56. Editorial Note

At a National Security Council meeting on January 28, 1970, with British Prime Minister Wilson attending, President Nixon emphasized the importance of coordinating with Western European allies in formulating an approach to the Soviet Union:

“Often we read that the columnists say that Europe does not really matter. What is needed is for the United States and the Soviet Union to sit down and cool the whole process. If this means cooling relations with our Western European friends they say, then so be it. If it means antagonizing China—again, so be it.

“As I said in February and again in August, I reject this approach categorically. First, there is no reduction of our NATO commitment. Certainly this can be a matter for negotiation, but we cannot reduce our level of commitment except on a mutual basis. Second, on Soviet-US relations, there is not a lack of interest in finding an arrangement, but it is vitally important to establish a relationship within the Alliance. We must know what we are going to talk about before getting into summitry.”

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Later in the discussion, Nixon outlined his support for the development of a strong, independent European community which could provide “friendly competition” for the United States:

“I have never been one who believes the US should have control of the actions of Europe. It is in the interests of the United States to have a strong economic, political and military European community, with the United Kingdom in that community. I have preferred that Europe move independently, going parallel with the United States. A strong, healthy and independent Europe is good for the balance of the world. For the US to play a heavy-handed role would be counter-productive. What we want is friendly competition with the United States.” (Minutes of NSC meeting; National Security Council, Secretariat Files, NSC Meeting Minutes, Originals, 1970)