65. Memorandum From the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Scowcroft) to President Ford 1
Secretary Kissinger asked me to pass you the following report on his first session with General Secretary Brezhnev.2
“I had initial three hours with Brezhnev this morning. While his tone was generally friendly and the meeting ended on upbeat note, the result of the session was taken up by Soviet grievances against recent US policies.
“Our session took place in the Kremlin conference room rather than in Brezhnev’s office as in the past. Gromyko, Dobrynin and Brezhnev’s Assistant Aleksandrov were the principal Soviet participants, although Brezhnev, of course, did virtually all the talking. He did not use notes and was obviously briefed in detail. The atmosphere was relaxed despite its largely critical content, with Brezhnev stressing that this was the eighth such meeting we had had. But he was less inclined than on past occasions to interrupt with jokes and anecdotes and kept the conversation on substance virtually throughout the three hour period. He was confident and more disciplined than in the past in making his presentation.
“The Soviet perception of the US is the most negative I have encountered in the last two years, based on what they regard as our failure to live up to obligations regarding MFN and on what they believed was a deliberately staged humiliation on emigration issue by Jackson’s White House performance.3 Brezhnev also seems to question my authority to speak for US policy and, more broadly, whether we are capable of delivering on policy commitments. He thus seems to question entire credibility of the new administration. Atmospherics, which remain cordial, may therefore be misleading.
“More specifically, Brezhnev cited the failure to date to grant MFN and complained bitterly about Jackson’s performance in publishing emigration letters at White House. He was bitter about reference to 60,000 annual emigrants, citing alleged number of applicants as currently no more than 15–16,000. He rejected conditions for MFN, implying the Soviets might not accept it under current circumstances. His other grievances related to supposedly discriminatory cancellation of [Page 195] grain contracts, Soviet exclusion from Middle East diplomacy (a long-standing complaint), US foot-dragging at the European Security Conference and some minor bilateral problems. While the Soviets frequently try to place negotiating partners at moral disadvantage with complaints, there is no doubt that recent developments in the US have fed Soviet suspicions that policies of past two years are undergoing change. Soviet sensitivity to anything smacking of discrimination was also evident.
“I sought in my response to confirm your commitment to continued cooperative policies and assured Brezhnev that we will make a determined effort with the new Congress to restore the momentum to previously agreed policies. I stressed the importance you attach to the Vladivostok meeting in this connection and Brezhnev warmed noticeably in response.
“At a cordial lunch for eighty people, Gromyko made a generally friendly toast.
“In a second meeting later today I expect to review Middle East and European Security. Brezhnev indicates he wants to turn to SALT Friday4 but we might have a preliminary talk today.
“My feeling is that Brezhnev wants my visit to have a positive public outcome in preparation for meeting with you in November which according to present plan is to be announced Saturday. But as indicated above we should not underestimate the negative effect on Soviets of recent trends in US as they see them.
“I will send you further reports promptly after our next meeting.”