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Gerald Ford on Foreign Policy

President of the U.S., 1974-1977; Republican Rep. (MI)


1975: organized emergency military evacuation from Vietnam

In the southeast Asian refugee crisis of 1975, with the fall of south Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos to the Communists, millions of those nations' citizens fled their new dictatorships. Rising to the occasion, Pres. Gerald Ford organized an emergency military effort to evacuate refugees to the US. American civil society also answered the call, assisting refugees' resettlement in countless ways. Churches, synagogues, military families, and civic groups petitioned to sponsor evacuees, while the non-profit International Rescue Committee coordinated the effort. Within the days of their arrival on American shores, refugees were placed with sponsors throughout the nation. Generous and capable, American civil society helped to cultivate new and proud Americans. One of these refugees, Joseph Cao, recently represented New Orleans in the U.S. Congress.
Source: A Nation Like No Other, by Newt Gingrich, p.125-126 , Jun 13, 2011

1986: Iran-Contra covert operation deserves condemnation

On November 25, 1986 the Iran-Contra scandal hit the front pages. Both the Republicans and Democrats assailed the White House. Former Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter were stupefied.

"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."

Source: The Family, by Kitty Kelley, p.442-443 , Sep 14, 2004

Eastern Europe NOT dominated by USSR?

FORD [responding to Carter}: There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe and there never will be under a Ford administration.

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.

Source: 2nd Carter-Ford debate, in ďGood As Its People,Ē p. 214-15 , Oct 6, 1976

Eastern Europeans don't concede Soviet domination

"There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe, and there never will be under a Ford Administration." [The moderator] pressed me: "Did I understand you to say, sir, that the Russians are not using Eastern Europe as their own sphere of influence and occupying most of the countries there and making sure with their troops that it's a Communist Zone?"

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.

Source: A Time To Heal, by Gerald Ford, p.422-424 , Oct 6, 1976

Soviets dominate economy in Poland but not Polish spirit

"I don't believe," I said, "that the Romanians or the Poles consider themselves dominated by the Soviet Union.

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.

Source: A Time To Heal, by Gerald Ford, p.424-425 , Oct 6, 1976

Build long-term basis for coexistence with Communists

Our relations with the Communist countries are a basic factor of the world environment. We must seek to build a long-term basis for coexistence. We will stand by our principles & interests. We will act firmly when challenged. The kind of a world we want depends on a broad policy of creating mutual incentives for restraint and for cooperation.

As we move forward to meet our global challenges and opportunities, we must have the tools to do the job. Our military forces are strong and ready, [as] sound insurance for our safety and for a more peaceful world.

Military strength alone is not sufficient. Effective diplomacy is also essential in preventing conflict, in building world understanding. The Vladivostok negotiations with the Soviet Union represent a major step in moderating strategic arms competition. My recent discussions with the leaders of the Atlantic community, Japan, and South Korea have contributed to meeting the common challenge.

Source: Pres. Ford's 1975 State of the Union message to Congress , Jan 15, 1975

Disagreed on linking Soviet MFN with Jewish emigration

The Jackson-Vanik Amendment linked our granting of most-favored-nation status to the Soviets to a relaxation of their emigration policies. The amendment had passed the Senate 88 to 0.

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.

Source: A Time To Heal, by Gerald Ford, p.224-225 , Dec 13, 1974

Note human rights when sending US troops to South Korea

In 1972 after we had withdrawn 20,000 troops form the country, we had promised to modernize the South Korean forces, at a cost of $1.5 billion, over a 5 year period. [Visiting Korean leader] Park wanted to know what he could expect.

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.

Source: A Time To Heal, by Gerald Ford, p.212-213 , Nov 19, 1974

Quiet diplomacy best for issues like Soviet Jewish emigres

I fully agreed that the Soviet anti-emigration policy was deplorable and contrary to my long-held belief that people should be free from oppression. Yet by pursuing quiet but firm diplomacy, Nixon and Kissinger had persuaded the Soviets to ease their restrictions. Jewish emigration from the USSR jumped from 400 a year in 1968 to about 35,000 in 1973. When I became President, I sought to assure the Soviets that I was going to pursue the same kind of quiet diplomacy.
Source: A Time To Heal, by Gerald Ford, p.138-139 , Aug 14, 1974

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George W. Bush(R,2001-2009)
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Page last updated: Mar 16, 2014