President Ford–James Callaghan memcon (September 24, 1974)
THE WHITE HOUSE
MEMORANDUM OF CONVERSATION
- President Gerald R. Ford
James Callaghan, Secretary of State for Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs
Sir Peter Ramsbotham, British Ambassador to the United States
Lt. General Brent Scowcroft, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
Anthony Acland, Private Secretary to Mr. Callaghan
- DATE AND TIME:
- Tuesday, September 24, 1974
4:30 p. m.
- The Oval Office
The White House
[The press was admitted briefly at the beginning for photographs.]
Callaghan: I do appreciate your giving up the time. I know what the President's time is. I congratulate you on assuming the leadership of the free world -- which is what you are.
President: Please give the Prime Minister my best. I got his message about the elections. I really thought your first speech was great; it was very well received here.
Callaghan: Thank you. It is my profound conviction. We feel a great weight has been lifted. The United States can now give the leadership the world needs. Any time the U. S. speaks with an uncertain voice, we are in trouble.
President: We had some rough times, but we are coming out of it now. When we get Nelson confirmed, we will get going. Henry has many things planned -- including a Middle East trip soon.
Callaghan: The Europeans are ambivalent about the United States. We want you to take the lead but are a bit put out when you do. The Soviet Union accentuated it today. Gromyko today spoke to the U.S., not the UN. This irritates the others, and you, on occasion, have to take on more than it is worth.
President: We understand, but the American people don't always rise up in wrath when they are criticized. But we are getting more emotional.
Callaghan: European unity hasn't really gotten going. It is an agreed idea, but is a little different when you come right down to it. Harold and I see the Europeans working closer and closer, but not in unison. We see there will be some states still, but working together.
President: We have those here who are pushing Atlantic Union, but it can't be sold at least now.
Callaghan: Of course, but people like George Ball tried to push the United Europe too much. I think it was counterproductive.
Ramsbotham: Anytime the U.S. expresses an opinion on things like this, it can be so.
Callaghan: Seriously, we welcome your leadership. We'll kick when we get it but if you will just listen to us a bit, we'll be all right.
President: We won't be thin-skinned. We politicians learn that.
Callaghan: You have President Truman's picture up; you know what he said. I thought I was thick-skinned -- but Gunes!
President: What is your appraisal of how things are going on Cyprus?
Callaghan: There can be nothing before the Greek elections. They must first cut off from the Greek colonels. I think we're thinking the same on this -- to move slowly.
President: Are Denktash and Clerides doing okay?
Callaghan: Left to themselves, they would solve it. Makarios is the problem. It has been estimated he would be back in Cyprus in'a month and move from far left to far right. I think he now is a national leader again.
Ramsbotham: He is a bit embarrassed by the Soviet support he's getting.
Callaghan: He's not a Communist, but he is able to use them.
Ramsbotham: He is a Byzantine.
President: Is he that skillful?
Ramsbotham: Yes. Only he could have held Cyprus todather 14 years.
Callaghan: But he has blind spots. He can't see the Turks' case -- and they have one. If he had let the constitution work... I think Cyprus's chief military value is to deny it to others, isn't it?
Scowcroft: No, not entirely. It has strategic value in the Eastern Mediterranean.
President: How is the election going?
Callaghan: Too good. We are 12 points ahead. That is too good. We hope to get back to 4-5 points, then the people will turn out.
We have a list of the important issues. Ted Heath made as his first point "Who will govern?" and is pushing for a government of national unity. The issues are prices, housing, pensions. The Common Market is Number 9 or 10; the health services are coming up.
President: That is growing in this country, one way or another.
Callaghan: The only problem is that people don't like the deduction from their pay packet. But we think it worth fighting -- that this is the way to go on health and pensions.
President: It still is an issue of principle here.
Callaghan: It was with us in '47, but not even the doctors object now.
President: The AMA is opposed; there is a formidable opposition.
