19. Talking Points Prepared by the National Security Council Staff for Nixon1



It is particularly timely to discuss this subject:
  • —my upcoming European trip.
  • —Middle East explorations with the Soviets.
  • —the possibility of strategic talks with the Soviets.
  • —possible heating up of the Berlin situation.
We might focus the discussion on:
  • —What is the most realistic characterization of the US-Soviet relationship?
  • —What US policy emphases should flow from this characterization?
  • —What should I stress on my European trip?
  • —What are the implications of relating strategic talks to progress on other political issues?
You may wish to highlight your conversation with Ambassador Dobrynin.


If time permits, Dick Helms is ready with a 15-minute briefing on trends in the Soviet leadership as they affect Soviet foreign policy.


Call on Dr. Kissinger to lead off the discussion.
Secretary Rogers may wish to give his general views.


You may wish to conclude the meeting by presenting to the NSC your views on East-West relations based on the talking points on the next page.

Additional Studies

You may wish to direct additional studies on:

Policy Toward Eastern Europe.
East-West relations as an issue in NATO and in our relations with major allies.
Policy guidelines, including difficulties, for implementing the approach of linking strategic talks to political matters.
The U.S.-Soviet-Chinese triangular relationship.



(All the leaders you are meeting are interested in your view of East-West relations and in your plans for dealing with the USSR. Several have asked about our “conception.” Europeans have conflicting worries: on the one hand they fear our dealing with the Soviets behind their backs (“condominium”); on the other, they worry that we might [Page 65] draw them into excessive risks and load on them responsibilities that they are not prepared to carry. Lately, they have wondered about the significance and implications of your public statements connecting missile talks with progress on other issues. Among some, who sense a big US push for across-the-board settlements with the USSR, these statements have raised the condominium spectre. The Europeans also want to know how we propose to consult with them on East-West matters generally, and on missile talks particularly. The French, especially, would like to engage in bilateral consultations rather than through NATO. The others want to consult through NATO but maintain bilateral channels as well. None of them want us to make formal proposals to the Soviets on arms control without having been consulted. The Germans and, to a lesser degree, the Italians have painful memories of the early NPT negotiations in which they feel, justifiably, that they were confronted with a fait accompli.)

I. Our Basic Approach.

We have said that we are entering an era of negotiation. We see this as a complex and extended process and recognize that there will remain substantial elements of confrontation.
By negotiation we mean a serious engagement of the issues, not simply meetings for meetings’ sake. In general, we believe that high-level or other official conferences with the Soviets should be well prepared in advance and should offer promise of concrete progress.
We think the allies should attempt to concert their approaches as much as possible; Soviet incentive to negotiate seriously is reduced if they think they can maneuver among the allies and divide them.
In negotiating we want to proceed on a basis of a sense of military security. I have used the word “sufficiency”: in its broadest sense, this means forces that are strong and varied enough to deter not only Soviet attack but also gross pressures which the Soviets might be tempted to try if they calculated that confidence in our capabilities and resolve was eroding. But neither in what we say nor what we do, would we want to force the pace of armaments.

II. Relationship Between Arms Talks and Political Issues.

Wars and crises generally result not from the level of arms—not, at least, when these levels are in relative balance—but from clashing interests, ambitions, and purposes. For this reason I am skeptical about singling out arms as an exclusive subject for negotiation.
Indeed, at various times in Western relations with the East, the Soviets have tended to use the bait of arms talks, or actual talks, as a means of regulating crises they themselves created. (Examples: abortive disarmament talks after Hungary, early exchanges on non-proliferation in the midst of the Cuban missile crisis, etc.)
Moreover, it is difficult to get public understanding for arms talks at moments of crisis (e.g., the invasion of Czechoslovakia had negative impact on NPT and on feasibility of opening SALT talks).
In addition, the problem of strategic weapons goes to the core of the security of ourselves and our allies (and, for that matter of the Soviets); it cannot therefore be isolated from the other great issues that impinge on security and peace.
We are not establishing rigid linkages between arms control and other issues. But we do believe that there has to be progress in coping with the volatile issues (notably the Middle East and Vietnam) before one can get very far on strategic weapons. We recognize that the Soviets are not controlling factors in these situations; but they do have influence and we know that at various times that influence has been exerted in directions away from, rather than toward, settlements. If that were to happen again it would not be compatible with progress on arms control.

III. Consultations with Allies.

We seek intimate concert with our allies on anything as crucial to the interests of all of us as the control of strategic weapons.
We have no rigid feelings about the means and the forum.
We know that different allies may approach the issues from different vantage points. We want to give these full weight.
We will make no proposal to the Soviets unless we have first discussed them with the allies.
If negotiations should get underway, there will be a practical problem of consultation. What suggestions do the Europeans have?
We assume the allies will take the same approach to consultation in connection with their own negotiations with the USSR.
  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, CL 312, Meetings, National Security Council, February–March, 1969. Confidential. Similar talking points were also prepared for Kissinger. (Ibid.) Time did not permit discussion of East-West relations at the NSC meeting on February 19.
  2. Secret.