253. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon 1


  • Your Moscow Discussions, Tuesday, May 23, 1972
[Page 968]

This memorandum summarizes the issues that will come up in the first set of your discussions on Tuesday and provides talking points.

I. Europe

1. German Treaties. These treaties have now completed parliamentary action in Bonn and await formalities of signature and deposit. Passage of the treaties is a significant success for Brezhnev who has staked considerable personal prestige on his German policy, apparently in the face of considerable skepticism among the CPSU leaders. (The reputed leader of the opposition, Ukranian Party boss Shelest has been given a Government job over the weekend, suggesting his demotion.)2

Brezhnev may not, under the circumstances, have much to say about the treaties. He might possibly make some critical remarks about our not having exerted enough influence on the Germans during the weeks of acrimonious debate and close votes in Bonn. In my talks last month he urged intervention by us in the German local elections in Baden Wuertemberg and subsequently there were a number of pleas through Dobrynin that we make a statement.

Early last week we did publicly indicate our interest in treaty passage by implication: We noted the linkage to the Berlin agreement in which we are interested and we welcomed the bipartisan efforts in Bonn to achieve a common policy on the treaties. But we stressed that basically the treaties were a national question for the Germans themselves to resolve since their own future was at stake.

Key Points to Emphasize

If Brezhnev should raise the treaties, you should:

  • —Point out that our interest in ratification was always clear, especially since all concerned knew that the Berlin agreement, which we had worked so hard with the USSR to achieve, depended on it;
  • —We felt that direct intervention might be counter-productive in provoking a nationalist response in Germany;
  • —We did make a careful, favorable public statement3 during the last, crucial week, responding to Soviet suggestions in the confidential channel;
  • —In any event, we, like the Soviets, welcome the fact that the treaties are now ratified, awaiting only routine formalities for their final entry into force.

2. Berlin. The Soviets had made the final step that completes last year’s four power Berlin agreement (the so-called Final Quadripartite Protocol) dependent on Bonn’s ratification of the treaties.4

We had taken the position that the Berlin agreement should be handled on its merits and implemented independently, but we had no alternative to acquiescing in Soviet refusal to take this action.

Brezhnev may now press for early completion of the Berlin agreement since we and NATO, in turn, had made the beginning of multilateral preparations for the Soviet-proposed European Security Conference (CSCE) dependent on the Berlin agreement. Moscow is eager to get this process started.

Looked at cold-bloodedly, we could now take our time on the Berlin agreement; the Soviets are not likely to start a Berlin crisis under current conditions and we have little interest in rapid progress toward a European conference. There certainly is no reason for us to take the initiative for a hasty signature of the Berlin agreement.

Key Points to Emphasize

In the discussions with Brezhnev, and if he should press for rapid signature, you should:

  • —Note that we of course consider the Berlin agreement a good one, both intrinsically and because it illustrates that progress can be made on difficult problems when the US and USSR cooperate to that end;
  • —Point out that we have always been ready to sign the Berlin agreement, but understood the reasons why this has not so far been possible;
  • —Agree that signature should now take place as promptly as feasible;
  • —Suggest that the procedural aspects of signature (e.g. time, place and level) should be taken up at the foreign ministers level to ensure that all the participants find the arrangements mutually convenient and suitable.

[Page 970]

Note: We should not face the British and French with a fait accompli.

3. Admission of the two Germanies into the UN . As part of Moscow’s priority objective of achieving full-scale recognition for the GDR, Brezhnev has been pressing for joint US-Soviet endorsement of early admission of the FRG and GDR to the UN.

Brandt, and even more his opposition, regard the GDR’s admission to the UN as the most important symbolic step in the GDR’s quest for recognition as a separate state. They wish to accede to it only as the last step of a general normalization of FRGGDR relations which is to be embodied in a general treaty now being negotiated. (By normalization the FRG means, inter alia, increased freedom of movement between the GDR and the FRG, as well as other measures that would highlight the fact that the two German states have a special relationship reflecting their still being “one nation.”) Thus Bonn does not object in principle, but wants to use eventual UN admission for bargaining purposes to achieve its other objectives.

Key Points to Emphasize

We have long been committed to Brandt to support his position. In responding to Brezhnev on this issue, you should:

  • —State that we support our German ally on this question;
  • —State that we believe that the admission of the two German states to the UN should be considered when both of them agree that the time has come; at that time we would endorse it.

Note: We retain rights, along with the UK, France and the USSR, for Germany as a whole, rights stemming from World War II. Our position in Berlin derives from these retained rights. Consequently, we must ensure that GDR admission to the UN and its consequent virtual recognition as a sovereign state by us does not undermine our rights with respect to all of Germany. The West Germans, British and French—and probably the Soviets too—are extremely sensitive on this point. It will require clarification and agreement prior to the actual admission of the two Germanies to the UN.

