231. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Sir John Hunt, Secretary to the Cabinet
  • Sir Peter Ramsbotham, British Ambassador to the United States
  • Richard Sykes, Minister, Embassy of Great Britain
  • Charles Powell, First Secretary, Embassy of Great Britain
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State and Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Major General Brent Scowcroft, USAF, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Helmut Sonnenfeldt, Counselor, Department of State
  • Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff
[Page 740]


  • Nuclear Release Agreement; Labour Government’s Defense Review; UK Polaris Program; Diego Garcia; US-Soviet Threshold Test Ban; French Presidential Elections; Middle East; Washington Energy Conference

Secretary Kissinger: I talked to a group of Jewish leaders yesterday, knowing they would go right to the Israeli Embassy. In case there are difficulties with Israel. I told them what I think is necessary. So there is no doubt in Jerusalem that I have locked myself into a position semi-publicly.

Ambassador Ramsbotham: That resolution in the UN yesterday. I was astonished at the Israeli National Day yesterday, when their Ambassador congratulated me on supporting their amendment. He made no further comment.

Secretary Kissinger: They save their wrath for me. [laughter]

Ambassador Ramsbotham: We both put out a statement, the same as yours.

Sir John Hunt: It is extremely good of you to see me when you have to go off.

Secretary Kissinger: This will be the last quiet talk I will have for the next two weeks. [laughter]

Sir John Hunt: Really, there are four things I want to cover; (1) the conditions on the nuclear release agreement; (2) to tell you of our defense review, (3) Polaris, and (4) Diego Garcia.

Secretary Kissinger: Fine.

The Nuclear Release Agreement

Sir John Hunt: The first can be done quickly. On the nuclear release agreements, the Embassy has now got instructions from the Prime Minister to confirm what we have with you.

Secretary Kissinger: Have we received it?

Sir John Hunt: No, not yet.

Secretary Kissinger: As soon as we receive it, we will confirm it quickly and unchanged.

Ambassador Ramsbotham: We are repeating a little of the language; otherwise it repeats it by reference.

Secretary Kissinger: Does it refer to [less than 1 line not declassified]

Sir John Hunt: That is what I wanted to say. The Prime Minister tells me he wants to reconfirm that one too. It is not a new decision; it flows naturally from the other.

Secretary Kissinger: No problem. The only reason we did not raise it was that traditionally you took the initiative.

Sir John Hunt: Yes.

[Page 741]

Minister Sykes: Should we take it up with Hal or Brent?

Secretary Kissinger: Brent. The best way is to use as close to the old texts as possible. Is there any reason to change the text at all?

Sir John Hunt: No.

Ambassador Ramsbotham: We will get on with that then.

The Labour Government’s Defense Review

Sir John Hunt: Good. I would really like, rather privately, to tell you how we are handling the defense review. There will be lots of press stories; we have an active group of defense correspondents. We want you to know the truth.

The present government are committed to this review of defense expenditures. We are looking at all the priorities and commitments. I am chairing this review.

Secretary Kissinger: Isn’t that unusual? Not the Defense Minister?

Sir John Hunt: Sir Burke always played a big role in it. The time scale we envisage is: That we will report to Ministers about mid-July. Then Ministers will have to consider all this and expect to take their decision in the autumn.

Secretary Kissinger: Will the budget be in October?

Sir John Hunt: Normally it will be in April.

The Prime Minister wanted me specifically to tell you that no decision will be taken on the defense review without consultation with you, and our other main allies.

We have not been given any specific target for expenditure.

Secretary Kissinger: When you say consultation, with whom? The Defense Department?

Sir John Hunt: There may be some contacts on a technical level, but with more important things, at the Ministerial level.

Secretary Kissinger: On nuclear matters, we can probably steer you in directions where you will not go wrong. Defense people have their own ideas. Check with us first.

Ambassador Ramsbotham: That will help me too.

Sir John Hunt: There is no target presented for savings.

Secretary Kissinger: But there has to be savings.

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: No percentage of GNP?

Ambassador Ramsbotham: That report was totally untrue. I told Schlesinger this.

Sir John Hunt: But we are very deliberately looking at everything, and putting together the building blocks, if I may use that expression. Instead of going for a percentage cut and how to achieve that, we are looking at the whole range of things. And unfortunately there will be a [Page 742] horde of rumors coming out of London. Because we have this corps of defense correspondents.

Secretary Kissinger: We will take our decision on the basis of what you and Peter tell us.

Sir John Hunt: There was a story that we were leaving Malta and Cyprus. That is not true.

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: But it produced a plea by Mintoff that you stay. [laughter]

Sir John Hunt: Our ministers will not look at anything until mid-July, and there will be no decisions until autumn.

Secretary Kissinger: We will do nothing on the basis of reports.

Brent, can you tell Defense what our understanding with the British is and tell them to lay off?

General Scowcroft: Yes.

Sir John Hunt: We simply do not know at the moment, and there is the risk of scaring people or of making the wrong reassuring noises.

