted pause.

—This results in the Soviets harboring a wariness of trends in American policy. Brezhnev noted that the trend manifested itself first and foremost in a renewed arms race and the American military budget. He complained that all of this was to the loud accompaniment of a mythical Soviet threat for which there were no grounds.

Brezhnev continued that “obviously” forces were at work in the USSR [U.S.?] who do not like either relaxation of tensions or the devel[Page 1054]opment of US-Soviet relations. He understood the Administration’s meting it out to these forces for reasons of a momentary nature, but he felt this was a dangerous development.

—On the basic issue of relations, the Soviet Union is pursuing a consistent line. The Soviets were in favor of not abating efforts. They are prepared to interact and cooperate with all those who take a similar approach.

—On the subject of trade and commercial ties, Brezhnev said he wanted to tell Harriman on a personal basis “please place no pressure on the USSR; ‘all’ are in favor of development of trade without discrimination and mutual respect.” He continued that promises have been made but the cart is still right where it was and the Senate and Congress continue to try to exert pressure on the Soviet Union.

Brezhnev said he had to mention that in the Soviet view the U.S. Administration had taken an “unseemly” attitude toward the MIG–25 which had made a “forced landing” in Japan.3

Military and SALT Issues

Harriman told Brezhnev that because of an allegedly very active Soviet civil defense against a second strike there is considerable propaganda in the U.S. that the Soviets are preparing a first strike. Brezhnev “shook his head sadly” and commented that “they don’t know that there would be a second strike in a half hour.”

—In speaking of the slow-down in improving relations, Brezhnev said that on March 16 the Soviets had sent you their latest proposal on SALT,4 but had as yet received no answer. He asked, “what does that mean?” He said that “surely if that is the attitude now taken by the Administration, it is not a token of willingness or desire to achieve agreement.”

—On SALT, Brezhnev said that the Soviets were in favor of neither side having an advantage; rather that equilibrium be the result. It was not hard for the Soviets to detect that the American side in SALT was seeking to avoid any limitation on certain of its own types of arms such as the strategic cruise missile, while at the same time attempting to extend that definition to Soviet weapons which by no means had strategic capabilities. He said he was referring to the Backfire bomber. He emphasized that this was not a good approach, that the agreement must be on the basis of equality and equilibrium, that there is no other way to achieve a SALT agreement. Brezhnev added that he has made proposals to ban the Trident and B–1, and similar weapons in the USSR. He [Page 1055] said that this was not accepted by the U.S. and construction was continuing. He added that the Soviet proposal for a ban on underground testing had not been accepted.

Brezhnev avoided any response when Harriman pointed out that the Soviet Union was building up their conventional forces in Europe—more tanks, more troops, and quality of equipment.

—At the conclusion of the conversation, Brezhnev noted he had dedicated his life to prevent nuclear war. With “considerable emotion,” he said that “one bomb falls and we have a world war.”

U.S. Election Campaign

Brezhnev said that the Soviets were by no means insensitive to the political line of the next President. He emphasized that the Soviets followed very closely the statements of both candidates.

—Laughing, Brezhnev said that in general on every issue the two candidates seem to try to vie in outspeaking the other, that perhaps this was an American custom. He recalled that in a recent “Jewish-Zionist” [B’nai B’rith]5 Congress, one of them announced support for the “poor Soviet Jews” and then the other did it as well.

Brezhnev said he was not trying to attack Governor Carter because he had no intention of heaping praise on you either. He continued that he had read that you received in the White House the Ukrainian Cardinal Slejpy—who had been expelled from the USSR and whom even the Pope had forbidden to continue political activity. He asked whether you were trying to be more Catholic than the Pope.

Brezhnev asked what was the true picture in the U.S.? What were people to think? How was he to know about Governor Carter and you?


—The General Secretary asked why Secretary Kissinger had taken it into his head to go travelling all over Africa.6 He said he even thought about it in bed; he couldn’t do it standing up. He said in an ironic manner that he understood Secretary Kissinger’s desire to strengthen reactionary regimes condemned by the UN.

Brezhnev said that on Namibia, Secretary Kissinger was acting counter to the UN resolution when he talked about a two year period before independence.

—In response to Harriman’s statement that it would not do the Soviets any good to impugn American motives in Africa publicly,

[Page 1056]

Brezhnev turned to his foreign policy adviser Aleksandrov and asked “We have made it public?”

—At the very end of the conversation, Brezhnev’s foreign policy adviser Aleksandrov said that just as we asked the Soviets to understand campaign rhetoric, we should understand that the Soviets did not always control their press—as in the case of Secretary Kissinger’s trip to Africa.


Brezhnev said Kosygin was expected to be back at work in a few weeks.

—He said that the harvest was expected to be better this year than even in 1973, which was a record year.

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Presidential Country Files for Europe and Canada, 1974–1977, Box 19, USSR (43). Confidential; Sensitive. Sent for information. A note on the memorandum reads: “The President has seen.” Ford also initialed the memorandum. According to an attached correspondence profile, the President noted it on October 1.
  2. The reporting cable, telegram 14951 from Moscow, September 22, is attached but not printed.
  3. On September 6, a defecting Soviet pilot landed a MIG 25 aircraft at an airfield in Japan.
  4. The latest Soviet proposal on SALT was dated March 17. See Document 272.
  5. Brackets in the original.
  6. During his trip to Africa in September, Kissinger visited Tanzania, Zambia, South Africa, Zaire, and Kenya.