220. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • President Ford
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State
  • Brent Scowcroft, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs


  • President Ford’s Meeting with President-Elect Carter
[Page 740]

President: The meeting was interesting.2 I anticipated having only five or ten minutes alone with him [Carter] but he wanted to discuss foreign policy, so we talked for almost an hour. He wanted to discuss the same subjects as he did with you. He wanted to know what problems we would solve—and hoped we would settle Panama. I told him it was very doubtful.

Kissinger: So did I.

President: He was interested in SALT.

Kissinger: He wants to stick us with a freeze.

President: I talked about that and said it was very disadvantageous, that it would leave them with higher numbers.

Kissinger: So did I. He says we have a technological advantage.

President: I told him there were verification problems on that, too.

Kissinger: It is not even necessarily true we are ahead on technology. We might have to trade cruise missiles for Backfire.

President: He didn’t mention Korea.

Kissinger: I told you he mentioned Schlesinger telling him about the Koreans offering us an island and then we could withdraw. I told him that was hogwash.

President: He wanted to know about NSC operations. He asked about the British financial crisis.

Kissinger: [To Scowcroft:] Have we heard from the British?

Scowcroft: Not yet.

[Discussion of the debate with Treasury and the Fed.]

Scowcroft: If we get to a sterling negotiation, you should talk with Treasury and Burns3 to make sure they follow your orders.

Kissinger: You don’t want to get stuck with sinking the British. Joe Kraft had a piece on it today.4

President: On meeting with the European leaders, Carter asked me a question in front of the press. They didn’t report it accurately, but I had to say something.

What is going on with the CDU and CSU?

[Page 741]

Kissinger: That really changes the political complexion in Germany. It is a power play to get rid of Kohl. It’s a Reagan-like move; it’s Strauss’s5 last chance.

President: What does it do to the FDP?

Kissinger: It complicates things. If now the CDU moves a bit to the left, it could take votes from Genscher6 and put him below 5%.

President: After you left the meeting Friday, we discussed oil prices. Then on Saturday Arthur Burns told me he was very worried about the impact of a price increase.7 He thought a delegation should go there, headed by me or the Vice President. I told him I would talk to the Vice President. The Vice President mentioned the oil deal with the Shah.

Kissinger: We can’t get it now. There is no shortage now. We could have gotten it last summer. It would be humiliating for you to go. You would have to come back with no price increase if you were not to be humiliated. I feel the same way though less so about the Vice President’s going. If you really feel strongly, he could go. If you feel you need it—but the Europeans aren’t doing much, and you have no clout. I just don’t think it is the thing to do.

You could call in the Ambassadors.

President: That as a minimum we should do.

Kissinger: That would be a useful thing to do.

President: Let’s set that up for early next week. I want to be well prepared, with the facts on the economics, political support, etc.

Kissinger: On the economics, you have a tough agreement with the Shah. He will show how we jacked military prices up 80 percent over the past few years. The best is the political argument—that you will have to blast them for an increase and that they shouldn’t put themselves in a bad light when they need our help in the Middle East.

Burns is irresponsible making a recommendation like that.

Scowcroft: He is concerned about the world financial impact. [He described what Burns and Greenspan see as the impact.]

Kissinger: I agree with that, just not with his prescription for dealing with it. Maybe we could get it postponed. I would call in the [Page 742] Saudi first. Zahedi, of course, is such a fool. What he will report will bear no relation to what you tell him.

[There was a short discussion of Carter and his advisers.]

Kissinger: I spoke with Dobrynin. He said to get SALT now he would have to insure that Carter was on board.

President: I think Carter would buy almost anything. But to negotiate with him, the Soviets, Defense, and Ikle at the same time.

Kissinger: That Ikle is vicious. [He described a story he gave the New York Times about Kissinger.]

President: Brent knows what I would have done about Ikle had I been reelected.

[There was a discussion of the Washington Star article on NSSM 246.]8

Kissinger: The Israelis want landing rights at Miami. I don’t know whether you want to do that before you leave. You know Carter will do it. The Syrians and Jordanians want landing rights too. That is a good idea but I don’t think you can do it without doing the Israeli thing.

President: Have you heard any rumors about who will be Secretary of State?

Kissinger: The latest is Muskie.

[There was a discussion of Carter’s selection process.]

If it were Muskie, there is the problem of Zbig. You can’t have two Poles in the top jobs.

President: His views are on the record. He’s not strong in foreign policy.

Kissinger: I don’t know how you can have a President who knows nothing about foreign policy and a Secretary of State also.

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversations, 1973–1977, Box 21, November 23, 1976, Ford, Kissinger. Secret; Nodis. The meeting was held in the Oval Office. All brackets are in the original.
  2. Ford met with Carter in the Oval Office between 3:40 and 4:44 p.m. on November 22. (Ibid., Staff Secretary’s Office, President’s Daily Diary) No other record of the meeting has been found. The briefing book prepared for Ford for his meeting with Carter, November 21, is ibid., President’s Handwriting File, Box 15, President—Transition.
  3. Arthur F. Burns, Chairman of the Federal Reserve, 1970–1978.
  4. Joseph Kraft, “What’s At Stake in Britain,” Washington Post, November 23, 1976, p. A15.
  5. Franz Josef Strauss was Chairman of the West German Christian Social Union (CSU).
  6. Hans-Dietrich Genscher was the West German Vice Chancellor and Foreign Minister.
  7. According to the President’s Daily Diary, the President attended a November 19 Cabinet Room meeting on the British economic situation between 11:25 a.m. and 12:50 p.m. and then met alone with Burns in the Oval Office until 1 p.m.. The next day, he met with Burns and Alan Greenspan from 12:40 until 1:12 p.m. (Ford Library, Staff Secretary’s Office, President’s Daily Diary) No other record of these meetings has been found.
  8. NSSM 246, “National Defense Policy and Military Posture,” September 2, is ibid., National Security Adviser, NSSMs and NSDMs, Box 2.