322. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Dr. Kazys Bobelis, President, Lithuanian-American Council
  • Dr. Lev Dobriansky, President, Ukrainian-American Congress
  • Aloysius Mazewski, President, Polish National Alliance
  • Joseph L. Osajda, President, Polish Roman Catholic Union
  • Dr. Andras Pogany, President, Hungarian Freedom Fighters Association
  • Frank J. Vodrazka, President, Czechoslovakian Society of America
  • Henry J. Scheib, President, Aid Association of Lutherans
  • Albert Bosch, National Chairman, Steuben Society of America
  • Joseph Lesawyer, President, Ukrainian National Association
  • Dr. Mikulas Ferjencik, Director, Czechoslovak National Council of America
  • Uldis I. Grava, President, Latvian World Organization
  • Paul P. Dargis, President, Lithuanian American Alliance
  • Heikki A. Leesment, Member, Board of Directors of the American Estonian Organization
  • Edward Behuncik, Slovak League of America
  • Stephen P. Mugar, Chairman, Board of Directors of the Armenian Assembly
  • Mike Bachar, Vice Chairman, Byelo Russian Congress Committee
  • President Ford
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State and Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Lt. General Brent Scowcroft, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Max L. Friedersdorf, Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs
  • Representative Edward J. Derwinski
  • Representative Thomas E. Morgan
  • Representative Clement J. Zablocki
  • Representative Lucien N. Nedzi
  • Representative Dan Rostenkowski
  • Representative Daniel J. Flood
  • Representative Jack F. Kemp
  • A. Denis Clift, National Security Council Staff (Notetaker)

President: Please sit down everybody. It is nice to see you all (the press photographers were admitted for photographs and then departed). Again, let me welcome you; this is an important subject, and I have a prepared statement that I’d like to read—I’ll see that you all get copies—and then I’ll be very happy to take your questions. I would note that the Secretary of State will be here until about 11:20 and then he will have to leave for a press conference.

(The President then read the statement at Tab B,2 and upon conclusion there was applause. The President then opened the floor to questions.)

Dr. Ferjencik: Mr. President you understand our position. We don’t trust the Communists; we don’t trust the Soviet Union. Many of us have had personal experiences and so have our people. Mr. President, would it be possible for you to make a short brief statement to the people behind the Iron Curtain that we are not abandoning them?

President: I am not sure that I have understood every word of your question. However, I do think that the statement that I have just read does that. It will be a public statement.

Mr. Dargis: Mr. President, on behalf of the Baltic-American community, we greatly appreciate the disclaimer you have made on the Baltic States. Is there a possibility of your reading this in Finlandia Hall or in a press conference or in a meeting with the Baltic States delegation which will be there?

President: I’ll take that suggestion under advisement. I do have a copy of my proposed remarks for Helsinki in my office, however because of other business I have not had a chance to go over it. I will take your suggestions into consideration.

Mr. Vodrazka: Mr. President, if you could issue a statement to the people behind the Iron Curtain it would be most important. Your remarks do this generally, however you do not address the people behind the Iron Curtain; what can we tell them through our press.

President: I think the countries that will be represented there are identified and the people who live in those countries will know that I have just read this statement.

Mr. Vodrazka: But you don’t address them specifically.

President: But you can take this statement that I have just read and quite properly you can interpret it.

[Page 928]

Mr. Lesawyer: Mr. President we are concerned about the dissidents in the Soviet Union. When you went to Vladivostok we asked you to raise the case of Valentyn Moroz,3 the Ukrainian who is imprisoned. I know you have discussed the question of Soviet Jewish emigrants, but we would like you to raise the case of others. We would request and appreciate your bringing up the case of Moroz.

General Scowcroft: You have already done so, Mr. President.

President: Gentlemen, this is General Scowcroft of the National Security Council. As he says, we have done this and we will follow up.

Dr. Pogany: Mr. President we are going to give the Soviets propaganda that they will use. Your fine statement will not get behind the Iron Curtain. You expect us to do this for you; maybe we will, but our efforts won’t get through the Iron Curtain. Even if we do get this through, your going to Helsinki is a disappointment to us and we are Republicans. This is a setback over here.

Mr. Mazewski: Mr. President, the Polish National Alliance has prepared a memorandum supporting your attendance at Helsinki with reservations. If at the time of signing the Helsinki documents you could issue some kind of statement—a conditional statement on the freedom of movement and the ultimate government of self-determination for all peoples—it would be helpful. The gentleman [Dr. Pogany]4 is right, the people over here are upset. But we recognize that your not going would be a greater catastrophe. We need some kind of assurance. We are not alone. The press doesn’t understand it. The New York Times, U.S. News and World Report, Newsweek don’t understand it. The writer said that seven Presidents have tried détente and failed. We feel that the State Department is bending backwards rather than forwards in dealing with the Russians. It is necessary to have a statement by you prior to signing the Helsinki documents. This should get into Radio Free Europe and the European press. I think this will make them think twice. Our people read more now. They know more, we need some kind of statement they can read.

President: We are in the process of preparing my statement for Helsinki and I welcome your suggestions. I haven’t looked at your statement yet but we will see if it can fit in.