Callaghan: One point to me on inflation. We are watching your activities closely. As an outsider, let me say: Your people will be telling you of the consequences of your actions in the U.S. They won't tell you of the indirect effects on other countries and the feedback on you. It happened the last time you had a near recession -- it was a full recession in Europe. What you do will have a severe impact in the world and especially in Europe.
President: In my opening statement I said we wouldn't take unilateral action but would consult with our friends. We have no intention of taking actions which would have serious impact on you.
Callaghan: If Burns keeps money too tight and interest too high, that would hurt.
President: There was a lot of criticism of Burns at the first meetings, and he has eased things a bit.
Callaghan: There is such a convergence of political and economic questions. The Soviets are backward on this. That is why I am pleased about the Camp David meeting this weekend.
President: If they can't get progress in that environment, it can't be done.
Callaghan: I think the emergency oil program is imaginative. I think it is good. We don't want to confront them now, but this mechanism is a good idea. The central bank mechanisms are not sufficient any more.
President: We don't want another embargo. Maybe after the North Sea and Alaska come into production, we can risk it, but not now.
Callaghan: I think they are surprised at their strength and will use it more sparingly.
I would like to have explored with the Arabs the recycling issue. We need an intermediary body which can guarantee their money, then we can lend it out where it is needed.
President: Are they getting more sophisticated in handling finances?
Callaghan: Yes, they have set up a 5-bank consortium in London. But that is too small to handle the sums. We have to devise a way to sop up the funds before they use them in ways we wouldn't like. There ought to be a mechanism to get the money to Africa, and so on, where it is needed, but to assure the Arabs the security of the money and the interest.
It is the medium-size nations who will run amok -- Greece, India, Cyprus. We must work on the NPT or else India and the other will run amok.
President: How long have you been in politics?
Callaghan: Since 1945.
President: I started in 1948, when Truman surprised everyone. I supported Internationalism against an isolationist -- even in the heartland of the Midwest -- and we won handily.
Callaghan: Why did Kennedy withdraw?
President: Several things. One, what happened to his brothers; two, his wife; three, his son; four, the rush of articles on Chappaquidick. It would have been an issue. Adding it all up -- the key in what he said is he would still be young enough in 1984.
Callaghan: Do you think there is a natural Democratic majority in Congress?
President: To some extent, but growing affluence and the move to the suburbs are modifying that. The polls show that there is growing conservatism.
Callaghan: How does a Republican President handle a Democratic Congress? It is inhibiting?
President: In some ways. I had a dinner with 27 last night. I have good relations with the Democratic leadership. Do you have that support?
Callaghan: Not the same way, but personalities play a big role.
President: We do well when there is not a philosophical difference.
Callaghan: You do this more openly than we. We do some, but all of it is behind the scenes.
President: We do it openly. I have joint groups to breakfast, and soon.
Callaghan: These questions of handling people are fascinating. Your Constitution is fascinating.
President: We tried some new provisions!
Callaghan: The marvelous thing is how they worked. What a tough thing for you. How is President Nixon?
President: He is doing all right. I talked to him ten days ago. He is very interested in foreign affairs.
Callaghan: It is very nice to have talked with you.
President: Likewise. I am looking forward to meeting the Prime Minister.
Callaghan: I wish you success -- for your and our sakes.
President: I am enjoying it.
Callaghan: Anything we can do, we would be happy to try.
President: Some of our critics may say differently, but Secretary Kissinger has at least as strong a role with me as before. You tell everyone that is the way it is and the way it will stay.
Callaghan: I will. There are people who will do that -- they have between him and me.
On Cyprus, you got a lot of criticism. But we couldn't have stopped the Turks, whatever he did. I reproach myself for not bringing a proposal forward earlier, but no one could have stopped the Turks.
President: Is it going to be OK?
Callaghan: If the Turks are willing to reduce their troops and the Greeks will agree to a federal solution and its implications, we will be on the way.