279. Editorial Note

During April 1975, the Ford administration debated the domestic political implications of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. On April 9, Secretary of State Kissinger met with President Ford in the Oval Office to discuss foreign policy issues, including the European security conference. According to the memorandum of conversation, Kissinger stated: “On the Baltic States, I have signed a memorandum. Technically, it is true that the CSCE doesn’t add much to the legal status. Practically that is not true—that is why the Soviet Union wants it. It has numerous references to the sanctity of frontiers. President: Will that raise hell with our Baltic friends? Kissinger: There is a clause about peaceful change of borders. They may not like it. President: We need to find a way to reassure them. Kissinger: I would go to Warsaw, Bucharest, and Belgrade after Helsinki. Maybe even Budapest.” (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 281, Presidential File, Memoranda of Conversation)

A similar meeting took place between Ford and Kissinger on April 25. According to a memorandum of conversation, the President asked: “Did you see the criticism of CSCE? Kissinger: Yes, in the Post. It is popular for the soft line to be tough on the Soviet Union. The Jews do it also because polarization helps them make the Arabs look like Soviet stooges. When we came in, all the Europeans and American press pushed us hard for a Conference, and we didn’t care about it. There is nothing in it for us. I think you must go if there is a Summit. Then go to Berlin. I would also recommend Warsaw, Bucharest, and Belgrade.” (Ibid.) On April 25, the Washington Post ran an editorial, “Dubcek and European Security,” which reads in part: “[T]he European status quo which the West is being asked to sanctify [at the European Security Conference] allows the Kremlin to crack the whip as it will in East Europe even while it freely exploits the openness in West Europe for its own end. … Is there any non-Communist in the West who can give a good reason why the West should, at a European summit, formalize this unequal and even insecure state of affairs?” (Washington Post, April 25, 1975, page A26)

On April 25, Counselor Sonnenfeldt wrote in a memorandum to Kissinger: “I joined Hartman and EUR staff in a session on CSCE with American Jewish Committee officers who feel we have not adequately bargained on human rights issues. I explained the history of the conference, noted what has been accomplished, pointed out our doubts about the wisdom of this exercise in the first place and cautioned them not to invest it with legal or definitive significance either in its accomplishments or its shortfalls. It is clear that CSCE is becoming the next issue on which an ethnic coalition plus others will belabor the Administration.” (National Archives, RG 59, Records of the Office of the Counselor, Entry 5339, Box 12, Daily Activity Reports, 1975)