Additional Point

To show your readiness in principle to endorse German UN membership at the right time, you could tell Brezhnev that:

—We should in the near future contact our other two World War II allies, the UK and France, to discuss the manner in which quadripartite rights with respect to Germany as a whole and Berlin will be safeguarded upon the admission of the FRG and the GDR to the UN.

4. European Security Conference. (Our title: Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe— CSCE )

[Page 971]

This is Brezhnev’s major European initiative and he intends to get your commitment to prompt beginning of preparations and to the holding of the actual conference as early as this year.

We have long been on record as agreeing to a properly prepared and substantive conference (though, in fact, the problems of getting a mutually agreed agenda for a substantive conference are considerable). Our reservations have stemmed from our concerns that the conference will be a propaganda circus, produce false euphoria and open up differences among NATO allies. We and the NATO allies have been working intensively on more substantive positions to present at a conference, especially proposals that would stimulate freedom of movement and undercut Soviet pretensions to hegemony in Eastern Europe (Brezhnev Doctrine).

Although Brezhnev has frequently suggested through the private channel that we jointly develop a position, and you have indicated a willingness to explore the objectives of a meaningful conference, little of substance has in fact occurred.

We and the Allies are committed to begin “multilateral” explorations on a conference once the Berlin agreement is in effect. Nevertheless, you should use our agreement on the timing of these preparatory explorations to get Brezhnev’s agreement to early explorations on European troop reductions (MBFR), in which we are interested. You should also take into account the sensitivities of our Allies to anything that smacks of US-Soviet collusion against them.

Key Points to Emphasize

In response to Brezhnev’s urgings for early preparations and a conference this year, you should:

  • —Agree to the beginning of multilateral preparations later this year, subject to agreement among all countries concerned;
  • —Note that you cannot visualize preparations for a truly meaningful conference to be completed rapidly and you believe that it would be soundest to consider holding a conference some time in 1973.

As regards substance, you should indicate that:

  • —We would agree that a conference should deal with the principles of relations among European states; such principles would include:
    • • sovereign equality, political independence and territorial integrity;
    • • non-intervention and non-interference in internal affairs;
    • • the right of people in each country to shape their own destiny.
  • —There could be certain agreed measures to improve physical security, such as restraints on movements of armed forces, exchanges of observers, notification of maneuvers. (Note: We want to keep MBFR as [Page 972] such out of a conference because we would only want countries concerned to be involved in negotiations.)
  • —There should be expanded cultural exchange and concrete arrangements for increased economic and technological cooperation.

The Soviets advocate some sort of permanent machinery to come out of the conference. You should:

  • —Stress that if new institutions are to be created they should have carefully worked out terms of reference;
  • —Note that military questions are highly complex and delicate and could best be dealt with directly by the countries concerned.

Finally, if Brezhnev stalls on MBFR and suggests that this subject should only be dealt with after a conference has met, you should:

—Press our desire to move ahead in parallel on a conference and MBFR.

5. MBFR . Your discussion of this topic, on which the Soviets have remained reluctant, should be largely procedural. We have a need, for Congressional reasons, to have a process of negotiations underway; but we are less certain that early positive results are achieveable. The Soviets, apart from showing reluctance to begin talks (e.g. their refusal to receive Brosio, the NATO explorer), have so far given little evidence that they have done any substantive homework comparable to the massive studies undertaken by NATO and ourselves.

The Soviets are aware that geography confers advantages on them. On the other hand, their forces in Eastern Europe have internal security functions. Consequently, while the Soviets might be interested in reductions that would enable them to shift forces eastward, they have displayed much hesitation. They may of course hope that they will be spared “mutual” cuts by growing pressures in the West for unilateral ones. In addition, the Soviets have shown great sensitivity to the term “balanced,” the B in MBFR , because they see in it a Western effort to obtain larger Soviet reductions as a compensation for our geographic disadvantage.

It is possible that in Moscow, as a “concession,” Brezhnev might propose quick and symbolic equal reductions and try to get a joint US-Soviet agreement to this effect. Our studies have shown this to be of questionable desirability (it would not be verifiable and would tend to accentuate present Soviet military advantages); moreover, a US-Soviet fait accompli on this subject would damage our Alliance relationship.

Key Points to Emphasize

In these circumstances you should:

  • —Seek Brezhnev’s agreement to MBFR explorations by countries concerned in parallel with the preparatory work on the CSCE ;
  • —Agree that there can be private US-Soviet contact on this, but that the specific exploratory work should not be purely bilateral.

