60. Draft Memorandum From Secretary of State Kissinger to President Ford1


  • Foreign Policy in Your First Year in Office

You asked for a candid assessment of foreign policy during your first 12 months in office. I know it has not been an easy year given the situation you inherited. We continue to face many challenges and problems. But I believe you can rightfully feel that you have dealt successfully with the burden of events and trends which predate your stewardship; and that you have taken initiatives that moved our policy forward and promise much for the future.

The Setting

You came to office in the midst of a situation as difficult in its own way as any in our history:

—Vietnam and Watergate and the turbulence of a decade had sapped public confidence in our institutions and leaders—and undermined cooperation between Executive and Legislative.

—The nation and the world were already moving deeper into the most severe economic down-turn since the Depression.

—A legacy of crisis in Indochina, the Middle East, and Cyprus mortgaged the prospects for peace and stability in areas important to us—and resulted in Indochina in the most serious defeat in the history of our foreign relations.

—And the circumstances of your accession to office added a unique dimension of difficulty and uncertainty to the task of establishing your Presidential authority and competence here and abroad.

These elements combined in a major challenge to our ability to play a purposeful and powerful role abroad.

—Doubt and disillusion threatened to turn the American public toward some new form of selfish isolation.

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—The strains in our institutions and patterns of authority between Executive and Congress threatened to undermine the coherence and constancy a strong world role requires.

—Other nations began to ask themselves whether American strength and leadership would be maintained or steadily decline—and to examine the consequences and options for themselves.

This has been the fundamental issue you have had to contend with in your stewardship of foreign policy in the past 12 months. I cannot in all honesty say that it has been laid to rest. But I believe that you can rightfully claim to have weathered the worst of it in the past year and to have brought the nation a considerable distance on the road to new self-confidence.

You have had some major assets to work with in this crucial effort.

—The basic soundness of the overall structure of our foreign policy, and several important initiatives in the preceding years.

—The strong material assets of this nation—military, economic, technological.

—Somewhat ironically—the very uncertainty of other nations about our role has been leading them to a fresh appreciation and reaffirmation of their stake in a strong American world presence.

—Above all, the strength of the American people. They have displayed once again their basic good sense and steadfastness and a will to sustain a responsible American role abroad.

With this said, your leadership has been a critical element in recreating the conditions for effective American leadership. Mayaguez2 was part of a broader pattern of steady international action that has been felt here and overseas. Your diplomacy and personal contact with the leaders of other nations have established you as a President who will put his own personality and imprint on the conduct of our foreign policy. Certainly other nations are more sure today than they were a year ago that the United States will continue to be a constructive force in world affairs.

Finally, your growing strength and authority at home has done much to enhance our ability to conduct an effective policy abroad. This is felt by public and Congress alike, and perceived abroad.

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The Record

Against this background, the measure both of what has been achieved in your first year in office and what remains to be done can be grouped under four broad headings.

—Resolving crises that threaten war and jeopardize important policies and positions.

—Enhancing our basic alliance relationships.

—Pursuing détente with potential adversaries.

—Meeting the new demands of interdependence and relations with the developing countries.

Crises: The inherited crises of Indochina, the Middle East, and Cyprus have each placed special burdens on our foreign policy in the past year.

—The collapse of Indochina certainly hurt us here and abroad. Yet the country has not been deeply torn by the denouement. Nor have other nations seen in it the end—or even the beginning of the end—of a powerful and purposeful American presence on the world scene. If the Indochina collapse has not taken on these proportions, it is in good part because of the steadiness and firmness you conveyed in the face of it—and the sense that the collapse was a legacy stretching back for more than a decade and precipitated in part by Congress’ action on aid. Our reassuring public pronouncements and your talks with many Asian leaders, as well as the passage of time, have calmed the Asian scene since the early days of deep concern. With this said, no nation can absorb a defeat of the proportions of Indochina and assume that it will not raise questions and affect attitudes in the minds of others, particularly in Asia. This will place a continuing premium on steadiness and forcefulness in asserting our purposes and protecting our interests in Asia and elsewhere in the months ahead.

—In the Middle East it is no small achievement to have had another year of peace for the area and time to continue the hard pursuit of negotiating progress. We suffered a setback this spring in our efforts to negotiate a third Arab-Israeli disengagement agreement. But we now have a chance for one that would carry us a step further toward peace and stability in the area and give us time to work for more progress. You have established yourself with both Arabs—particularly Sadat—and Israelis as your own man, one sympathetic to both sides, but firm on your own concept of what is required to bring peace to the area and on your own definition of where America’s interests lie. Indeed your frank and forthright approach—particularly on the Israeli front—is essential in giving us the strength for a constructive role between the two sides.

