98. Paper Prepared in the Bureau of Politico-Military Affairs1
- Fundamental US interests continue to require a Western Europe that is stable, peaceful and secure from domination by any one state. While under present circumstances it is unlikely that the USSR would risk use of military force against Western Europe, the Soviet Union will continue efforts to expand its political influence, based upon its military power. The USSR will seek to reduce US influence in Western Europe by emphasizing and promoting differences between the US and its European allies. Political cohesiveness of the Western alliance is of vital importance, and our forces in Europe and committed to NATO are a major element in preserving solidarity.
- While effective US military forces in NATO are essential to US security interests, their importance is at least equally measured in terms of the concrete evidence they provide of US commitment to common goals. Our allies will continue to display anxiety about any US reduction of its NATO forces, particularly those in Europe.
- This Administration has made clear its intention to maintain US commitments to NATO. The firmness of the US commitment to NATO is measured in part by the stability of US force levels in Europe; thus the maintenance of existing force commitments is important from a political as well as a military standpoint. Current force planning should assume that the US will retain the present level of its combat forces in Europe, and will make every effort to retain present commitments to NATO of forces not based in Europe. In view of Congressional and other pressures, however, it will be necessary to consider thoroughly the strategic, political, military and budgetary consequences of [Page 334]reductions and the extent these consequences could be made more manageable by force or equipment restructuring, etc. If it appears that eventual force reductions will become necessary, on the basis of such a review, the US will seek in consultation with its allies stable levels of force commitments to NATO and troop levels in Europe for the long range.
- It is highly unlikely that unilateral US reductions in Europe would lead to matching reductions by the USSR. And while also unlikely, we do not completely rule out some prospect over the next five years of mutual and balanced East-West force reductions, as a result of negotiation or even by process of “mutual example.” It will continue to be our objective to engage the Soviets in discussions on this subject.
- Europeans face pressures for defense budget reductions and are not likely to increase their NATO commitments significantly. For political and economic reasons, increases in German force levels are very unlikely. If there were to be a significant US force reduction in Europe there would not be a compensating European increase. In fact, this action might trigger decreases in European forces.
- The US and NATO allies will continue to rely on a combination of US strategic nuclear forces, US tactical nuclear weapons deployed in Europe and US ground and air forces deployed in Europe to deter Soviet aggression. While realizing that the nuclear deterrent may not possess the credibility of earlier years, Europeans will continue to believe that the possibility of escalation to strategic nuclear levels will suffice to deter a Soviet attack so long as sufficient US forces and stocks of nuclear weapons are retained in Europe. In any event, they believe the Soviet propensity to attack is low. They are unlikely to seek or favor a major change in NATO strategy since they do not have a ready alternative to reliance on the US strategic deterrent. While an increasing interest in a European nuclear force centered around the existing French and British forces is possible over the next several years, this will not basically change the situation.
- While development of a tactical nuclear or prolonged conventional war option may appear to the US to be attractive, the Europeans cannot be persuaded of this. They will continue to view conventional and tactical nuclear warfare as brief transition stages leading rather promptly to a strategic nuclear exchange. They view this as the heart of deterrence, and it is deterring a war, not fighting a war that concerns them. It is unlikely that major changes in the size or character of the current US conventional forces or nuclear stockpile in Europe could be made without destroying the political cohesiveness of the Alliance. US efforts to persuade the allies to accept a strategy calling for a prolonged conventional or tactical nuclear war would not only be unproductive but politically damaging to our Alliance relationships.
MIDDLE EAST AND MEDITERRANEAN
- Despite the absence of formal security treaties with non-NATO powers in the Mediterranean Basin, four US administrations have made clear that the US has a special interest in the security of Israel.
- In the Persian Gulf, current American Oil and other activities, which return some $1.5 billion annually to the US balance of payments, are likely to expand.
- The requirement for US forces for this area has never been well defined, but air and naval forces appear to be considerably more important, at least from a political standpoint, than ground forces.