On substance, you should indicate that:

  • —Reductions should involve both foreign and local forces in Central Europe, although an initial phase could concentrate on foreign (ie, US and Soviet) forces;
  • —It would be best to concentrate in the first instance on ground forces;
  • —Nuclear weapons may present too complex a problem in the first stage of talks.
  • —There should be verification so that an agreement will not lead to misunderstandings and bickering (this could involve inspection, or, as in SALT, measures that are arranged in a way that each side can observe them by its unilateral means).

Note: As regards the European questions you could refer to the fact that the final communiqué on which there has already been considerable work by both sides will, of course, deal at some length with European questions.

One matter, not covered above, relates to frontiers in Europe. The Soviets are anxious to have us recognize their “inviolability.” But since they interpret this word as meaning “unchangeable” even by negotiation there is a problem for us in accepting it. We have no intention ourselves to see frontiers changed but because we maintain that the ultimate frontiers of a united Germany should be set in a peace treaty we have to maintain flexibility. Consequently, when Brezhnev raises this matter, you should:

—State that we are quite willing to recognize the principle of “territorial integrity,” but do not wish to infringe on the right of sovereign states to seek peaceful arrangements concerning their frontiers.


There are two ABM and two offensive issues that you may have to address in Moscow, subject to last minute changes in the negotiations. Some could be resolved by Tuesday,5 but you may want to familiarize yourself with the basic points.

There is a section on the follow-on phase of SALT, and some remarks concluding your SALT presentation.

A. Unresolved ABM Issues. The two remaining issues are:

  • —The specific location of the second Soviet ABM site (for ICBM defense): For Congressional reasons and to avoid any later misunderstandings, we need a firm assurance that it will not be in the populated [Page 974] areas of European Russia. We insist that it be East of the Urals, so there is no capability for linking it to the Moscow system as a population defense. Brezhnev hinted he would disclose the location, but for some reason the Soviets at Helsinki are refusing to specify the location.
    • They now propose that we declare our understanding that the second Soviet site is to be East of the Urals, and they will not contest our statement.
    • This is an acceptable resolution.
  • —Other Large Phased Array Radars. In addition to ABM radars, large radars also exist or could be built for other purposes, i.e., space tracking, for monitoring the SALT agreement, and for early warning. The last named has been settled, but there is a disagreement on how to limit the size of other large phased array radars, known by the acronym, OLPARS.

We propose the size be no greater than our smaller radar at Grand Forks. The Soviets propose a size limit that is more than three times our limit. This would be highly dangerous. Radars are the longest lead-time item; interceptors, small radar and other equipment can be quickly added if the large radars exist.

A possible compromise is: No specific treaty limitations, but agreement that each side will consult regarding construction of large (undefined) phased array radars, other than those designated for space-tracking or for national means of detection (for SALT or follow on agreements).

Your Talking Points

1. ABM Location:

  • —You believe it important there be no ambiguities or misunderstandings in the treaty;
  • —We have had reason to believe the second Soviet site would be East of the Urals;
  • —We will make a statement to that effect; if not contested by the Soviet side, the matter can be considered settled.

2. Large Radars

  • —Our two delegations cannot agree on definitions for large non-ABM radars;
  • —It is too technical to discuss at this level;
  • Could we settle it by relying on the treaty provisions that prohibit territorial defense, and by agreeing to consult each other before building these large radars, other than for space-trading or national detector systems;
  • If agreed, our negotiators can find suitable language.

B. Offensive Issues. There are two issues still outstanding:

  • —The base point for the current Soviet level of SLBMs.
    • • The Soviets have proposed that they be allowed to build up to 62 “modern submarines,” with up to 950 launchers.
    • • This is acceptable, but,
    • The Soviets claim they have 48 “modern submarines” operational or under construction, and they define “modern” to exclude all older classes.
    • • We seriously doubt this figure as they define it; it is an attempt to gain 6–7 submarines over their real level.
    • • We insist on the real base line of about 41–42, so that in building up to 62 (and 950 launchers) they have to retire some of their land-based ICBMs and older submarines.
    • • Otherwise, the Soviets would actually have 62 plus 30 older boats, and about 1150 launchers.

It is important for Congressional reasons, that the Soviets retire some of their older submarines and ICBMs.

If this is not resolved at Helsinki a compromise would be to count, at least, the newer class (H-Class) which are nuclear powered in their totals of submarines and launchers.

—Light and Heavy ICBMs. We have long insisted that light ICBMs not be converted to heavy ones, such as the SS–9. The Soviets agree, but there is a stalemate in defining the terms.

