102. Telegram From the Department of State to the Mission to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization 1

195006. USNATO deliver Engleberger 0830 Thursday, November 20 FYI and Noforn (except as noted in para 4 below).

Subj: Soviet Approach on European Security Conference.

Memorandum below is uncleared and subject to revision upon review.

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Ambassador Dobrynin asked for an appointment with Secretary on November 18. They met at 9 a.m. on November 19. Dobrynin then proceeded to summarize lengthy “informal oral statement,” text of which he later handed to secretary. Full text of statement follows:
  • “(1) Soviet Government proceeds from assumption that possibilities for holding all-European conference are now increasing. During time that passed since Bucharest Declaration by socialist countries, and especially since Budapest appeal,2 the intentions of countries which sponsored proposals for all-European conference have become more clearly understood by other European countries. A number of wrong interpretations have been dropped which did not correspond to real position of socialist countries. Discussion of proposal for an all-European conference has become businesslike and is being focused on its agenda, possible results and body of participants. The well known initiative of Finland played positive role in this respect. Thus the question of preparation and convocation of all-European conference will now arise on a more practical plane.

    “Socialist countries which proposed all-European conference have carefully analyzed existing points of view, considered the opinions expressed in course of bilateral contacts and have taken into account positions of interested states. In particular, they paid due attention to opinions regarding the necessity of thorough preparation for all-European conference, its possible participants and desirability to select for the discussion at the all-European conference such questions which would allow for a broad consensus in the present conditions in Europe, and regarding which all possible participants in the all-European conference would have sufficient degree of confidence as to their productive consideration at the conference itself.

    “Having taken into account all above mentioned points, countries-signatories to Budapest appeal found it useful and timely to come out with new initiative to detail further steps for convening all-European conference and to provide answers to questions, which arose in the course of discussion with various countries of the proposal to convene the conference.

  • “(2) The Soviet Government is convinced that convening of all-European conference in near future would serve interests of strengthening peace and security in Europe as well as interests of all European and not only European states. It stands to reason that preparatory work [Page 307] must be aimed at practical fulfillment of proposal for convening conference instead of being used as pretext for its delay or for raising various preliminary conditions. In opinion of countries-participants in Prague meeting, the all-European conference could take place in first half of 1970.

    “As for place of conference, the states-signatories of the Prague statement hold the opinion that it could take place in Helsinki in view of the role played by Government of Finland in this matter.

  • “(3) Soviet Government fully shares view of states which believe that all-European conference must end in success—all the more so that it would be the first meeting of all European countries in the post-war years.

    “In our opinion, two items suggested by Prague statement3 for inclusion in agenda of an all-European conference ‘on the assurance of European security and on the renunciation of use of force or threat of its use in mutual relations among states in Europe’ and ‘on expansion of trade, economic, scientific and technical ties on equal terms aimed at developing political cooperation among European states’—can become subjects on which broad agreement can be reached, given sufficient good will of the parties. (Comment: Dobrynin handed the Secretary the text of these draft documents.)

    “Discussion of first question mentioned above could, it is believed, result in signing of final document that would proclaim principle of renunciation of use of force or threat of its use in mutual relations among states in Europe. Adoption of such document would acutally mean proclamation of principle of renunciation of war in Europe which is of special significance in view of fact that it is on the European continent that the two most powerful military-political groupings confront each other with their military forces concentrated there in immediate proximity of each other. Establishment on regional basis of principle to renounce use of force or threat of its use is in keeping with provisions of UN Charter and serves their further development. Besides it should be borne in mind that not all of states concerned—future participants in the all-European conference—are members of the UN. It goes without saying that adoption of document on non-use of force by all-European conference would by no means affect commitments assumed by states-participants in all-European conference through existing multilateral and bilateral treaties and agreements.

    “Discussion of second question on agenda, which could also result in adoption of appropriate document, would allow movement [Page 308] forward toward normalization of relations among European states, prepare ground for consideration of concrete questions of trade, economic, scientific and technical cooperation among all European states and for removal of obstacles in the mentioned fields.

    “An accord achieved on both mentioned questions would contribute to improvement of general political atmosphere in Europe and to growth of trust, would secure principles of peaceful coexistence and would pave way for future consideration of other problems of interest to European states, the solution of which wuld contribute to strengthening of European security and development of broad cooperation among all European states.

    “We would like to make clear, that at all-European conference, as we see it, every state-participant will be given an opportunity to set forth its viewpoint on questions regarding the situation in Europe and means of strengthening peace and security on the European continent, as well as to give suggestions and considerations for development of peaceful cooperation among European countries. In other words, we have in mind that there will take place a free discussion at the conference, and that decisions will be taken on the two proposed concrete questions at the conclusion of the conference. We would like to emphasize the idea that working out agreed drafts of the possible final documents in consultations even before convocation of an all-European conference would guarantee the success of conference to a considerable extent.

