56. Message From the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Scowcroft) to Secretary of State Kissinger in Algiers1

Tohak 57/WH42809. Ref: Tohak 54.2 The President met with Butz, Enders, Seidman and me to discuss the Simon grain cable.3 He came up with the following proposed cable to Simon:

Begin text.

1. After reviewing the Soviet proposal and your recommendation, the President has directed that you offer the following to the USSR:

—500,000 tons of corn for firm contract now;

—500,000 tons of corn for purchase during the summer of 1975, contingent upon crop reports received at that time;

—1.2 million tons of wheat for immediate contract;

—deliveries scheduled out through July 1975.

2. Total would thus be 2.2 million tons. This is 700,000 tons above what Secretary Kissinger told Dobrynin on October 4.4 In no repeat no circumstances do we envisage committing ourselves now to the full 3.2 [Page 159] million tons the Soviets had contracted for. In response to the Soviet argument on sanctity of contract you may wish to point out that at no point did US representatives envisage more than 1 million tons of corn, and then only contingent on favorable crop reports.

3. Request you present this position to the Soviets. If they accept it, announcement should be the subject of further consideration but subsequent to renegotiation of the contracts. Should they reject the offer, you should tell them you will report their views in Washington. End text.

The rationale for this middle ground is as follows: Butz argued that 1 million tons of corn was about as high as we should go but that there was no problem on wheat. He said we could give them as much as 2.2 million tons of wheat, thus maintaining the 3.2 total for which the Soviets had contracted. The President felt that maintaining the 3.2 million total, after all the fuss we had made about cancelling the Soviet contracts, would be very damaging politically. The press would be likely to ignore the change in composition of grains and it would look as if Simon went to the Soviet Union and caved. The proposal quoted above is essentially what Simon’s instructions were previously, except for the addition of 200,000 tons of wheat. Simon has not yet, however, offered to them the “perhaps” second 500,000 tons of corn, which he would now do. The President feels that this is about as far as he can go, at least before elections.

The President is ready to send the above cable to Simon but I wanted you to see first what is envisaged. If you have strong views contrary to this, I feel certain the President would entertain them. Simon is scheduled to meet with Brezhnev tomorrow morning (Moscow time), so we will need to get a cable out to him tonight.5

Warm regards.

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Trip Briefing Books and Cables of Henry Kissinger, 1974–1977, Box 1, Kissinger Trip File, 10/8–13/74—Middle East, TOHAK (4). Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only; Flash.
  2. In message Tohak 54, October 14, Scowcroft advised Kissinger: “The President has just called an urgent meeting to discuss the Simon cable on the Soviet grain deal (Moscow 15510).” (Ibid.) In telegram 15510 from Moscow, October 14, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury Parsky reported that, as a result of a “lengthy discussion” between Simon and Patolichev, the Soviets were flexible on the means but not on the ends of a grain agreement. “Throughout the discussion,” Parsky added, “the Soviets made the convincing argument that a contract is a contract and that it was extremely important to their commercial community and to future trade relations with the U.S. that we maintain the integrity of our contractual relations by holding to the total of 3.2 million tons. Simon strongly recommends that it is important to honor this contract. This is a political problem, not an economic one.” (Ibid., “Outside the System” Chronological Files, 1974–1977, Box 1, 10/10/74–10/16/74)
  3. According to the President’s Daily Diary, Ford met with Butz, Seidman, and Scowcroft in the Oval Office from 4:45 to 5:25 p.m. (Ibid., White House Office Files)
  4. See Document 48.
  5. In message Tohak 60 to Kissinger, October 15, Scowcroft reported: “Further to my previous message on the subject, you should know that the draft instruction contained therein has now been sent to Secretary Simon.” (Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Trip Briefing Books and Cables of Henry Kissinger, 1974–1977, Box 1, Kissinger Trip File, 10/8–13/74—Middle East, TOHAK (5))