We propose that the dividing line be no larger than the existing Soviet SS–11 ICBM, about 70 cm3 in volume. They say no strict definition is needed. In fact, it now appears that the Soviets intend to replace or modernize the smaller SS–11 with a somewhat bigger missile. Our definition would exclude this.

A possible compromise is to agree that a heavy ICBM would be a missile significantly greater in volume than the existing “light” missiles deployed on each side, and leave it to the monitoring mechanism to work out any problems.

Your Talking Points

1. SLBM Limits

  • —We believe that the Soviet proposal of a ceiling of 62 modern submarines and 950 launchers is acceptable;
  • —However, we could not exclude from this any submarines that carry ballistic missiles, regardless of their age;
  • —There [These] submarines should be counted in the starting point of Soviet submarines operational and under construction;
  • —They can be replaced in achieving the Soviet goal of 62 boats and 950 launchers;
  • —You hope this problem will be given serious study by the Soviet leaders.

2. Light Versus Heavy ICBMs

  • —The Soviet side is aware of our concern over the heavy ICBMs in the Soviet arsenal;
  • —We need some clear dividing line between heavy and light;
  • —We can be flexible in resolving the problem, but some agreed definition is required.

C. Interpretations of the Current Agreements. Both of the current agreements provide the standard clause for withdrawal if supreme interests are jeopardized. Such circumstances, of course, cannot be precisely defined in advance, but it is clear that if the Soviets were now to embark on a concerted program that would jeopardize the survivability of our strategic retaliatory forces, we would have to invoke this clause.

In Moscow you may want to clarify our position so that the Soviets will be on notice. Our interpretation may play a role in the Congressional debates on the treaty ratification.

Your Talking Points

  • —In reaching these agreements both sides expect to contribute to strategic stability;
  • —If these expectations are not fulfilled and the threat to the strategic retaliatory forces of the US substantially increases, you would consider this jeopardizing our supreme interests;
  • —In such a case, we could withdraw from the current agreements under the supreme interests clause;
  • —You would expect the USSR to do the same;
  • —You wanted this to be clearly understood, since this interpretation will be given to the Congress as the question arises during Congressional hearings.

D. Phase Two of SALT . The outlines of the next phase are undefined, but we can be sure that the Soviets want to raise our aircraft at bases abroad and on carriers, and our submarine bases abroad.

Your Talking Points

We will want to go into questions of:

  • —A more permanent resolution of the level of offensive forces for all systems; i.e., equal aggregates of land and sea based missiles and bombers;
  • —Reductions of the most threatening offensive systems;
  • —An exploration of qualitative controls on missiles, for example controlling their accuracy, size, and possibly a limit on MIRVs, i.e., no more than certain number of specified ICBMs;
  • —As for ABMs, we regard this as settled;
  • —As for timing, we want to push for an early ratification this summer and resume SALT in the late fall if this is agreeable;
  • —In the interim you will be open to any Soviet thoughts in the confidential channels.

[Page 977]

E. Concluding Remarks

  • —The Soviet leaders and the Soviet delegation are to be congratulated on their contribution to the agreements.
  • —Your negotiators are instructed to complete their work for signature of the final agreements in Moscow.
  • —These agreements can mark a turning point in our relations.
  • —Never before have nations limited the weapons on which their survival depends.
  • —This is a commitment to a new concept of mutual security.
  • —It is a profound statement of intention.
  • —We both have a significant stake in preserving what has been accomplished, and every incentive to build on them in the future.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 487, President’s Trip Files, The President’s Conversations in Salzburg, Moscow, Tehran, and Warsaw, May 1972, Part 1. Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only. A stamped notation on the memorandum indicates the President saw it.
  2. Kissinger wrote in his memoirs that by removing influential hard-liner Ukrainian Party chief Pyotr Shelest from the Politburo and demoting him to Deputy Prime Minister at the same time that the Soviet Party Central Committee gave its formal approval to his decision to proceed with the summit, Brezhnev was demonstrating that he was in charge. (White House Years, pp. 1204–1205)
  3. Secretary of State Rogers made a statement supporting ratification of the West German treaties with Poland and the Soviet Union at the beginning of his news conference on May 19. (Department of State Bulletin, June 5, 1972, p. 779)
  4. Secretary Rogers and the British, French, and Soviet Foreign Ministers signed the final protocol of the Four-Power Agreement on Berlin in Berlin on June 3—the same day as the exchange of instruments of ratification of the treaties between Western Germany and the Soviet Union and Poland; see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XL, Germany, 1969–1972, for information on the Four-Power negotiations leading to the September 1971 Quadripartite Agreement on Berlin.
  5. May 23.