191. Minutes of a Cabinet Meeting1

Shultz: Brezhnev and Kosygin were genuinely puzzled about things going on in the United States.2 They seemed genuinely sincere about détente. Brezhnev asked me: “Is the problem really about Jewish emigration, or does the United States want to go back to the Cold War.” They seemed to be saying that if this is the way people think Jews will get out of the Soviet Union, they are mistaken.

President: The significant thing is that Brezhnev has staked his leadership on better relations with the United States. He needs us for European détente, for trade, and to keep the United States from tilting toward the Chinese. This puts the Middle East into perspective—what will they do. Last May—in May of ’72—they didn’t chuck us for the mining of Haiphong. Of course they must support their clients, but the question is whether they will do it at the jeopardy to all the other fish they have to fry. Henry, you expand.

Kissinger: In 1969, the President announced the concept that came to be known as linkage—the idea that there was a connection between their behavior in Vietnam, Berlin, the Caribbean and general policy. We were violently attacked for this idea. We were told that trade was beneficial in itself and shouldn’t be linked to the political sphere. We were accused of an outmoded Cold War policy. It took us two years to get the Soviet Union to look at things this way. Then we had simultaneous crises in 1970 on the autobahn, in the Caribbean, and in Jordan. Since then the Soviet Union has delivered on every political condition and on lend-lease3 and we have done nothing. The wheat deal had nothing to do with détente—we thought that was a good deal. They [Page 705] have given assurances on the Jews and we keep raising the ante. It must be looked on by them as a deliberate attempt to scuttle détente. One of the riskiest things is to try to play around with the domestic structure of a revolutionary government.

Last week I talked to Dobrynin about détente. He says he understands our domestic policy, but in Moscow they are saying that they are being attacked here more than before there was détente. The Europeans are saying to them: “The U.S. is unreliable; trade with us.” If this Soviet leadership fails, it may be years before we can reestablish a dialogue. This frivolous monkeying around with the domestic policy of the Soviet Union can have the most serious consequences. This is one of the most important foreign policy issues of our times.

President: If détente goes down the drain, I will have to ask for $25 billion more for defense.

Ford: The bill is coming up on Halloween. There are hearings on the rule next week and the rule will probably open up the issue of the credits. Henry’s statements need to get to the House.

President: I have serious doubts I will sign a trade bill with Vanik; if credits are denied, it will be vetoed. That is a public statement.

Ford: I will need Henry’s help on it.

Shultz: [Discussed the Nairobi Conference]4 President: While the people in this country support aid to the Israelis, they are against American involvement. But aid has no constituency. We must continue to act responsibly, but we must recognize that we have neo-isolationism in this country and there is no support for aid.

Excluding food and energy from the CPI, we would have inflation of only 3½ percent.

I am totally committed to expanded world trade, toward an international monetary system to avoid crises—but I will veto the trade bill with Vanik and [limit on] credits and I will seriously consider it with Vanik even without the credit restrictions.

We can’t negotiate with other countries if a minority can determine the foreign policy of the United States. No minority is going to do it while I am President.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to trade policy.]

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversation, Box 2. Secret. The meeting took place in the Cabinet Room from 3:09 until 5:02 p.m. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Central Files, President’s Daily Diary) All brackets, with the exception of those indicating omission of unrelated material, are in the original.
  2. From September 30 until October 3, Shultz was in Moscow to attend a meeting of the U.S.–USSR Joint Commercial Commission. Shultz also met with Soviet leaders. A transcript of his October 3 press conference in which he responded to questions about MFN for the Soviet Union is in telegram 12177 from Moscow, October 3. (Ibid., RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files)
  3. On October 18, 1972, the United States and the Soviet Union signed two agreements on bilateral economic relations. The first agreement involved a $722 million settlement of outstanding U.S. claims against the USSR arising from the provision of lend-lease aid during the Second World War. The second agreement included, among other provisions, export credits and MFN status (subject to Congressional approval) for the Soviet Union.
  4. The Boards of Governors of the IMF and the World Bank held their annual meeting in Nairobi from September 24 to 28.