18. Paper Prepared for the National Security Council by the Interdepartmental Group for Europe1

EAST-WEST RELATIONS

I. U.S.-Soviet Relationships

Despite our intensive efforts to analyze and understand Soviet behavior, we are still far from a complete understanding of how major [Page 53]foreign policy decisions are made in the Soviet Union or how our own behavior influences Soviet decisions. Moreover, in seeking to characterize the nature of the Soviet-American relationship, we are confronted with difficult problems of evaluating our own, as well as Soviet, interests in various parts of the world. Because of these uncertainties, a number of different views exist as to the most appropriate way to characterize Soviet-American relations as a guide to U.S. policy. There appear to be, however, three basic alternative views of the Soviet-American relation.

1.

Mutual Antagonism with Minimal Cooperation

Those who take this approach emphasize the basic ideological hostility between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. They point to the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, the Brezhnev Doctrine of Limited Sovereignty,2 and the Soviet assertion of special rights to intervene in Germany,3 as evidence that no form of major accommodation with the Soviet Union is likely to be achievable. They believe that the Soviets are primarily interested in spreading their own influence and in undermining the influence and prestige of the United States.

Western military strength and the cohesion of the NATO alliance is emphasized by proponents of this view. They would view measures such as the Non-Proliferation Treaty as a Soviet effort to split the alliance and as a move that weakens NATO flexibility in nuclear arrangements. Proponents of this view would urge other nations in the world to refrain from diplomatic relations and trade and aid relationships with the Soviet Union. They would urge American military assistance programs where necessary to prevent (or, at least, parallel and thereby hope to counterbalance) Soviet involvement, for example, in India and Pakistan or Nigeria.

Those who hold this position accept the fact that the United States and the Soviet Union share an overriding concern with preventing a nuclear war. Some of them argue that this interest is essentially self-regulated in that both sides pull back before a nuclear confrontation. Others hold that the Soviets use mutual fear to make us flinch in face of pressure. However, they do not believe that meaningful agreements even on nuclear matters can be based on this common interest. Specifically they are highly suspicious of efforts to negotiate arms control arguing that the Soviets will use arms control negotiations as a cover for their aggressive political behavior and use arms control agreements as a way of catching up to the United States or even lulling it into accepting inferiority.

2.

Détente

Advocates of this position tend to emphasize common Soviet-American interests. They argue that despite Soviet rhetoric, ideology is no longer the basic motivating factor in Soviet external behavior and that both countries have an interest in maintaining the status quo in Central Europe. They believe that both have limited interests in the rest of the world, and emphasize the need to avoid a confrontation with each other.

Proponents of this view would emphasize efforts at Soviet-American accommodation. They would have pushed forward efforts at a Non-Proliferation Treaty with less regard than was shown for the concerns of our allies. They would seek to negotiate arrangements with the Russians in such areas as the Middle East and India and Pakistan even though such agreements might pave the way for increased Soviet involvement and influence in those areas.

While recognizing the need for a military deterrent against the Soviet Union, proponents of this view would urge a scaling down of our own efforts on the grounds that this could lead to Soviet reciprocation, and would not threaten our security.

In considering these two options, the Review Group believed that neither of them was an adequate basis for policy. The first option understates the possibilities for agreement with the Soviet Union and the extent to which there is a perception of at least certain limited common interests between the two countries. The Group, at the same time, felt that Soviet policy and behavior had not yet evolved—if it ever will—to the point that the second option could now be a basis for policy. Thus, the Group felt that the only realistic choice was a third option—which is essentially the one successive U.S. Administrations have taken—with the real differences of view arising within the scope of that approach. This middle option may be described as follows:

3.

Limited Adversary Relationship (Strong Deterrent with Flexible Approach)

This view is based on the assumption that there will continue to be an underlying hostility between the United States and the Soviet Union. This hostility arises in part from the continuing Soviet commitment to an ideology which supports their wish to see the world evolve in a way radically different from our own preferences. The hostility also derives from clashes on political issues primarily involving clashes of interest in the Middle East and elsewhere.

At the same time there are elements of shared concerns which make possible certain kinds of accommodation. The dominant common interests is in avoiding a nuclear war. This requires active Soviet-American collaboration to damp down potentially explosive situations [Page 55]in the Middle East, in the Indian sub-continent and elsewhere. Reduction of the likelihood of a nuclear clash would also be enhanced by arms control arrangements seeking to limit and then reduce strategic forces on both sides.

