125. Message From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs to (Scowcroft) to Secretary of State Kissinger1

Tohak 35/WH60110. 1. The President met with Rumsfeld this morning and, except for a couple of sentences about the NPG, the discussion was entirely devoted to SALT.2 I did not attend the first part of the meeting so I have no way of knowing whether DOD performances at the last NSC meeting3 was discussed. Other than a couple of brief references, it was not discussed in my presence.

2. We went down the points in your last cable4 in great detail. The President was extremely laudatory, emphasized the advantages of the various aspects at every conceivable opportunity, several times saying he thought you had done magnificently under extremely difficult circumstances.

3. Rumsfeld reacted quite well to the presentation. As always, he was extremely cautious and did not commit on anything specifically. Nevertheless, he did say that he thought definite progress was being [Page 580] made and that the situation was much improved. He did not react critically on any individual aspect.

4. Some of the specific points commented on were the Brezhnev proposal to ban land-based cruise missiles over 600 KM, which Rumsfeld said would be a problem, especially in NATO as the result of Schlesinger proselytizing on cruise missiles. Rumsfeld got enthusiastic about the Backfire performance, wondering if it meant the Soviets were going to alter the aircraft to insure the performance specified by Brezhnev. I cautioned against any such interpretation on Backfire and suggested that we should not eliminate mission profile as the source of the differences in performance. The President was enthusiastic about the possibility of reducing the 2400 total. He believed that would draw a very favorable public reaction. The President also liked the thought of allowing but counting ICCMs. Rumsfeld said he couldn’t imagine us wanting to deploy them but the President said that this arrangement would allow us to go ahead on research and development, protect our options and thus solve the problem that the Vice President had raised after his meeting with Ed Teller.

5. The President said he would prefer that Rumsfeld not discuss the details with anybody but Clements until Wade and Brown returned. He said he wanted first to meet with you and then to talk quietly and leisurely with you, Don and me before we get started again in the interagency process.

6. In sum, it was a very upbeat meeting and, to the extent Rumsfeld ever commits to anything, he seemed to feel that very substantial progress had been made.

[Omitted here is discussion of Angola.]

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Trip Briefing Books and Cables of Henry Kissinger, Box 28, Kissinger Trip Files, January 20–25, 1976–Moscow, Brussels, Madrid, HAKTO. Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only; Via Black Patch.
  2. Ford and Cheney met with Rumsfeld from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. (Ford Library, Staff Secretary’s File, President’s Daily Diary)
  3. See Document 119.
  4. See Document 124.