There is a possibility that a Minister may go out to the Far East to talk to the governments there. It will be to listen.

Secretary Kissinger: The Defense Secretary?

Sir John Hunt: Possibly, or another Minister.

Secretary Kissinger: You will have no problems with us.

Sir John Hunt: We are very grateful.

Secretary Kissinger: You may have problems when you present us your options, but not in the process of review.

Ambassador Ramsbotham: Roy Mason, the Secretary of State for Defense, is coming out the 29th or 30th of next month, at Schlesinger’s request. So they can get to know each other before the DPC meeting.

Sir John Hunt: I am quite sure he will be giving no indications of what will be coming out of the defense review.

Secretary Kissinger: If you want me to see him, I will be glad to.

Ambassador Ramsbotham: Thank you.

U.K. Polaris Program

Sir John Hunt: Leading on from that, the Ministers have been looking at Polaris—the Prime Minister, Chancellor, Defense Minister and Foreign Minister. They were grateful for the support the President gave to Prime Minister Heath. They have now got to the state where they were in no desire to reverse the decision.

Secretary Kissinger: Good. Of course, we think you should have made the Poseidon decision.

Sir John Hunt: There will be no formal decision for a while, but I think they will agree. They have already given the authority for [Page 743] spending for the next six months. They would not have done so if they were not so inclined. I am here to ask if you can ask Lockheed to go ahead full blast.

Secretary Kissinger: Absolutely. No problem.

It would really be a tragedy if Britain got out of the nuclear business. In spite of my hegemonic aspirations over Europe [laughter], I really think it will be better for Europe to have an independent nuclear deterrent.

Sir John Hunt: We will say nothing. If there are leaks or gossip that Ministers have to answer, we will say something banal about taking all steps necessary to maintain the credibility of our deterrent.

Secretary Kissinger: To the extent that we can control it, we will be helpful.

Sir John Hunt: There will be a problem with the firm.

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: There are thousands of people involved, once the decision is made to start up.

Secretary Kissinger: We can talk to the companies, but it is not in their nature.

We can guarantee what our formal response will be.

Brent, in my absence, can you coordinate in the Government?

General Scowcroft: Yes.

Secretary Kissinger: [to Ambassador Ramsbotham] You work with Brent, Peter.

When will Lockheed learn that you have asked them?

Ambassador Ramsbotham: Your Navy asks them.

Secretary Kissinger: First, we will work out some form of words with Peter. Before we tell the Defense Department anything. Then we will call Defense as soon as possible. On Monday.

Ambassador Ramsbotham: The sooner the better.

Secretary Kissinger: Tomorrow.

Ambassador Ramsbotham: Monday is fine.

We have this fellow, Chapman Pincher, who is the best—or worst—at finding out things.

Sir John Hunt: But I think we all have to live with our defense correspondents—I am sure you have them.

Ambassador Ramsbotham: I was impressed with the quality of the questions from them on your plane. They were well-informed questions.

Secretary Kissinger: They were the diplomatic correspondents.

Sir John Hunt: There is one particular problem on no announcement. That is, on May 22, there is a test in Nevada involving our thing. [Page 744] What we were hoping is no announcement at all, or if it is necessary to say anything, that there be no mention of a British test.

Secretary Kissinger: What is the regular procedure?

Minister Sykes: Defense prefers, if it is a big test and especially if there is a possibility of venting, to announce it in advance.

Secretary Kissinger: What size will it be?

Minister Sykes: [less than 1 line not declassified]

Secretary Kissinger: That is no problem.

Sir John Hunt: We hope there is no announcement.

Secretary Kissinger: We should stick as close as possible to the normal procedure because otherwise it attracts attention. Do we announce whose it is?

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: Usually we do, I think.

Ambassador Ramsbotham: That is the problem.

Secretary Kissinger: We will talk to Dixy Lee Ray. Why do we have to announce it?

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: It has to do with the Joint Committee [on Atomic Energy].

Ambassador Ramsbotham: You can hold it up for a few months.

Sir John Hunt: Until 1975, or at least until late autumn.

Secretary Kissinger: Check it, Brent.

Minister Sykes: The people in the area will observe the arrival of the British scientists. But you can say there is a close continuing relationship with Britain and this is part of the normal liaison.

Secretary Kissinger: [less than 1 line not declassified]

Sir John Hunt: [less than 1 line not declassified]

Secretary Kissinger: [less than 1 line not declassified]

[Omitted here is discussion of Diego Garcia, a possible U.S.-Soviet threshold test ban, the upcoming French presidential election, the Middle East, and the Washington Energy Conference.]

  1. Summary: Kissinger, Hunt, and other U.S. and UK officials discussed the U.S.–UK nuclear release agreement, the Labour government’s defense review, and the UK Polaris program.

    Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Kissinger-Scowcroft West Wing Office Files, Box 24, United Kingdom (16). Secret; Nodis. All brackets are in the original except those indicating text remains classified, or omitted by the editors. The meeting took place during a luncheon in the Eighth Floor Dining Room at the Department.