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

Secretary Kissinger asked me to pass you the following report on his Saturday afternoon meeting with General Secretary Brezhnev.

“I had seven and a half hours with Brezhnev starting at 4:30 p.m.2 The first two and a half hours were in his office, with only Gromyko on his side and Sonnenfeldt with me. The session was entirely devoted to [Page 372] recapitulation of the proposition Brezhnev made to President Nixon privately at the last summit, which is too sensitive for cable traffic.3 Brezhnev demonstrated his rather bizarre sense of occasion by spending virtually the entire time he was talking also fidgeting with a model artillery piece, training it now at me, now at Sonnenfeldt. He eventually succeeded in loading it with a dummy shell, but several tugs at the lanyard produced no result until about an hour and a half into the conversation, when a loud bang sounded.

“A three and a half hour meeting with the larger group in the conference room resulted in a major Soviet SALT proposal evidently put together in the Politburo this morning. Brezhnev recited it from memory, a rather remarkable intellectual feat which came as quite a surprise after his undisciplined performances earlier. The essence of the proposal involves equal aggregates by 1985 at 2400, but a Soviet advantage of 2400 to 2200 throughout the process. The final aggregate would also involve a deduction for the U.S. equal to the British force. Other features are equal MIRVs as in our paper, but no prohibition on heavy MIRVs. The most complex and difficult aspect relates to bomber armaments, for which the Soviets would demand some sort of compensation. I will give you more details on my return when I also expect to have from Dobrynin a more precise rendition.

“This proposal is a major step forward toward a SALT agreement in 1975, and perhaps a significant announcement at Vladivostok. However, in its present form it would be shredded by DOD, leaked to the press and Jackson and destroyed before we can shape it. I am reasonably confident that we will be able to distill a sensible proposal out of it that DOD will buy, but only after I return. I therefore propose to have Scowcroft tell Schlesinger that the Soviets responded in a conciliatory fashion to considerations you gave him, but they will not give us a formal reply for several weeks.

“In a further hour and a half, Brezhnev tried to get me to accept the Soviet SALT position on the spot; I simply told him we would examine the Soviet position, viewing it as a serious response to our ideas, and that I would have some considerations to provide before Vladivostok.

“My assessment is that the Soviets did make an effort to bring their position closer to ours and that we may have some possibility of developing agreed principles on aggregates, MIRVs, and possibly a few other issues during your meeting with Brezhnev. For now, I think it is essential that elements of the Soviet position be kept totally outside in [Page 373] teragency process until I have had an opportunity to analyze it further and discuss the next steps with you.

“I believe on the whole that my Moscow visit has had more positive results than I thought likely, in that the Soviets were willing to respond substantively on SALT. Brezhnev himself was explicit in saying that he wanted to avoid disputes with you in his first meeting, suggesting that he remains interested in maintaining forward movement in our relations. But it remains to be seen whether sufficient flexibility can be mustered on both sides to bring SALT positions into real negotiating range.”

  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. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. Sent for information. A handwritten note at the top of the page reads: “Transmitted to President 271607Z Oct 74. President has seen.”
  2. The memoranda of conversation, October 26, 4:30–6:45 p.m. and 7:10 p.m.–midnight, are Documents 73 and 74 in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, Vol. XVI, Soviet Union, August 1974–December 1976.
  3. See footnote 4, Document 83.