34. Summary Prepared by the Interagency Group for Europe1


The issues on which discussions or negotiations with the Soviet Union are taking place, or are likely to take place, before the President’s visit reflect the breadth and complexity of the U.S.-Soviet relationship in the political, military, and economic spheres. Where there are specific, close relationships between an issue and other U.S.-Soviet matters, this has been indicated in the description of the issue.

The issues under discussion below fall into four categories:

Diplomatic and Political. Disarmament issues are a prime example of diplomatic and political matters in the multilateral sphere, as are the many questions that come before the United Nations. Narcotics control, law of the sea, and the international environmental conference scheduled for Stockholm belong in this category. In dealing with Moscow on these matters, we must reconcile the conflicting objectives of accomplishing our purposes and avoiding the appearance of collusion.

This category also includes a number of subjects relating to the conduct of our relations with the Soviet Union, such as the construction of new chanceries, regulating the travel of diplomats, and access to the public in the other state through activities under the exchanges agreement. The cardinal principle governing such bilateral diplomatic questions is reciprocity. In dealing with the closed and highly controlled society of the Soviet Union, strict observance of this principle has given us our only effective leverage in carrying out tasks that are routine in most foreign countries.

  • Military. These issues extend from efforts directed at stabilizing the strategic balance between the two countries (which are not treated in this study) to measures designed to prevent incidents between our navies on and over the high seas. In addition, there are [Page 110]military implications in many of our other dealings with the USSR, e.g. disarmament, law of the sea and space cooperation.
  • Economic. Volume and composition of trade, credit and payments, shipping, aviation, and fisheries are some of the issues. Certain of the economic issues may be examined in military-strategic terms, but this is rarely the controlling factor. The main consideration is the relatively high degree of economic self-sufficiency of both nations.
  • Scientific and Technical. There is no firm distinction between this category and the economic one. The exchanges agreement is relevant here, along with some specific endeavors undertaken under it, such as those in the fields of space, atomic energy, health research, conservation, and environment. Because of the gap between U.S. and Soviet capabilities in many fields of science and technology, agreements in this category are sometimes relatively advantageous to the USSR. Nevertheless, this is not universally the case and there are usually net gains to both sides. Not the least of these is the personal bond established between the scientific intelligentsia of the two countries.

Mutuality of Interest

These issues can be assessed according to the degree of mutuality of interest between the two countries. This assessment of mutuality can be only tentative, and there are always contending interest groups within each country which would assign different priorities to agreement on any given issue. Bearing in mind these caveats, we would judge mutuality of interest to be high, medium, or low as follows:

  • High Mutuality. There appears to be a high congruence of interest in space cooperation, including a joint docking mission. Substantial common interest also exists in cooperative research and exchange programs in the health and atomic-energy fields. Both countries have a strong interest in renewing the exchanges agreement, stemming from the balance between the scientific and technical benefits sought by Moscow as against the political and social objectives pursued by the U.S. Finally, there appears to be a strong common interest in developing measures to avoid naval incidents.
  • Medium Mutuality. A second group of issues shows a more mixed pattern. In the trade area, the Soviet appetite is generally large, while the U.S. interest varies according to commodity, credit terms, and other factors. Disarmament issues similarly present a mixed pattern. The Soviet desire for politically visible agreements is to some extent in conflict with the U.S. view that the contents of a proposed agreement must be the foremost consideration. The two countries have similar objectives with respect to law of the sea but differ on related issues concerning ocean resources. Agreements concerning conservation of natural resources, e.g., fisheries agreements, and protection of the natural [Page 111]environment, are generally more attractive to the U.S. than to the USSR, owing to the different levels of economic development in the two countries and the resultant gap between national perceptions of the problems of modern industrialized societies.
  • Low Mutuality. Finally, there are some matters on which U.S. and Soviet interests diverge considerably. The Soviets would very much like enhanced civil aviation rights in the U.S. and improved access to the U.S. for the commercial shipping, but have comparatively little to offer the U.S. in these fields. Cooperation in certain multilateral endeavors, such as the control of narcotics and dangerous drugs, is of great interest to us, but concerns the Soviet leaders little. There are other such issues, not treated in this study because only one side is interested.


There is a practical limit to the trade-offs that can be made. Neither country is likely to yield on matters closely linked to its national security for the sake of economic or political concessions. Nor can either country be expected to compromise basic political principles for the sake of cooperation in science and technology. Categorizing issues by type and by mutuality of interest, however, allows some preliminary consideration of possible trade-offs.

By Type. Our general assumption is that the Soviets wish specific and formal bilateral agreements in as many fields as possible. Any U.S.-Soviet agreement is of interest to the Soviets not only because of its intrinsic merits—for example, the acquisition of technology—but also because it would enhance the détente image which Moscow is seeking to foster. Thus, the Soviet interest lies in fragmenting U.S.-Soviet negotiations into discrete compartments. In contrast, the U.S. interest lies in keeping all the negotiations within a single framework, giving us more leverage over the final mix of agreements.

This unitary approach also recommends itself because in many instances the U.S. desiderata—for example, the cessation of jamming of U.S. broadcasts into the Soviet Union or the issuance of exit visas to Soviet citizens with relatives in the U.S.—are not subject to formal negotiation. The U.S. side will be in the best negotiating position if it can say that the conclusion of certain key agreements, as well as of a series of relatively minor agreements, is dependent upon Soviet positions not only in the key negotiations but also in certain areas outside the field of formal negotiation.

Within the four major categories under which the issues are grouped, the advantages of agreement are greater for the Soviet Union in the scientific-technical field, and greater over the long run for the U.S. in the political-diplomatic field. Certain advantages would accrue to both sides in the economic field, and also in the military-strategic [Page 112]field, varying from issue to issue, although in the specific case of a U.S.-Soviet economic agreement the Soviet side may feel the need of an agreement keenly enough to make this one of its major goals. Looking at the overall balance, therefore, there is the possibility of a trade-off between the scientific-technical and political fields. The U.S. can also insist upon parallel progress in the trade and political fields.

By Mutuality of Interest. Within the second conceptual framework, we could delay agreement in certain areas of strong mutual interest as an incentive to reach agreement in areas of lesser mutuality. We could also attempt to develop a balance of mutual concessions on unrelated issues where the congruence of interests is small. The latter approach has been used in biennial renewals of the Exchanges Agreement, which serves as an umbrella for a host of contacts.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–188, NSSM Files, NSSM 143. This summary response to NSSM 143 was prepared by the Interagency Group for Europe under the chairmanship of Hillenbrand. The response itself is a series of status reports on issues, comprising 57 pages and prepared by the agencies responsible. In a covering memorandum to Kissinger, December 30, Hillenbrand noted that the major interrelated issues (SALT, Berlin, MBFR, CSCE) and certain bilateral issues (consulates in Leningrad, and San Francisco, jamming, Soviet Jewry) were not included in keeping with Kissinger’s instructions in NSSM 143 (Document 27).