Rep. Derwinski: Mr. President, this statement that you have just delivered will be released to the press. It will be picked up by the VOA and RFE.

Mr. Mazewski: Can we be assured that VOA will carry it?

[Page 929]

President: What I have just read you is an official statement by the President of the United States of America. I would think they could carry it.

Rep. Derwinski: Mr. President, I think VOA will undoubtedly report this.

Rep. Zablocki: We are assuming a great deal. We will have to follow through. Those here in 1948 and 1966 still don’t believe as they still have reservations; they are fearful that they are giving up the rights of millions who are struggling to make sure they have their freedom. We should make sure that RFE and VOA carry this statement, and we should tell the press that we have met with you and that all are in accord with you.

Mr. Bachar: I want to make an appeal that VOA broadcasts reports in Byelo Russian; we have been told that Byelo Russians understand Russian, and that for this reason it is not necessary. They have to understand Russian! But, it is insulting, it deprives them of hope and the feeling that we care. We hope it will be possible to include a full hour of broadcasts in Byelo Russian.

Rep. Flood: Mr. President, I’ve been around a long time. This is the first time in 30 years that I’ve seen a meeting like this! If there could be a press release that these people are here, that the names of those organizations and the names of those speaking for them, if this could be known, this could make an impression behind the Iron Curtain.

President: I believe this is the first time that a President has met with a group of this kind.

Rep. Rostenkowski: Mr. President, I can only echo what Dan Flood has said, this is a courageous step on your part to bring these people together. I know there are reports of people not being happy about your making this trip but the fact that you have brought us together and have pointed out that you are President and working in search of peace and that you will not be closing the door by going there is important.

I was your emissary recently in Poland5 and every government official I talked to as well as people walking in the street are excited by the fact that you are going there. It gives them hope, the fact that you are going.

[Page 930]

Dr. Bobelis: I join with Rostenkowski in expressing my appreciation for this meeting. However, we have tremendous apprehensions the Soviet Union is interfering in Portugal. The Russians are pouring money into Portugal to obtain a Communist government. We are happy with the statement you have made; we believe in you. You are a champion of freedom and human rights.

Dr. Dobriansky: Mr. President, I support what Dan Flood has said. This is an unprecedented meeting. I second the framework and thrust of your statement. I am overwhelmed by your statement!

Moscow is going to make Helsinki a prime propaganda tool—they are going to make use of it. What do we do with your statement? There should be follow up. People in Eastern and Western Europe will be looking for guidelines of interpretation. The RFE and Radio Liberty should carry this in full.

Rep. Flood: And what about MBFR?

Dr. Dobriansky: CSCE was predicated on MBFR.

President: Yes.

Dr. Dobriansky: If those guidelines could be reemphasized and you could make a similar statement at Andrews Air Force Base and in Bonn it would be good.

President: Thanks Lev, I’ll take one more comment and then I have to go to another meeting. For sometime now in a number of communities—Atlanta, Miami, Dallas, eight all together—we have been bringing together a cross section of the community, labor, management and others for a meeting with spokesmen of the Executive Branch for talks about energy or some other aspect of policy. Usually we have about 600 to 800 people and I have normally spoken. This program is under Bill Baroody on the White House staff. We are going to continue this. I’ll make sure we broaden the base. It is my intention to bring someone on the staff when we hold such a meeting who will be representing ethnic groups and making sure that they are included and have the opportunity to participate. We haven’t selected the man on the White Staff yet who will do this.

Jack Kemp, you haven’t spoken yet.

Rep. Kemp: With an ethnic name like Kemp? Seriously Mr. President, I agree with Dan Rostenkowski. We have much appreciated Ed Derwinski organizing this meeting. It’s a real manifestation of your desire on this issue and the people of Buffalo will appreciate it.

Mr. Vodrazka: Mr. President, I have a request; would you make an appeal to the Soviets to withdraw their army from Czechoslovakia? It is a police force and it should be removed.

President: I will take that into consideration.

Thank you all for the meeting.

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversation, Box 14. Administratively Confidential. Drafted by Clift. The meeting took place in the Cabinet Room.
  2. Not attached. For the text of the President’s address, see Public Papers: Ford, 1975, pp. 1030–1033.
  3. Moroz, an imprisoned Ukrainian historian, went on a hunger strike in the fall of 1974 to protest conditions at the prison in Vladimir.
  4. Brackets in the original.
  5. Rostenkowski visited Poland June 6–11 as the President’s representative for the opening of the U.S. exhibition USATECH ‘75. Telegram 3931 from Warsaw, June 23, reads in part: “Treatment extended by the Polish authorities to Presidential representative Congressman Dan Rostenkowski and to the entire US participation in the Poznan Fair this year was particularly cordial. The Polish hosts went out of their way to show that they were pleased with the present state of US-Polish relations and were hopeful that our ties would continue to grow at the current pace. With no prodding from the Embassy, the Poles arranged an appointment for Congressman Rostenkowski with First Secretary Gierek, who received the Congressman even though he was so bothered by a cold that he did not attend the opening of the Poznan Fair.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files)