319. Editorial Note

Throughout July 1975, President Ford and Secretary of State Kissinger discussed preparations for the President’s trip to Helsinki for the final stage of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, which would include meetings with individual European leaders in Helsinki and stops in Europe before and after the conference.

During their conversations, the issue arose of whether Ford should meet with Soviet dissident writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn, whom the Soviets had permitted to emigrate to the United States, before the Helsinki conference. Kissinger wrote in his memoirs: “Solzhenitsyn was expelled from the Soviet Union on February 13, 1974, and came to the United States some months later. The AFL–CIO, under the leadership of its strongly anti-Communist president, George Meany, invited him to address a dinner in Washington on June 30, 1975, not long before Ford’s departure to sign the Final Act of the European Security Conference. The date had been carefully chosen; if Solzhenitsyn expressed anything like his well-known views, he would supply plenty of material for the opponents of CSCE. Solzhenitsyn did not disappoint his sponsors. […] Solzhenitsyn urged the United States to lead a crusade against Communism even inside the Soviet Union and disdained the argument that such a course represented interference in Soviet domestic affairs: ‘Interfere more and more,’ Solzhenitsyn implored. ‘Interfere as much as you can. We beg you to come and interfere.’ […] On July 2, Senators Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond contacted Ford’s counselor, Jack Marsh, to request an appointment for Solzhenitsyn with the President before July 5, when Solzhenitsyn was scheduled to leave Washington. […] Ford decided not to receive Solzhenitsyn and had Marsh cite scheduling difficulties as the reason. […] I was on vacation in St. John in the Virgin Islands when all this occurred. Scowcroft knew my views and informed me after the decision had been made. I concurred.” (Kissinger, Years of Renewal, page 650) For the text of Solzhenitsyn’s speech, see Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Warning to the West (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1976), page 48.

On July 13, Ford, Kissinger, and Scowcroft discussed the President’s schedule before and after the conference in Helsinki, along with whether he should meet with Solzhenitsyn. A memorandum of their conversation reads in part: “Kissinger: You [President Ford] should really stop in London on the way back. Schmidt wants you to spend one day, but he wants you to see the troops also. He wants a dinner that night. You could spend 11/2 days in Warsaw and get to Helsinki on [Page 922] the evening of the 29th. See Brezhnev the morning of the 30th, and the 2nd. That would give the 2nd and 3rd for Bucharest, and 3rd–4th in Belgrade. On the 4th and 5th you could see Asad, go through London on the 6th. The Poles want you to go to another city—Gdansk—but the Germans would be violently opposed. But you could go to Krakow. Ford: Okay. It would be good to go to one city, outside the city of Warsaw. Kissinger: I hope you won’t see Solzhenitsyn before you see Brezhnev. President: He was pretty good on television. Kissinger: What would our guys say if he entertained someone trying to overthrow you? President: I think the worst is over. We took a lot of flak.” On July 21, Ford, Kissinger, and Scowcroft discussed Ford’s planned visit to Poland before the Helsinki conference. A memorandum of their conversation reads in part: “Kissinger: Now Auschwitz. It is sort of bad taste to go to someplace which commemorates not an outrage basically against Poles, but against Jews. President: Your judgment is better than mine on this. Kissinger: I shouldn’t have asked Schmidt about Gdansk. Scowcroft: I think we can separate the wreath-laying [at Auschwitz] from the museums, etc. President: I don’t want to go to the horror parts.” (Both in Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 282, Presidential File, Memoranda of Conversation, 1975 July, Folder 1)

On the morning of July 24, Kissinger, Ford, and Scowcroft discussed the participation of Department of Defense representatives in the various meetings in Helsinki. A memorandum of their conversation reads in part: “Kissinger: If you bring someone from Defense in the Brezhnev meetings, it will be taken…. President: It must be clearly understood that no Defense representative will be in the meetings. They can go to Helsinki but not to the meetings. Kissinger: Will you tell the Department of Defense that the meetings are usually restricted to the President, me, the NSC staff and a notetaker? Scowcroft: Yes.” The same afternoon, Ford and Scowcroft met with Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger in the Oval Office. A memorandum of their conversation reads in part: “Schlesinger: Helsinki. Ellsworth will go along on the understanding that if it’s more people than you and Kissinger, he will sit in. President: I have decided on Kissinger, Scowcroft, and Stoessel. If there are expanded meetings, that is a different matter. But usually it has been just that. Schlesinger: Ellsworth is touchy. If he weren’t sure he would be in the meetings, I think I would just as soon send Bergold. President: I think I can only say it will be the four I have mentioned. Schlesinger: I think I should send Jim Wade (Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, ISA) as a resource, then.” (Both in Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversation, Box 14; ellipsis in the original transcript)