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—The Cyprus issue erupted just as you took office and has squeezed us between Greeks and Turks, damaging our political and military relations with both, shaking the structure of NATO in the area, and threatening to open the way to enhancement of Soviet power. We have not yet succeeded in making much progress toward a resolution. As you know, the action of Congress on aid to Turkey has deprived us of our most meaningful lever for progress. Your own direct efforts with the Congress—which are now bearing fruit—are essential to remove this mortgage on our diplomatic position.

Alliances: You have in the past year taken several steps to reassure our allies of the priority we place on continuing partnership with them. In both substance and atmosphere our relations with our allies are healthier than they have been in several years.

—Your participation in the NATO Summit in May3 and your many personal meetings with European leaders helped enhance the solidarity of the Alliance. Our allies were, in fact, much reassured by the strong stance you took on our stake in the continuing vitality of the Transatlantic connection and the agenda you sketched for our common action. Your participation in the CSCE Summit will afford us an opportunity to reassert our intent to continue a constructive role in European security and in the process of building détente and stability on the continent. Our biggest alliance problem, of course, is the Southern Flank of NATO where serious trends and uncertainties have set in and we cannot control events.

—We have also moved in the past year to put our crucial relationship with Japan on a more confident and mature footing. Your visit to Japan in November, 1974,4 was of great import to the Japanese in establishing our will to enhance our relationship. I believe it helped consolidate Japanese confidence in us and our commitment in a manner that mitigated the effects of the subsequent events in Vietnam. The speech I made on your behalf on June 18,5 in effect chronicled the road we have traveled with the Japanese in enhancing our relationship and an agenda for common action. The Miki visit next month and the Emperor’s October visit will give us an opportunity to make progress.

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—Your trip to South Korea also served to reaffirm our commitment to that nation. South Korea has been rocked hardest by the Indochina collapse. The growing debate in this country over Park’s repressive practices both adds to the problem and hampers our ability to deal with it. We have moved to reassure the Koreans but we have a serious problem brewing on the Hill. The Korean peninsula remains however the single most dangerous area in Asia.

Our effort to establish a new hemispheric dialogue has been complicated by the impact on our relations of the new economic and political demands of the developing countries; and by specific problems in our bilateral relations. On the latter front, a successful outcome to the Panama negotiation will require a major effort with Congress. If we fail, we face a possible insurgency in Panama and severe problems throughout the hemisphere. As for Cuba, we have succeeded in limiting the damage the issue has caused to hemispheric relations without moving too far ahead of opinion in this country. We have at the same time been conditioning public opinion for any new turn in our bilateral relations and are well positioned for this vis-à-vis Castro.

Adversaries: We have consolidated and advanced détente with the Soviet Union in the face of substantial uncertainty and pressure. And we have kept our lines open to China—lines we will be pursuing in your visit later this year.

—Your Vladivostok meeting with Brezhnev established your authority and personal relations with the Soviet leaders and settled the main outlines for a SALT II agreement.6 We are now reasonably well placed to secure this agreement and advance our relationship in Brezhnev’s visit here. This autumn we will also very likely engage the Soviets in a serious search for an MBFR agreement with the tabling of our nuclear proposal. The absence of a viable alternative to détente gives us strength in dealing with the criticism that is heard across the political spectrum. But the backlash on détente from both left and right is serious and could hamper support for measures such as reopening the MFN and credits issue as well as the SALT agreement.

—On China policy, we have essentially been on a plateau in our relations. The most important factor in our position with the Chinese and in the success of your visit will be their perception of our strength and steadfastness which they value as a counterweight to Soviet power. The international scene is much more important to them than the Taiwan issue, and they seem even more nervous about Moscow in the wake of the Indochina debacle. There will be some domestic criticism here over [Page 330] the lack of spectacular results from your trip but this should be manageable.

Interdependence and Developing Countries: This has been one of the most ground-breaking and creative areas in our foreign policy in the last year.

—The International Energy Agency is a landmark in institution-building among the developed countries and a new dimension of solidarity in our relations with Europe and Japan. The momentum in IEA is slowing down, however, and our own domestic disarray on energy policy is hurting us. We have jointly taken steps to reduce our vulnerability to OPEC actions, including agreements on emergency oil-sharing and a financial safety net. But much remains to be settled, including agreement on cooperative development of alternative energy supplies and the floor price. On a broader front, both in your bilateral contacts and in the OECD context, we have begun better coordination of economic policies among the developed countries to enhance prospects for growth and stability.

