153. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • President Ford
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State
  • Lt. General Brent Scowcroft, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs

Kissinger: At NATO I presented détente as a combination of conciliation and firmness.

Giscard invited me to a private dinner. He is concerned about Angola. They will recruit mercenaries, provide gunships, and put Mirages into Zaire.

At the very moment when the Soviets begin to blink, the Congress is going to cut our legs off.

Zaire and Zambia were very upset at Moynihan—who is a laughing stock and a disaster in Europe.

I am purging the African bureau, after the NY Times article2 [There was further discussion of State and Defense leaks].

The President: How about a veto if they pass the bill? I could say it was hasty action, and make the point they are toying with the national interest.

Kissinger: We are living in a nihilistic nightmare. It proves that Vietnam is not an aberration but our normal attitude. When our critics can complain about the volume of SS–19s and cave in Angola, when they can try to change the Soviet internal structure . . .

The Soviets have become a superpower. Before World War I, the emergence of Germany as a major power brought about a war. We have to manage the emergence of the Soviets to a superpower status without a war. We are being deprived of both the carrot and the stick. We will lose Angola and then they will want us to cut off grain to the Soviet Union. We are losing all flexibility and we will soon be in a position of nuclear war or nothing.

President: I couldn’t agree more.

[Page 396]

Kissinger: No one will ever believe us again if we can’t do this. How can they believe we will back them?

[Discussion of Woodward article in the Post about the circumstances of the Nixon pardon.]

Kissinger: I would recommend to take on the Congress in the national interest. We have little to lose. It was inevitable there would be a Soviet overture—now they are laughing at us. We would have had Angola settled by January if these bastards had not been in town.

President: The more I think of it, the more I think I should veto.

Scowcroft: A veto threat is keeping the bill from being passed.

President: But if we veto and get it sustained, we can at least show that one-third of the government is with us.

Kissinger: We have several problems: even if you veto, we are out of funds.

[Discussion of tactics on veto, delay, [dollar amount not declassified]]

Kissinger: If this works, I would send Schaufele to Africa, go to the UN Security Council in January with a program. We have to be careful about withdrawal of foreign forces.

[The President calls Mahon on Angola reprogramming action.]

President: He was wafflie at first, but I got him back on the track. We will get the Subcommittee down here. I think we can make it.

Kissinger: It is not just Angola. I think when you make a decision it is the responsibility of each agency head to pull his department in line.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to Angola.]

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversations, Box 17, Ford Administration. Secret; Nodis. The meeting took place in the Oval Office. According to the President’s Daily Diary, the meeting lasted from 11:33 a.m. to 12:35 p.m. (Ibid., Staff Secretary’s Office) All brackets, except those indicating the omission of material, are in the original.
  2. See footnote 3, Document 152.