Proponents of this view agree that a strong U.S. nuclear deterrent and a continuing strong NATO are necessary in order not to tempt the Soviets into military or diplomatic adventures.

U.S.-Soviet interests and relations in the third world area seen as partly competitive and partly cooperative. In some cases, such as most of Africa, both Soviet and American interests are sufficiently modest that neither we nor they are fundamentally concerned about the role of the other. In other cases, as in the Middle East, we have competing interests, but these are mixed with a common desire not to permit others to drag us into a direct confrontation.

The Review Group noted that while there appears to be a consensus among officials working on Soviet-American problems on this broad view of U.S.-Soviet relations, there is a wide spectrum of differences both about specific issues and about general policy lines. Although views fall across the entire spectrum, it is possible to characterize two distinct policy emphases consistent with the limited adversary perspective of the U.S.-Soviet relationship.

II. Alternative Policy Approach Based on Limited Adversary Relationship

1.

Emphasis on Accommodation While Maintaining the Deterrent

Advocates of this position would emphasize the search for accommodation with the Soviet Union while maintaining the U.S. deterrent.

They would argue that negotiation of a strategic arms control agreement with the Soviet Union is sufficiently important that a major effort should be made to insulate the search for such an agreement from other political issues, while acknowledging that major Soviet threats and acts of aggression such as the invasion of Czechoslovakia create a climate in which strategic talks could not go forward. They would argue that the current climate in which we are talking to the Russians about the Middle East and in which they appear to be cooperative about seeking a Vietnam settlement is a sufficient basis for proceeding with talks.

With regard to possible conflict between allied concerns and negotiations with the Soviet, advocates of this position would argue that although we would consult with our allies, we should not permit them to have a veto on our actions provided we ourselves are convinced they are consistent with allied interests. The U.S. posture during the Non-Proliferation Treaty negotiations, in essence, followed the pattern recommended by this Group in contrast to others who argued that we did not pay sufficient attention to allied concerns.

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Those who take this approach view the third world as an area for substantially greater Soviet-American cooperation than has been the case. They would emphasize the virtual absence of vital Soviet or American interests in most, if not all, of the third world. According to this approach no effort would be made to discourage other countries from increasing their contacts, both political and economic, with the Soviets since such contacts would be viewed as largely inevitable and in many cases as potentially helpful. In the Middle East, for example, an effort would be made to work out a Soviet-American understanding even if this involved pressure by each on its allies and even if it appeared to sanction a major Soviet role in the area.

U.S. relations with Eastern Europe and with China would at least to some degree be subordinated to concerns about Soviet reaction. Thus, we would not seek to frighten the Soviets with the prospect of a Chinese-American rapprochement and would counsel our allies to be sensitive to Soviet concerns in their dealing with Eastern Europe.

2.

Emphasis on Deterrence While Seeking Limited Accommodation

Advocates of this view would emphasize the continuing areas of hostility with the Soviets and the need to take these fully into account in designing possible measures of accommodation.

Following this approach we would insist upon greater progress in political areas before being prepared to move ahead with strategic talks and we would not proceed with such talks until our allies have been fully consulted and had given their agreement to proceeding even if this procedure should impose substantial delays.

Efforts to improve relations with the Soviet Union in general would proceed only after full allied consultation. We would be concerned not only with our perception of allied interests but their own perception of these interests as well. For example, proponents of this position would have taken much greater account of the German argument that the Non-Proliferation Treaty was essentially a Soviet effort aimed at obtaining concessions from Germany without reciprocal Soviet concessions to the Federal Republic.

In the third world this approach would emphasize continuing competition while not excluding areas of possible accommodation. Thus, in many areas of the world we would urge governments to reduce or at least not expand their contacts with the Soviets and warn against the dangers of accepting Soviet aid. Without ruling out joint efforts to damp down areas such as the Middle East we would keep conflicting Soviet-American interests in the area very much in mind and perhaps make an effort to devise settlements which reduce Soviet influence.

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In the case of relations with China and Eastern Europe we would proceed with whatever actions seem justified on their own merits, with secondary consideration to the possibility that we would antagonize the Soviet Union. We might introduce deliberate ambiguity in our policies designed to increase Soviet apprehensions.