  • “(4) As it follows from Prague statement, the Soviet Union and other Socialist countries are prepared to consider any other proposals aimed at practical preparation for and ensuring the success of all-European conference.

    “Sometimes an opinion is voiced to effect that questions advanced by socialist countries are allegedly not of major scale and that cardinal problems such as German problem should be introduced at all-European conference. We do not agree with such statements at all. Suggestions to effect that German problem or other problems be included in the agenda—and such problems are understood by the West in a specific way which is clearly unacceptable to the socialist countries—would only serve to complicate if not downright torpedo convocation or, at any rate, fruitful work of the conference. One cannot but take into consideration also that as far as German problem goes there is special responsibility of victorious powers in World War II who signed the Potsdam Agreement.4

    [Page 309]

    “Nor do we agree with attempts to raise the question of West Berlin since this is a special question and it does not belong to the all-European conference.

  • “(5) Referring to questions which have been raised with me by U.S. officials as to attitude of Soviet Union toward U.S. participation in an all-European conference, we would like to make the following clarification.

    “All-European conference is of a regional nature, open for participation by all interested European states, including, of course, the GDR on an equal footing with the FRG and on equal terms with other participants.5 With this qualification as to the body of participants the Soviet Government believes that the United States, if there is a wish on her part, can also take part in all-European conference, since it bears definite responsibility ensuing from Potsdam and other allied agreements in force for peaceful settlement in Europe. In setting forth our position as to agenda for the conference we took into account previous contacts with U.S. representatives and, in particular, the view expressed here to the effect that acute questions, especially those within the responsibility of the participants in the Potsdam Conference, be considered outside of the framework of the all-European conference. The items we propose to include in the agenda also correspond to suggestions by the American side that such questions be taken up at the conference which could productively be discussed and acted upon. We expect that further contacts will enable us together and for the benefit of the cause (sic) to discuss problems related to preparation and holding of an all-European conference.

  • “(6) We would like to express hope that U.S. Government will give its due attention to proposals advanced by states which signed Prague statement, and to considerations of USSR Government on this score, and on its part will make efforts toward preparation of convening and successful holding of all-European conference. Soviet Government would appreciate considerations and suggestions which U.S. Government may think useful to express in this connection.”6
After Dobrynin finished his summary of oral statement, the Secretary asked how long the Soviet Government would envisage duration of proposed ESC. Ambassador replied conference need not be long at all if agreement can be reached on draft documents beforehand through bilateral discussions. Obviously if conference were to discuss substance of controversial issues it could last very long time. It would be Soviet hope, however, that agreement could be reached on draft documents prepared at Prague conference before ESC convenes. The USSR assumed, Dobrynin said, that NATO countries might have two or three other issues which they would like to raise at ESC; these could also be discussed through diplomatic channels ahead of time.
Draft documents handed Secretary noted in para (3) above are identical with texts transmitted in London’s 9176. (Text being repeated to addressees who did not received London Embtel.)
For USNATO—at November 20 Polads discussion of Eastern European follow-up to Prague declaration, you may inform Allies of Dobrynin call on Secretary. You may also make oral summary of principal points which Dobrynin made.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 711, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Vol. VI. Confidential; Immediate. Drafted by Buchanan and approved by Dubs, McGuire, Okun, Levitsky, and Springsteen. Repeated to Moscow, Bucharest, Budapest, Prague, Sofia, and Warsaw. On November 21, the Department of State included in its submission to the President’s Daily Brief the statement: “Ambassador Dobrynin has presented an informal aide-mémoire to Secretary Rogers on the question of a European Security Conference.” (Ibid.) This telegram was attached to a memorandum describing the Soviet démarche from Sonnenfeldt to Kissinger on December 23.
  2. Warsaw Pact nations issued the Budapest Appeal on March 17, 1969, calling for cooperation among all European countries and a conference on European security. (Documents on Disarmament, 1969, pp. 106–108)
  3. On October 30–31, the Foreign Ministers of the Warsaw Pact countries met in Prague and adopted a declaration for an All-European Conference to be held in Helsinki in the first half of 1970.
  4. Sonnenfeldt wrote “n.b., France did not sign” after this sentence.
  5. Sonnenfeldt wrote “quid pro quo” in the margin.
  6. Sonnenfeldt wrote “requests reply” after this sentence. In a December 23 memorandum to Kissinger about the Soviet démarche, Sonnenfeldt wrote, “In a sense, we gave our reply via the NATO Ministerial Communiqué and Declaration but, formally speaking, no reply has been made.” Sonnenfeldt provided the following suggestion: “On the substance of the matter, I think we should take the line that, as the Soviets themselves recognize, the real European issues are not amenable to solution by conference diplomacy and in any case involve only a specific number of states, not all of them. If the Europeans want a conference on the type of agenda the Soviets propose, let them have one, but without us.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 711, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Vol. VI)