1. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • European Security Conference


  • Anatoliy F. Dobrynin, Soviet Ambassador
  • Under Secretary Richardson
  • Morton Abramowitz, Special Assistant, U
  • Adolph Dubs, Acting Country Director, EUR/SOV

Ambassador Dobrynin said he was calling on the instructions of his Government to draw the attention of the U.S. Government to the Appeal on European Security issued by the Warsaw Pact countries at Budapest on March 17.2 The Warsaw Pact countries attach great importance to a conference on European security. They believe that the [Page 2] Appeal represents a serious attempt to facilitate security in Europe and cooperation among European States in the economic, technological and scientific fields. No conditions are being attached to the holding of such a conference. The Soviet Union and its allies are prepared to discuss any issues. The views of these countries about a security conference are spelled out in the Appeal. This is not a propaganda exercise but a serious approach to an important matter. It was visualized that a preparatory committee should meet to discuss the time, place and agenda for such a conference.

Ambassador Dobrynin said he knew that the question of U.S. participation would arise. This would be a matter for the European countries to consider and to decide. If all European states believe that U.S. participation is necessary or desirable, then the Soviet Union would have no objection. Dobrynin indicated that the Appeal was being delivered to various governments by the Hungarian Government since the Appeal originated at the Budapest meeting. Soviet ambassadors were under instructions to present the Appeal to governments in Western Europe.

Mr. Richardson commented that Ambassador Dobrynin had anticipated several questions. He noted that the Soviet Union visualized that the conference would be held without any preconditions. He couldn’t help but note that the Appeal had stated that fundamental preconditions for Europe’s security included such things as confirmation of existing European borders, recognition of the existence of the GDR, etc. Ambassador Dobrynin interjected that these were not preconditions and that all countries could propose any questions which they thought relevant. Participants could also make any statements they wished. All questions raised could be considered by the preparatory group.

Mr. Richardson asked whether U.S. participation would take place only if there were unanimous agreement among European states. Ambassador Dobrynin replied that he did not know whether there would be voting or not on such issues. He had no authorization to speak for European governments. In any event, there would be no objection from the Soviet side to U.S. participation. Mr. Richardson asked about possible Canadian participation. Ambassador Dobrynin answered that he was not sure whether this would be a main concern of the participants or whether the Canadians themselves wished to take part in a security conference. At this point he could only say that he frankly didn’t know whether Canada would be included or excluded from such a meeting.

Mr. Richardson asked whether the Soviet Union was prepared to consider arrangements for Europe other than those specified as prerequisites to European security in the Budapest Appeal. Specifically, would the Soviets consider arrangements regarding the FRG and the GDR other than those spelled out in the Appeal? Furthermore, would the Soviets be willing to consider such questions as access to Berlin? [Page 3] Dobrynin noted again that any questions could be raised and that the agenda would no doubt be broad-ranging. The main objectives would be to work toward the security and tranquility of Europe. The Soviet Union feels strongly that recognition of the present borders would be a stabilizing factor. Great importance is attached to this point. He added that at some point in the future, various issues could be discussed in large forums while other matters could be discussed in smaller groupings. Dobrynin suggested that the US and the USSR might even have some preliminary exchanges of views on issues that might be discussed. The Soviet Union recognizes that all objectives cannot be achieved overnight. Perhaps the first security conference might be just a beginning and a prelude to future meetings.

Mr. Richardson concluded by noting that the Appeal no doubt would be discussed at the forthcoming NATO Ministerial meeting3 and that the Appeal would also be discussed between our Western allies themselves. It was useful to have the Ambassador’s views on questions that were raised.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 725, Country Files, Europe, USSRMemcon’s, Dobrynin/Richardson, April 1969. Confidential. Part I of II. Drafted by Dubs. The meeting was held in the Under Secretary’s office. The day before, Dobrynin initially raised the issue of a European security conference in a meeting with Kissinger at 3:30 p.m. Kissinger wrote in a memorandum to the President on April 3: Dobrynin began the conversation by saying that he had been instructed by the highest level of the politburo to give me an advance indication of a note that was going to be presented at the State Department tomorrow morning. This note in effect presents the Budapest Declaration of the Warsaw Pact nations, and asks for a European Security Conference. (I am sending you a separate memorandum on this.) Dobrynin asked me for my views. I told him a European Security Conference which excluded the United States would meet with strong opposition. Dobrynin said that Moscow has no intention of prescribing the membership; if one of our allies proposed United States participation, Moscow would agree. (This represents a major change in Soviet policy.)”

    The full text of the memorandum is in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XII, Document 32. For Kissinger’s memorandum to the President, see Document 2.

  2. The Budapest Appeal of the Warsaw Pact to all European Countries is printed in Documents on Disarmament, 1969, pp. 106–108.
  3. Scheduled for April 10–11 in Washington.