III. Specific Issues

Although a number of officials would quite consistently advocate one of these two policy approaches, most officials have views somewhere in between; and differences arise with regard to specific matters of style as well as specific policy issues. The Review Group felt that differences on several questions were particularly worthy of attention. These include:

(1)
The question of whether useful political progress with the Soviets is made by increasing Soviet concerns or providing them with reassurance, e.g. with regard to China and Eastern Europe.
(2)
The relative priority to be given to efforts at accommodation with the Soviets versus efforts at strengthening the NATO alliance and fully consulting with our allies.
(3)
Policy toward countries in the third world.
(4)
The advantages and disadvantages of relating arms control negotiations to other political issues.

1.

Possibilities for Political Progress with the Soviet Union

The essential argument here is whether or not progress on political issues with the Soviet Union is more likely if we provide assurances to the Soviets, or if we seek to increase their sense of concern by raising the possibility that we will act in ways contrary to their interests unless they come to some agreement with us. The dispute arises in part from our imperfect understanding of Soviet decision-making and the forces which determine Soviet behavior.

In dealing with the Soviet Union should we generally emphasize reassurance about our intentions?

Arguments for:

(1)
Such reassurance would accurately reflect our motives since we are not out to challenge basic Soviet national interests.
(2)
Progress on major issues will be possible only through mutual understanding that in certain areas neither side will seek to undercut the other.
(3)
Deliberately fostering Soviet concern about our intentions may increase the danger of misunderstandings and possible conflicts.
(4)
U.S. pressures could play into the hands of the more hostile elements in the Soviet Union. We could generate counter-pressures that will be contrary to our objectives.

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Arguments against:

(1)
It is a bad negotiating tactic generally to reassure the other side. We could appear overeager for agreements and over-ready to make concessions.
(2)
The Soviets are likely to make concessions only if they are confronted with alternatives which they perceive to be considerably worse.

This general issue arises in a number of specific forms. For example, some argue that Soviet cooperation on Far East matters, including Vietnam, depends on convincing the Russians that we are not seeking to a deal behind their backs with the Chinese. It is suggested that the Russians' primary concern is limiting Chinese influence in the area and that they are reluctant to deal with us as they fear that we may expose our contacts with them in an effort to seek an understanding with the Chinese. Others argue that only the fear of a Chinese-American rapprochement will lead the Russians to be cooperative in the Far East. European policy encounters the same difference of opinion. Will progress come from assuring the Russians that we have no inimical designs on Eastern Europe, or will it come from U.S. support of tendencies toward autonomy and liberalization in Eastern Europe? Another area where this general issue arises is arms negotiations. For example, should we proceed with deployment of an ABM system as a bargaining counter in order to induce the Soviets to negotiate in earnest? Or should we reassure the Soviets by holding up deployment?

2.

Accommodation vs. Deterrence

All advocates of a limited adversary relationship favor a combination of deterrence and accommodation. They disagree on the relative emphasis to be put on each. There are two central issues: atmospherics and allied consultation.

a

Should we emphasize an atmosphere of accommodation with the Soviets?

Arguments for:

(1)
Agreement to cultural exchanges with the Soviets and employment of a positive style and tone in our statements generally improves the political atmosphere and lessens tension.
(2)
Such a framework makes it easier for the Soviets and our own public to accept political agreements which are in our mutual interest.

Arguments against:

(1)
Atmospherics are essentially irrelevant; concrete actions are what count.
(2)
Such atmospherics may be harmful since the Soviets will feel less need for agreements (as sanction for their actions) if they detect a general sense of détente.
(3)
Excessive emphasis on an atmosphere of accommodation could generate false euphoria in the U.S. and allied countries, making it more difficult to obtain public acceptance in our country and among our allies of burdens of defense and alliance cohesion.

b

Should we have full allied consent before proceeding to major agreements with the Russians?

Arguments for:

(1)
We should not jeopardize relations with our allies who may be suspicious of our motives and fear a U.S.-Soviet “condominium” at their expense.
(2)
Failure to get our allies on board would make many agreements with the Soviets unstable at best.
(3)
Complete cooperation in advance with our allies would make it much harder for the Soviets to drive wedges between us and our friends.
(4)
Being forthcoming with our allies on our relations with the Soviets should encourage our allies to be more helpful to us on other issues.