- Restrictions on US base use (e.g., Greece, Turkey, Spain) if not outright denial (we must regard Wheelus as lost now2) will continue to be a significant factor in any contingency involving the Arabs and Israelis. Soviet involvement in such a contingency may relax these restrictions somewhat, but it should not be assumed that they will remove them. Ways to reduce dependence on these bases should be examined.
- Reopening of the Suez Canal cannot be counted upon for the next two years, or even longer. Therefore, the importance of Diego Garcia and COMIDEASTFOR increases.
- Soviet naval presence in the Mediterranean will not diminish and may expand further. There is a good possibility that the Soviets will gain access to air bases in the Mediterranean area.
- With the British departure from Aden and the Persian Gulf, the Soviets will continue to manifest increasing naval and other activity in the Arabian Sea region.
- Any major changes in the Sixth fleet will have important political implications in the Mediterranean Basin and would have to be preceded by careful political-military consultations with allied and friendly governments.
- While we have no intention of replacing the British in the Persian Gulf area after their withdrawal in 1971, we have no plans to terminate our naval presence there and believe we can maintain our home porting arrangements on Bahrain over the next few years.
- The US should not plan on the use of major US ground forces in a war against Communist China on the Asian mainland.
- The strategic deterrent vis-à-vis the PRC should be effective, given the continued US superiority in nuclear weapons over the PRC. Although the possession now by the Chinese of nuclear weapons may reduce somewhat inhibitions on US use of such weapons on the battlefield against Communist China, such inhibitions will continue to exist. This is particularly true since it will become increasingly difficult for the United States to convince Asian allies that we can guarantee low levels of nuclear damage to them in the event the US initiates use of nuclear weapons.
- For the foreseeable future, some US ground forces in South Korea will be an essential part of the deterrent against North Korean aggression. With political stability in the ROK, some reductions in the present level, however, would probably be politically manageable with compensatory ROK force modernization. Timing would largely depend upon political considerations. It is very unlikely, given continued US presence, that the Soviets would participate in an attack on South Korea in conditions short of general war. Given the state of Soviet-Chinese relations, as well as that between North Korea and China, it seems equally unlikely that the Chinese Communists would do so. However, if hostilities should occur and North Korea found themselves being driven back toward the Yalu River, it is likely that the Chinese Communists would again enter the conflict in their support. If PRC attack on South Korea should occur, we would be faced with the alternative of a major input of US air and ground forces, the use of nuclear weapons, or abandoning the defense of South Korea.
- We should plan on the provision of major US air and naval forces, as well as some ground forces,4 to support South Korea in the event of a North Korean attack. However, modernization of defensive capability of the South Korean air force without substantially increasing its offensive capability over a period of time would permit a reduction of the requirement for US air force support.
- The US will stand by the existing SEATO commitment to the defense of Thailand. This commitment does not require US combat forces to assist the Thais in defeating communist-supported insurgency [Page 337]which, under present circumstances, they should be able to contain with their own forces. The main security threat is the possibility that China or North Vietnam may escalate support for the insurgency. This threat will vastly increase if all of Laos should fall under communist control. Substantial US military assistance will continue to be required if the Thai armed forces are to meet this threat while also developing a limited self-defense capability which with US support, limited to MAP and air and naval forces, should be sufficient in the rather unlikely case of overt North Vietnamese aggression. Such assistance will also serve to sustain Thai confidence in the US. US forces now in Thailand are there primarily in support of the Vietnam war, and consequently they can be phased out as the Vietnam war winds down.
- The probability of a Chinese Communist invasion of Southeast Asia is very low. If it were nonetheless to occur, it is difficult to visualize the use of large American ground forces to meet such an invasion. Under these circumstances, the US would have to face the issue of the use of nuclear weapons, or of abandoning Southeast Asia.
- An attack on Taiwan by the PRC is highly unlikely, but if it were to occur, US support should be limited to air and naval forces, relying on GRC ground forces for ground defense.
- A high level of MAP will be required to maintain and improve ROK and Thai military capabilities. The GRC could also effectively use somewhat more MAP than it is now getting. Military assistance for Indonesia should probably increase modestly. President Nixon’s Guam doctrine5 and the increased reliance on indigenous forces implies a greater emphasis on force modernization in Korea, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia. The US must, therefore, be prepared to consider on its merits the provision of more modern equipment than would be the case if early direct US military intervention were contemplated.
