294. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • President Gerald R. Ford
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State and Assistant to the President
  • Lt. General Brent Scowcroft, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Mr. Helmut Sonnenfeldt, Counselor of the Department of State
  • Prime Minister Harold Wilson
  • Foreign Secretary James Callaghan
  • Sir John Hunt, Cabinet Secretary
[Page 857]

[Omitted here is discussion of matters other than the European security conference or MBFR.]

President: What do you think are the prospects for CSCE?

Wilson: What do you think?

Kissinger: The Soviets are moving on Basket III.2 The only real sticking point is CBMs—the question of the depth of the zone. I think we could settle on 250 kilometers. On follow-on, I had an exchange with Gromyko in Vienna. I said we supported the Danish proposal, but I said that perhaps there could be meetings after a year or 18 months, but Gromyko said no, it should be after three to four years.

Callaghan: The Romanians want a much shorter time.

Kissinger: The East Europeans want permanent machinery because they want to be able to monitor the Soviets.

Callaghan: One of the results of CSCE is that it has brought the East Europeans into equal status with other countries.

President: Is a summit likely to be in July?

Kissinger: Yes. I think the chances are two out of three that it will be unless the Soviets change their tactics. They are dribbling out concessions.

Callaghan: Stage II should really be settled in two weeks if the summit is to be in July.

Wilson: It really would kill the Geneva industry. We will need a public works program for all the diplomats who have been so busy with CSCE.

President: How long should we allow for the CSCE summit? Five days is very long. There will be 35 speeches.

Wilson: The more time you allow, the longer the speeches will be. Maybe we should plan to arrive on Monday in the afternoon or evening, and then work Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and into Friday.

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Callaghan: At the OECD meeting in Paris, I got rid of 20 speeches in one morning. Your’s was long though, Henry.

President: It will lose luster if the speeches are too long.

Wilson: Yes, like at the UN.

Callaghan: So maybe it would be arriving on Monday, and then Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Wilson: Will it all be wrapped up at that point or will there still have to be negotiations?

Callaghan: No. There would be valedictory speeches only.

Kissinger: You know that the Turks don’t want Makarios to be there, but Denktash.3

Callaghan: Yes, I gather. Mintoff will make trouble on relations with the Arabs4 and he may hold that until we all get there.

Kissinger: The conference could end on Thursday and we could then stay on Friday for bilaterals. The press in the United States would get very impatient if it drags on. They are already saying there has been no accomplishment.

Callaghan: There is very little in Basket III.

Kissinger: And it is unenforceable.

Callaghan: We should go for a short conference.

Wilson: I would like to miss question time in the House for once.

Callaghan: And Cabinet.

President: You don’t enact bills when you are not there?

Wilson: No, no, it goes right on.

[Omitted here is discussion of matters other than the European security conference or MBFR.]

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversation, Box 12. Secret; Sensitive. The meeting took place at the Residence of the American Ambassador. Ford and Kissinger were in Brussels for a NATO summit. On May 29, they met with Schmidt. The memorandum of their conversation reads in part: “The President: We are prepared to go to the summit for the CSCE, but there is not much movement. Kissinger: There were some concessions in Basket III. If there are more in CBM, there may be a chance. If they extend the territory to about 300 kilometers… Schmidt: That is the only real issue. Because of the relation to MBFR. Kissinger: Now I think the chances of a summit in July are slightly better than 50–50.” (Ibid.; ellipsis is in the original)
  2. In an undated memorandum to Kissinger prepared on May 29, Hartman wrote that “on May 28, the Soviets offered some significant concessions on Basket 3 issues in the Allied ‘global initiative’ on human rights and information.” Hartman noted that “while this demonstration of Soviet flexibility will help accelerate the search for a Basket 3 final compromise, the NATO caucus at Geneva expects further hard bargaining.” Hartman continued: “At a May 28 luncheon in Geneva, Kovalev told the US, UK, and French delegation heads that Moscow offered these concessions as a ‘gesture of good will’ aimed at speeding up efforts to overcome differences on the 30 points still to be resolved in the human contacts and information area. A NATO caucus meeting immediately following the luncheon produced agreement that the Soviet moves included at least two significant concessions—on travel and journalists—and that the remaining list of Soviet-proposed changes form an adequate basis for opening global negotiations.” (Ford Library, National Security Adviser, NSC Staff for Europe, Canada, and Ocean Affairs, Convenience Files, Box 44, Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, 1975 WH [3])
  3. Telegram 2113 from Geneva, March 26, reported that “Turkish delegation head (Benler) has written to all CSCE delegation heads, except Cypriot, recalling allusions he made earlier to possibility that he might question Cypriot credentials at some stage in CSCE.” It noted that “in private conversations Benler has hinted that real problem for Turks is possibility of presence of Makarios at Stage III.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files)
  4. Telegram 3830 from Geneva, May 23, reported that the Maltese delegation had introduced at CSCE an amendment to the conference’s draft declaration on the Mediterranean calling for the eventual withdrawal of all U.S. and Soviet forces from the Mediterranean. (Ibid.)