Arguments against:

(1)
Our allies are split, with some favoring an emphasis on accommodation and others opposing it. It is extremely difficult to reconcile the interests and opinions of fourteen diverse nations and achieve consensus.
(2)
Attempting to obtain full consent of our allies will greatly complicate our negotiations with the Soviets and slow down progress.
(3)
Our allies do not give us a veto on their own dealings with the Soviet Union on Eastern Europe. They really desire only a decent respect for their views, not a decisive voice in our own policies.
(4)
While our allies will always complain and interpose objections if we ask them, they are prepared to see us go ahead with the Soviets, provided we do not ask them to share the onus for our actions.

3.

Policy Towards Third World

All of those who accept the basic option of a limited adversary relationship believe that in some third world areas Soviet involvement is not sufficiently detrimental to U.S. interests that we should seek actively to combat it, and all agree that we should seek limited understandings with the Soviets in some cases.

There are, however, differences in regard to the general presumptions of U.S. policy.

Should we generally oppose Soviet involvement in the third world and advise other countries to avoid increased aid and trade relations?

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Arguments for:

(1)
Greater Soviet involvement will come at the expense of U.S. or allied influence and will erode support in the third world for our various policies.
(2)
Larger Soviet influence in the third world could threaten specific U.S. interests such as treaty relationships, base arrangements, trade positions, investment prospects, etc.
(3)
The larger the Soviet presence in the third world, the greater the chance for direct confrontation with us through conflict of interest or miscalculation.
(4)
Soviet presence in, or assistance to, third world nations is self-serving and is unlikely to contribute to our general objective of the orderly political and economic development of the poor nations.

Arguments against:

(1)
Increased Soviet involvement in the third world is natural and inevitable for a great power.
(2)
In most cases there is little that we can do to counter greater Soviet involvement. Attempting to oppose it only causes strains both with the Soviet Union and with third world countries.
(3)
The poorer nations need all the assistance they can get from industrialized nations. Soviet involvement serves to lessen our economic burdens.
(4)
Cooperation with, rather than opposition to, the Soviets in the third world can prevent misunderstandings. Furthermore, it could help to improve our overall bilateral relationships, increase mutual trust, and make it easier to reach agreements on more fundamental questions such as Europe on security and arms control.
(5)
Soviet influence can help to counter what we consider even more inimical influences in certain areas of the world, e.g., China in Asia or Cuba in Latin America.

We must weight these various considerations in choosing whether to: (a) generally oppose Soviet involvement in the third world; (b) generally welcome, or at least acquiesce in, such involvement; or (c) not adopt any general policy line and treat each issue on its merits.

4.

Arms Control and Political Matters 4

a

Should we establish an explicit relationship between arms control matters and political matters?

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Arguments for:

(1)
Strategic arms limitations, unlike previous arms control agreements, go to the very heart of our security interests. It is unrealistic to expect both sides to agree to and abide by an agreement while basic issues such as Berlin and the Middle East which could lead to a direct U.S.-Soviet confrontation continue to fester. The U.S. should not be prepared to cooperate with the Soviets on some matters while they are seeking to build their influence at our expense.
(2)
Arms control agreements, at least in the past, have not led to détente and have on occasion preceded Soviet moves which increased tension (e.g., Test Ban followed by Soviet involvement in Vietnam). The Soviets may believe the arms control agreements take the risk out of lower level pressures and conflicts.
(3)
Arms competition, on the other hand, does not preclude political cooperation and relative détente, and Soviet-American arms competition itself has not contributed markedly to the danger of war.
(4)
The Soviets have in the past used arms talks as political and psychological regulators; we should not permit them to do so. The Soviets may be hoping that the talks on strategic arms will slow our programs while they proceed with their own buildup. If we want a satisfactory agreement and political cooperation, we should not appear too eager for negotiations.
(5)
Unless the Soviets change their conduct, particularly in regard to Berlin and Germany, our allies will view arms control negotiations as an indication that we consider our relations with the Soviets paramount and are willing to sell out their interests.

