218. Memorandum From the Counselor of the Department of State (Sonnenfeldt) to Secretary of State Kissinger1


  • Jackson Amendment—Talks with Staff of Senators Javits and Ribicoff

As agreed with General Scowcroft I called Lakeland2 (Javits’ staff) and Amitay3 (Ribicoff’s staff) this morning.

I told Lakeland we wanted to be sure Javits understood that the position as conveyed to Jackson’s staff by Scowcroft the other night and yesterday4 was the President’s position. In reply to his question about the change in the third letter, I explained the distinction that had always been made between the first and the second letters as regards Administration commitment to them. Lakeland said he thought the letters had long since been agreed. I pointed out that you had taken specific exception to the numbers in Jackson’s letter in your last breakfast with the Senators.5 I said it was to avoid any subsequent misunderstanding that the third letter had been redrafted.6 I also reminded Lakeland of Javits’ view that the key to the whole arrangement was not the precise wording but the President’s commitment to the assurances concerning no harassment and no punishment and to withdrawal of trade advantages in case of non-compliance.

Lakeland asked where we go from here since it looked like there would be no Trade Bill. I said I hoped they would reconsider their view of the third letter since it really did not affect the Administration’s basic position as set forth in the first letter. Lakeland said he had not seen the new third letter (!) and would look at it.

Amitay was much more agitated when I called him to say that there should be no question about the President’s role and position in [Page 769] regard to the waiver issue and the third letter. Amitay said there had in fact been some concern that the President had not focussed on Jackson’s waiver compromise because of the economic summit7 and Mrs. Ford’s operation8 so he was glad to hear that the President had done so. However, this was now a dead issue because of the third letter. Ribicoff had been “flabbergasted” when the third letter was first withdrawn and then changed since the letters had been agreed as a package at the meeting with the President. I said there had always been an issue about the second letter because it contained specifics that might be reasonable interpretations of the first letter but could not have the same Administration commitment as its own first letter. I pointed out that you had explicitly stated that the numbers in the second letter could not be an Administration responsibility.

Amitay said this situation had not changed and it had never occurred to Ribicoff that the text of the three letters would be reopened after they had been agreed to. I said the text of the third letter only was being changed to avoid any possible later misunderstanding about the status of the second letter. Amitay said “will consider” was totally unacceptable since it made the whole correspondence vague and meaningless. I said this could hardly be the case since the Administration would put its name to the first letter with its far-reaching statements.

Amitay said their only conclusion could be that they had been led down the garden path on the whole operation and that the Administration never had shown or had agreement on the letters with the Soviets. It was inconceivable to renegotiate the letters with so little time before the recess. He said it looked like there would be no bill. Ribicoff, he repeated, was flabbergasted by what had happened.

I concluded by saying in answer to his question that I could not tell him what the next steps in regard to the Bill would be but that I hoped they would look again at the text of the third letter and recognize how far-reaching the first letter together with the sanction of non-renewal at periodic intervals were. He said he had only heard the third letter read out over the phone (!) and would take a look at it. But he remained negative.

Both Lakeland and Amitay said there would be an explosion in the Jewish community over what had happened and charges of bad faith would be hurled at you. I said I hoped they would not foster this [Page 770] since far from bad faith the effort was to be clear now and avoid charges of bad faith later. Lakeland said Javits obviously would not himself foster the charges and Amitay said it was beyond their control. I told both of them again that they had far-reaching assurances in the first letter, unaffected by the wording of the third letter, and this would be clear to whoever read them.

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, KissingerScowcroft West Wing Office Files, Box 18, Jackson/Vanik Trade Bill. Eyes Only.
  2. Peter Lakeland served as an aide to Javits.
  3. Morris Amitay served as an aide to Ribicoff.
  4. See Document 217.
  5. See Document 216.
  6. On October 2, Scowcroft sent a revised draft of the third letter to Dorothy Fosdick in Jackson’s office. The draft reads: “Dear Senator Jackson: I have noted the views set forth in your letter of (date). The President will consider them in determining whether the purposes sought through Title IV of the Trade Bill in regard to emigration practices of non-market economy countries are being fulfilled and in exercising the authority provided for in Section ____ of the Trade Bill.” (Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Scowcroft Daily Work Files, Box 8, 10/1–9/74)
  7. A conference on inflation was held in Washington from September 27 to 28. At Camp David, G–5 Foreign and Finance Ministers gathered for talks over the weekend of September 28 to 29.
  8. On September 28, First Lady Betty Ford had a mastectomy to remove a cancerous tumor in her right breast.