139. Briefing Memorandum From the Under Secretary of State for Economic Affairs (Robinson) and the Counselor of the Department of State (Sonnenfeldt) to Secretary of State Kissinger 1

Soviet Participation in International Economic Arrangements

During Robinson’s trip to Moscow the Soviets told us of their interest in the producer-consumer conference and hinted that they would like a role in the MTN.2 (On grain reserves they showed a preference for bilateral talks with us rather than participation in a multilateral forum.)

We and some of our allies have advanced the idea in the past that there may be long-term political advantages to be gained from increased Soviet participation in international economic organizations, and indeed a test of how far the Soviets have come in joining the international system. Now the time has come to have a hard look at this idea. Together with EB and EUR, we have taken a fresh look at their assumptions in the light of what the Soviets said during the trip. S/P has just completed an excellent study for NATO on “Trade and Natural Resources in the East-West Context” which examines many of the same questions and gives additional background and perspective.

There are many differences of opinion about the desirability of encouraging increased Soviet participation in international economic organizations, as there are also about the obverse of the coin—the cost of trying to exclude them. The following tentative conclusions represent our thinking about an issue which needs to be discussed further within the government and with our allies. The NATO planners (APAG) meeting in Paris later this month, which Winston Lord will attend, will give us an informal opportunity to get a preliminary reading on allied thinking.

Conclusions and Recommendations

—Soviet interest in participating in multilateral economic arrangements is selective but growing.

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—At the same time Soviet interests run counter to the kind of consensus we are trying to build in some economic undertakings and the asymmetries of Soviet and Western economic systems pose difficulties in others.

—We should not exaggerate the influence the Soviets can bring to bear on established trade and monetary organizations nor should we expect that these institutions will have a great effect on the evolution of Soviet society. At the same time we must recognize that a concerted effort to oppose Soviet participation in these arrangements can have an adverse effect on our bilateral relations and on Soviet behavior on the international economic scene.

—Our multilateral economic effort is part of a larger policy of building a new international system. In this sense we cannot proceed too far without taking account of the Soviet Union and, ultimately, China. But in the short term there is little doubt that Soviet interests are inimical: they will certainly manipulate any multilateral organization to pit the LDCs against the industrialized West. Moreover, they can be expected to introduce political considerations that will be divisive. Finally, unlike bilateral efforts which are under our control, we cannot use multilateral efforts as leverage against the USSR. If there is some concern in the USSR about being excluded from major undertakings, Soviet participation on a constructive basis is more likely later as that concern grows.3

—Politically, the argument for encouraging this tendency is similar to that for facilitating expanded bilateral trade. In some instances it can create a web of interests conducive to restraint and relaxation of tensions. In other instances, however, the Soviets may find opportunities for advancing their political interests without accepting obligations and responsibilities. In general we should actively encourage Soviet involvement only where their economic interests would dictate responsible and constructive participation, or where such participation would require the Soviets to adjust their policies along lines suitable to our long-term interests.

—Soviet involvement in multilateral economic organizations could force them to take positions on subjects where their ideological and practical interests diverge, and could expose them to criticism by the LDCs.

—These considerations dictate a case-by-case analysis of the pros and cons of Moscow’s participation in various fora. In some cases this analysis would lead us to take the lead in encouraging them; in others it [Page 544] would argue for bilateral and multilateral consultations aimed at clarifying conditions under which they might participate; and in others it would suggest gently fending them off, at least for the time being.

—In the specific areas raised by the Soviets with Robinson:

At the moment we see a clear benefit to U.S. economic interests from encouraging Soviet participation in international grains arrangements.

We believe we should offer to discuss the MTN with the Soviets in Washington. We would plan to stress to them that the participants would expect them to offer reciprocity, including, where appropriate, binding concessions suitable to their economic system.

At this stage we see little benefit and considerable risks in Soviet participation in the producer-consumer conference. At the same time we should continue to discuss the possibility of their participation in multilateral discussions of energy matters with the Soviets bilaterally as they may desire.

Hyland has seen and concurs.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Lot File 81D286, Records of the Office of the Counselor, Box 10, POL 2 USSR—Trade (MFN, Ex-Im). Confidential. Drafted by Barry and Lorimer (EB/ITP/EWT) on April 3 and cleared by Katz (EB) and Hartman. Although the original is uninitialed, an unidentified handwritten note to Sonnenfeldt reads: “we initialed for you.” Tab A, Robinson’s report on his trip, and Tab B, an S/P paper for NATO, are attached but not printed.
  2. See Documents 137 and 138.
  3. EUR does not agree with this paragraph, believing that the balance of the memo offers the accurate perspective. [Footnote in the original.]