—After one false start, the producer/consumer dialogue is beginning to get back on track as the result of a U.S. initiative. Our proposal for three commissions—dealing with oil, raw materials, and development—has achieved a large measure of acceptance, but there are still some differences, particularly over the linkage of the commissions to an overall conference and whether to discuss monetary matters. Our objectives in the dialogue are to build a web of mutual interests with the producers, particularly the Saudis and Iranis. Our good bilateral relations with those two countries and our negotiating role in the Middle East should help us. However, our overall strategy could be threatened by a sharp OPEC price rise this autumn.

—At the World Food Conference in 1974 we framed the international agenda for dealing with food problems.7 We have made good on food aid, on a fertilizer institute, and on aid to food production in LDCs. A critical element of our policy, negotiation of a grain reserves agreement may lag because the European Community wants the negotiations in the context of the multilateral trade negotiations in Geneva while we want separate negotiations in London.

—On relations with developing countries generally, we have moved steadily to show our sympathy to their aspirations and our resolve to work toward practical and mutually beneficial solutions to problems that make our relations difficult, such as raw materials. At the same time, we have drawn lines against unrealistic demands and [Page 331] steam-roller tactics. The UNGA seventh special session in September8 will be a trial for our policy—and the General Assembly itself will be up against our clear warning of the damage to the UN of irresponsible bloc actions such as expulsion of Israel.

—Finally, a problem of world concern is potential proliferation of nuclear weapons particularly among developing countries. We have made some progress toward multilateral agreement among major nuclear exporters to enhance the effectiveness of export controls and safeguards and to exercise restraint in particularly sensitive regional situations. But the spread of nuclear technology (spurred by the energy crisis) and political aspirations combine to make nuclear proliferation one of the largest problems of the coming decades.

The Balance Sheet

In sum, this has been a year of solid accomplishments in foreign policy. Yet as always much remains to be done and much could go wrong—and this deserves to be underscored:

—relations between executive and congress will continue to be a major problem and a key area for constant effort.

—the Middle East could erupt at almost any time with devastating global impact.

—instability and tension threatens the southern flank of NATO from Portugal to Cyprus and the trend of events is worrisome.

—we face a backlash on détente that could assume proportions that would seriously handicap our ability to pursue the policies.

—we face a difficult challenge in the new—and in important aspects unrealistic—demands of the developing countries for power and participation in the world political and economic order.

With this said, I think we are emerging from the past year with restored momentum, validating the overall structure of our foreign policy, and laying the foundation for future accomplishments.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Policy Planning Council (S/PC), Policy Planning Staff (S/P), Director’s Files (Winston Lord) 1969–77, Lot 77D112, Box 355, JUL 16–31, 1975. Confidential; Nodis. Drafted by Bartholomew and Lord on July 18. The memorandum is not marked as a draft but there is no indication that either Kissinger or Ford saw it. Lord sent it to Scowcroft under a July 18 covering memorandum. Lord offered to “rework this for you [Scowcroft] in any way,” as he was “not sure this is precisely on the mark. We have assumed that it is strictly for internal consumption.”
  2. Cambodian patrol boats seized the crew of the SS Mayaguez, en route from Hong Kong to Thailand, on May 12. In response, U.S. ships and planes attacked Cambodian bases and ships. The Cambodians released the Mayaguez and its sailors on May 14. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume X, Vietnam, January 1973–July 1975, Documents 284301.
  3. The NATO summit took place in Brussels May 29–30. Ford addressed the members of the North Atlantic Council the evening of May 29, affirming the American commitment to the Atlantic Alliance; for text, see Public Papers: Ford, 1975, Book I, pp. 737–742. For the text of the communiqué released at the conclusion of the summit, see Department of State Bulletin, June 30, 1975, pp. 889–890.
  4. Ford visited Japan and Korea before traveling to Vladivostok to meet with Brezhnev.
  5. Kissinger addressed the Japan Society, a non-profit cultural exchange organization, in New York on June 18. For the text of his address, entitled “The United States and Japan in a Changing World,” see Department of State Bulletin, July 7, 1975, pp. 1–8.
  6. See footnote 6, Document 48.
  7. See Document 47.
  8. The Seventh Special Session of the U.N. General Assembly took place September 1–16 and focused on global development and economic issues. During a June 17 meeting with Senators and Department of State officials, Kissinger explained the purpose of the session: “This involves our policies toward the Third World and the politics of the interdependence. The Third World countries have escalated their economic concerns into a political confrontation. There is a danger we will be confronted in the Session by rigid ideological positions. We probably can’t completely avoid confrontation, but in any case we will try hard. We intend to obtain the cooperation of the Third World in the fields of food and raw materials and perhaps even energy. The problem calls for recognition that we all live in the same world and that we could destroy each other by policies which pursue narrow national interests.” (National Archives, RG 59, Records of Joseph Sisco, 1951–76, Lots 74D131 and 76D251, Box 19, JJS Memcons (Memos and Telegrams) 1975)