- The US base structure in the Western Pacific will shrink. However, mainland air bases (in Korea and Thailand), naval bases (Japan, the Philippines), off-shore air bases, and logistic facilities (Okinawa, Japan, Taiwan, Philippines, and if current negotiations are successful, the Singapore naval base) will probably be available over the next five years.
- The US base structure world wide will be subject to increasing pressure at home and abroad. New weapons systems, logistics, support, communications, and intelligence arrangements that promise to reduce dependence on specific bases or the structure as a whole should receive priority.
- Given that it is a US objective to maximize the use of local forces in mainland Asia conflicts, it is imperative that high priority be given to the development of air and naval weapons, doctrine and tactics appropriate to the task of supporting these forces. It would be desirable, for example, to develop capabilities that would permit effective “land blockades” but which did not involve enlargement of the area of operations, assuming we may again have to deal with the sanctuary problem as in Korea and Vietnam.
- There is an urgent requirement for the development of military equipment tailored to defense environments less sophisticated than that presented in Europe. In particular, it is important that the US have available high-performance aircraft suitable for MAP and credit sales to allies. We need to consider urgently whether these requirements can best be met by less sophisticated versions of aircraft in or planned for the US inventory (e.g. A7 or F4), or by a new family of airframes and avionics designed specifically for these needs. Study might also be given to the utility of encouraging development of foreign-manufactured aircraft for this purpose (e.g. MRCA, Harrier).
The direction of US strategy in the early 1970’s implies a shift from direct US intervention toward improving the ability of our allies to defend themselves with US air and naval support where this is necessary. This, in turn, will require increased military assistance programs in selected countries. If we are to obtain higher levels of military assistance, it will be necessary to develop a persuasive rationale based on the proposition that only through such aid can the US continue to protect important security interests while reducing the need from [for] direct US military involvement. The Departments of State and Defense should work together as a matter of urgency on this problem.
- Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, DEF 1 US. Secret. Drafted by Leslie H. Brown of the Office of International Security Policy and Planning (ISP) and Leon Sloss, Director of ISP, on November 3. Cleared by Deputy Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs Rodger P. Davies, Deputy Assistant Secretary for European Affairs George S. Springsteen, and Assistant Secretary Green. Copies were sent to Kissinger, Schlesinger, Gerard Smith, Lindjord of OEP, Clark of the CIA, General Vogt of the JCS, and Assistant Secretaries of State Green, Hillenbrand, Joseph J. Sisco, David D. Newsom, and Charles A. Meyer. On November 4, U. Alexis Johnson sent the paper, under the title “Foreign Policy Assumptions for Defense Planning,” to Packard, who had requested it, under a covering memorandum that notes that the attached paper “is an effort to reduce to writing some of the more critical foreign policy assumptions that, in my view, should govern military planning in the next several years.” (Ibid.) That same day, Johnson sent the paper to Rogers, who wrote at the bottom of the covering memorandum, “Alex, Good paper. See however p. 2 East Asia.” (Ibid.)↩
- The United States announced on December 16 that it had begun to dismantle Wheelus Air Force Base, located near Tripoli, at the request of the new Libyan Government which had seized power on September 1. (New York Times, December 17, 1969, p. 6) The United States formally transferred Wheelus to the Libyan Government on June 11, 1970.↩
- Ex Vietnam and Laos, which require and are receiving separately more detailed treatment than can be provided here. [Footnote in the original.]↩
- Rogers circled and placed an exclamation mark next to the phrase, “as well as some ground forces.”↩
- On July 25, during a tour of Asia, President Nixon outlined what was first called the Guam Doctrine and later the Nixon Doctrine. While Asia was crucial, he stated that in the future the United States, except in the case of aggression by “a major power involving nuclear weapons,” would avoid direct military involvement in the region. Instead, the United States would “encourage” Asian nations to be responsible for their own security. (Public Papers: Nixon, 1969, pp. 544–556)↩