82. Memorandum From the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Scowcroft) to President Ford1

Secretary Kissinger has asked that I pass you the following report of his meeting with Brezhnev this morning.2

“I had another two and a half hours with Brezhnev in the Kremlin with the same participants as yesterday. He had just received your message3 which he read through in my presence and then commented on very positively. He said he liked its positive spirit and would answer, probably after our current meetings are finished. He reverted to the message a second time later in our session, again with favorable comment saying he laid great stress on his relationship with you.

Brezhnev today was in a dark blue suit and white shirt, probably because he is to meet Bhutto later today. He was not at his most cogent or precise and in fact at times seemed almost frivolous in his banter. He failed to focus seriously on our SALT proposal,4 though I finally had an opportunity to give him a detailed summary of it. Before that I spent about an hour answering Brezhnev’s “two questions,” whether we wanted strategic superiority and what I thought of the prospect for nuclear war. I explained our strategic force planning and concerns about Soviet weapons developments and noting the irrationality of initiation of nuclear war by either side, I stressed that if the Soviet strategic build-up continued in the absence of a SALT agreement we were certain to match it and, given our technological lead, probably exceed it. Thus, this was a crucial moment for coming to an agreement. I did point out the danger of local conflicts resulting in escalation.

“In his typical debating style, Brezhnev complained of the technical nature of my responses and then launched into a rambling response of his own, the upshot of which was that there can be no nuclear war. In the process he complained about our MIRV programs and rejected the assertion that the Soviets have more missiles than we. [Page 369] It was rather defensive and amateurish performance, though delivered without rancor.

Brezhnev raised virtually no serious and systematic issues about our SALT proposal but what he did say seemed to reflect a misapprehension that we are trying to curtail Soviet SS–17 and SS–19 programs by our proposed restriction on ‘heavy’ Soviet missiles. He was also apparently leading up to rejecting MIRV prohibition for the SS–18. Again in typical style, he diverted our discussions to complain about our placing netting over our silos.

“Finally, after his desultory comments he did make two specific comments on our proposal: (1) he did not like our breaking up the period until 1984 into stages and wants a single stage from 1977–1984; and (2) he objected to our equal 2200 aggregates and proposed instead 2000 for us and 2400 for them. He will take this up later this afternoon in greater detail.

“We are to continue at 6:30 this evening but I must say from Brezhnev’s performance today I find it very difficult to see how even a set of principles can be worked out before your meeting with him in November. Brezhnev has stalled and his comments have been unfocused, sometimes even frivolous and uninformed. So far, they have not even been calculated to draw me out. This may change in three remaining sessions but even then we would have to break all past records to arrive at meaningful conclusions by Saturday night.5 I do intend to impress on Brezhnev the need for concrete progress if we are to avoid new U.S. programs in reaction to major Soviet building programs now underway, a point I have already made explicitly. If this remains the Soviet position it is clear that we are paying a price for our domestic disarray, especially the Congressional irresponsibility. The Soviets may calculate (1) that Congress has circumscribed our ability to give them credits and trade by placing a ceiling on credits and by the Jackson Amendment which they consider a profound insult;6 and (2) that Congress will not vote increases in the Defense Budget so that they risk nothing by stonewalling on SALT.

“In these conditions a $1 billion cut to meet our $300 billion goal would reinforce their convictions.”

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Kissinger Reports on USSR, China, and Middle East Discussions, Box 1, USSR Memcons and Reports, October 24–27, 1974, Kissinger/Brezhnev Talks in Moscow. Secret; Sensitive. Sent for information. A note, “The Pres has seen,” is handwritten at the top of the page.
  2. The memorandum of conversation, October 25, 11:05 a.m.–1:28 p.m., is Document 69 in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, Vol. XVI, Soviet Union, August 1974–December 1976. Kissinger was in Moscow October 23–27.
  3. The letter from Ford to Brezhnev set forth the President’s general views on the future course of U.S.–USSR relations. See ibid., Document 67.
  4. See Document 78.
  5. October 26.
  6. Reference is to the Jackson-Vanik Amendment to the 1974 Trade Act, which denied most-favored-nation status to countries that restricted emigration.