Arguments against:

(1)
Negotiations with the Soviet Union on limiting strategic weapons are matters of the highest political importance in contrast to previous arms control matters and can create the climate for successful negotiations on other political matters.
(2)
The common Soviet-American interests in reducing the likelihood of nuclear war is so widely perceived and accepted not only in the United States and the Soviet Union but throughout the world that the necessary political consensus to effect such agreements can be obtained even in the absence of negotiations on other issues. Provided we consult with them in advance and obtain a limit on Soviet [Page 62] MR/IRBMs, our allies will not view the agreement as contrary to their interests.
(3)
While the current Soviet leadership is clearly anxious for the talks to begin, there are many in the Soviet leadership who oppose the talks and who will take efforts by the U.S. to link the talks with other political matters as an effort at political blackmail. Even the majority group which favors the talks appears to believe that they are in the interest of both countries and they are unlikely to make political concessions to get the talks started.
(4)
There is a significant possibility of negotiating an arms control agreement which both reduces the likelihood of general war and freezes the current relative strategic force postures. Because the Soviets believe that they will have to spend very large sums to prevent us from increasing our advantage, they may be prepared to accept a freeze. These two objectives—reducing the likelihood of general war and freezing our relative strategic force postures—are matters of the highest political importance which should be pursued immediately whether or not negotiations on other political matters are going forward.

b

If we decide to emphasize the connection between arms control and other issues, what form should it take?

There are several possibilities:

(1)

Insist on only a very general linkage such that major aggressive acts rule out strategic talks. This was the policy of the previous administration in declining to go forward with the talks after the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. The Soviet's willingness to proceed may also have depended on the halting of the bombing of Hanoi by the United States.

The arguments for this position are essentially the same as the arguments against establishing any linkage at all with the added point that certain very major events can so affect the domestic and foreign political climate as to make talks inadvisable.

(2)

Insist that discussions on arms control and other political matters proceed in parallel. This would mean that we would have preliminary arms control talks as we have preliminary talks on other matters such as Vietnam and the Middle East; that we would proceed to serious negotiations about detailed substantive positions only if we proceeded to such negotiations on other political matters and that we would sign agreements only if Soviet behavior in regard to other issues was reasonably cooperative. Under this approach we would need to decide whether the current discussions with the Soviet Union on Vietnam and the Middle East were sufficient to justify corollary discussions on strategic talks or whether we would want to have discussions on other political matters underway or see changes in Soviet conduct.

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The arguments for this position are essentially the arguments for a linkage listed above with the following added points:

  • —discussions proceeding in parallel are sufficient to create the necessary climate of negotiation rather than confrontation to permit arms control talks to go forward successfully.
  • —the successful negotiation of agreements on matters such as the Middle East and Vietnam depend largely on matters beyond the control of either the United States and the Soviet Union. Thus, the test should be our judgment that the Soviets are using their influence in a constructive way and not whether agreements can in fact be reached with all the parties.

(3)
Insist upon concluding successful negotiations on other matters before opening arms control talks. The arguments for this position are:
  • —Arms control agreements do not in themselves reduce the likelihood of war. In the absence of a political settlement, they are mere gimmickery.
  • —Following a political settlement, arms control agreements can and should be negotiated in an effort to reduce budgets.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–020, NSC Meeting, Strategic Issues—East/West Relations 2/19/69. Confidential. Sent under a February 18 covering memorandum from Richard M. Moose of the National Security Council staff to the Vice President, Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, Director of OEP, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Director of Central Intelligence, and the Under Secretary of State. The memorandum stated that “The NSC Meeting on Wednesday, February 19, will be devoted to continuation of a discussion of Strategic Issues and—time permitting—to a discussion of East-West Relations.” The minutes of the meeting do not include the latter topic. This paper on East-West Relations was a response to Document 6 and reflected revisions from the NSC Review Group. No record of a Review Group meeting discussing it has been found. A 3-page summary was also prepared for the NSC. (Ibid., Box H–109, NSC Meeting, Strategic Issues—East/West Relations 2/19/69)
  2. See footnote 5, Document 17.
  3. See footnote 2, Document 8.
  4. This section repeats the discussion previously included in the Strategic Balance Paper. The section is more extensive than those dealing with other issues because the subject has been more fully considered in the meetings of the Review Group. [Footnote in the source text. A 21-page paper on “Strategic Policy Issues” was prepared for the NSC meeting on February 19. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–020, NSC Meeting, Strategic Issues—East/West Relations 2/19/69)]