95. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • President Ford
  • George Meany
  • Lt. General Brent Scowcroft, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs

[The President greeted Mr. Meany. There was some small talk about Mr. Meany’s hip, steel pins, etc.]

The President: I thought you might want on a personal basis to get the results of Vladivostok. I know of your concern for national defense. You know I am a hawk. I wanted to tell you what was done, why it was done, and why it was a good agreement.

First, let me tell you the background. We had three NSC meetings on this. The different agencies had different approaches but we finally submitted an approach to the Soviets. They came back, and Secretary [Page 376] Kissinger took the revised one to Moscow [in October] and it was refined again before we met with them at Vladivostok.

What we wanted was to reduce the overall numbers and the numbers of MIRVed launchers particularly. Any agreement had to be based on equivalency.

Mr. Meany: Which was what we lacked in SALT I.

The President: We finally came down, after hard bargaining, on 2400—which includes ICBMs, SLBMs, bombers, or any mix of these. That is a bit higher than our own plan.

Mr. Meany: What we have or what we plan?

General Scowcroft: Both.

The President: For the Soviets, it is below, not what they have, but what they plan.

Mr. Meany: What about MIRVs?

The President: 1320 out of the 2400 launchers can be MIRVed.

Mr. Meany: How many do they have now?

General Scowcroft: They have none actually operational but they have three new missiles almost ready.

Mr. Meany: At least we have equivalency. But no reductions?

The President: No. Scoop wanted us to go to 1700, but the Soviets wouldn’t do that.

Mr. Meany: When you get that high, what’s the difference between 1700 and 2400?

The President: On the bombers, there’s still disagreement on what missiles you can have on them that would count in the 2400.

Mr. Meany: It looks to me as if we achieved some equity which we didn’t have before. It’s a great step, but you’ve got to watch these fellows that they stick to it. The other thing that worries me is our whole national defense. You can’t deal with these guys unless you are strong. I am worried about these Congressmen taking things out of the defense budget. I think you’ve got to let the American people know this is a great step but only if we maintain our strength.

The President: I agree. We must maintain at 2400.

Mr. Meany: I don’t think we should throw any bouquets at the Soviets. It is their obligation, if they feel any, to contribute to world peace as much as they contribute to arms.

The President: It is our plan to build the ten Tridents and the 240 B–1s. We can change the mix if we want.

Mr. Meany: Come January you have to ram it home to Congress that we need a strong defense. Some of these new guys are saying to cut [Page 377] out the Trident. Mike2 doesn’t help. He is sometimes an isolationist. But we in labor are realists. We are sometimes characterized as hawks. We went along with Vietnam—we were taken a little and not told everything—but that’s water over the dam. Let’s see what they do on the Middle East.

The President: We talked about the Middle East. They want to have all the parties in one big Geneva conference. That won’t work. We told them we would continue our step-by-step approach.

Mr. Meany: They say the Israelis won’t give. They will give plenty for one thing—a guarantee of their existence. Israel is fighting for its life. They would give up a lot if the United States and the Soviet Union would guarantee their borders.

The President: The Soviet Union won’t go that far. I think if we can make some progress with Egypt we can forestall the Soviets getting back in.

Mr. Meany: Egypt is easy—the others are the tough ones.

The President: They reaffirmed the emigration deal—they said there’d be no harassment. But they wouldn’t give us a commitment on numbers.

Mr. Meany: I want to see them live up to that!

The President: There were two other key points in the agreement: First, our forward-based systems don’t count in the total, and the forces of the British and French don’t count. It was just theirs and ours. That’s a big concession.

Mr. Meany: I think it is progress. SALT I bugged me—it looked like we were swindled.

The President: Schlesinger and Brown were pleased with this.

Mr. Meany: He told me. We work closely with him on the Hill. He is on the firing line.

The President: We will have trouble with the Congress.

Mr. Meany: What do we have to ante up? Do we need Trident?

The President: We need all our new programs.

Mr. Meany: So if we don’t do it we will be giving away the store.

The President: We will have a bigger defense budget but it’s mostly for inflation. But it will be a strong budget and I know I can count on you.

Mr. Meany: We will go down the line with you.

[Omitted here is discussion of the U.S. economy and labor unions.]

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversations, 1973–1977, Box 7. Confidential. All brackets, except those inserted by the editor to indicate omitted passages, are in the original. The meeting was held in the Oval Office. In a briefing memorandum to the President on November 26, Scowcroft explained: “As head of the AFL–CIO, George Meany has commented frequently on the substance of previous arms control agreements. You will be seeing Meany to elicit his support for the recently concluded agreement.” Scowcroft also provided talking points for the meeting. According to an attached correspondence profile, however, Ford saw the memorandum on December 2, after his meeting with Meany. (Ibid., Presidential Name File, 1974–1977, Box 2, Meany, George)
  2. Senator Mansfield.