Gerald Ford on Foreign Policy
President of the U.S., 1974-1977; Republican Rep. (MI)
"We've paid ransom, in effect, to the kidnappers of our hostages," said President Carter. President Ford said, "Whoever initiated this covert operation and carried it out deserves some condemnation by certain people in Congress, by people on the outside."
Q: [to Ford]: Iím sorry, did I understand you to say that the Russians are not using Eastern Europe as their own sphere of influence in occupying most of the countries there?
FORD: I donít believe that the Yugoslavians consider themselves dominated by the Soviet Union. I donít believe that the Rumanians or the Poles consider themselves dominated by the Soviet Union. Each of those countries is independent, autonomous, it has its territorial integrity and the US does not conceded that those countries are under the domination of the Soviet Union.
I was stepping through a minefield, but I failed to recognize it at that time. "I don't believe," I said, "that the Romanians or the Poles consider themselves dominated by the Soviet Union. Each of those countries is independent, autonomous; it has its own territorial integrity. And the US does not concede that those countries are under the domination of the Soviet Union. As a matter of fact, I visited Poland, Yugoslavia & Romania to make certain that the people of those countries understood that the President of the US and the people of the US are dedicated to their independence, their autonomy and their freedom." Carter jumped all over that.
Carter jumped all over that. "I would like to see Mr. Ford convince the Polish-Americans and the Czech-Americans and the Hungarian-Americans in this country," he said, "that those countries don't live under the domination and supervision of the Soviet Union behind the Iron Curtain."
Dick Cheney thought I should issue a clarification immediately. I told him I didn't see any need for that. If the critics didn't understand what I had meant to say, then that was their problem, not mine. And in my own mind I was sure what I had meant to say. Although the Soviet Union dominated Polish territory by stationing troops there, it didn't dominate the heart, soul and spirit of the Polish people. No, I reiterated, I wasn't going to retract what I had said.
Although I knew that its enactment would damage good relations with the Soviets, I decided reluctantly to sign the measure into law. A veto would have been overridden by an overwhelming majority. I could only hope that when members of Congress saw the damage they had done to the cause of furthering the emigration of Soviet Jews, they would change their minds in the next session and vote to soften or delete the amendment from the bill.
In this instance, Congressional intervention was counterproductive. Jewish emigration from the USSR dropped precipitously, and the Soviets canceled their 1972 trade agreement with us. They also reneged on their promise to settle a World War II lend-lease debt. In a world of 150 nations and fast-moving change, diplomacy is a continuing process. It must not be frozen in a statute.
As our meeting drew to a close, I asked [Cabinet members] to leave so I could chat with Park alone about the sensitive issue of human rights. Since 1972, Park had disbanded the National Assembly, set aside the South Korean constitution and adopted one-man rule. A former presidential candidate was under house arrest; the press had been gagged; church and student leaders had been jailed for criticizing Park's dictatorship. Congressional support, I said, would erode very quickly unless he took a more reasonable approach toward his opponents.
I told him I understood his problems, but urged him once again to be more lenient. Although he didn't commit himself to any specifics, I was led to believe that he would modify some of his more repressive policies.
|Other past presidents on Foreign Policy:||Gerald Ford on other issues:|
George W. Bush(R,2001-2009)
George Bush Sr.(R,1989-1993)
John F. Kennedy(D,1961-1963)
Past Vice Presidents:
Natural Law Party