73. Editorial Note

After Richard Nixon resigned on August 8, 1974, Vice President Gerald Ford assumed the Presidency. On August 30, during a meeting of the Verification Panel, Kissinger informed the group of President Ford’s thinking on SALT:

“Secretary Kissinger: I want this to be only a brief meeting. I want to pass on to you what the President has in mind for the next round opening up in mid-September, which will be either the week of the 16th or 23rd. In the first phase, the President has decided—has in mind—that he does not want to put forth any specific proposals. He just wants to set forth some general principles for a ten-year program. I plan to take a trip to Moscow at the end of October. At that time I’ll want to have some illustrative numbers and get into more of the details on a program. I would like the Working Group to work out a set of principles that could be embodied in a NSDM to go to the Delegation. I would like to have an NSC Meeting on SALT in mid-September, say the 13th or the 14th that would review the principles and only begin to discuss specific proposals. I hope the President will approve the principles, and then we can send Alex (Amb. Johnson) off with some guidance. We can then see if we need another NSC Meeting in early October.

“As the President has said, he is determined to make a serious effort on SALT. We have to keep in mind the consequences of not having an agreement. Sure, everyone would like to see low MIRV levels for the [Page 293] Soviets and high levels for us. But, are we better off to let it all run free or take what’s attainable? My impression of the June discussions in Moscow is that we are both hung up on contradictory, symbolic things. The U.S. is hung up on the spread in numbers in the interim agreement, and they are hung up on the spread in numbers of MIRVd missiles. Both these differences are symbolic. My impression of the Soviets is that they cannot handle super-complicated issues. Therefore, I would like to give them only three or four simple principles to work on.

“The President has not seen any of the various proposals we have been working on. He has seen a statistical summary of the implications of the proposals, but no pros and cons on specific proposals. I have no idea of which way he is tending, except that he does want an agreement that is realistic and within a reasonable framework. This is where we are starting from. We want to cut out all the doctrinaire statements. The first time the President will be hearing the various options we have in mind will be at the NSC Meeting just before the Delegation departs.”

After a short discussion on the timing of the NSC meeting, the resumption of SALT negotiations at Geneva, and briefing of NATO, Kissinger added:

“It is important that you hear what the President has to say before you go out. The President doesn’t want a public debate on this thing. He wants to do it within a realistic framework. He wants to be able to compare a realistic outcome with where we would be without an agreement.” (Ford Library, NSC Institutional Files, Box 1, Verification Panel Meeting, 8/30/74–SALT(1)–(3))