10. Memorandum From Secretary of State Rogers to President Nixon1


  • United States and Allied Approaches to the Current Issues of European Security

The problem of how the Alliance should respond to the appeal for a European Security Conference issued by the Warsaw Pact at Budapest last March will be the major item of business during the NATO Deputy Foreign Ministers meeting in November and the Ministerial meeting in December.

We must hold the Allies together in fashioning a coherent, convincing and collective response to the Budapest appeal that will demonstrate to public opinion Western willingness to negotiate in a constructive spirit the real issues of European security.

We believe, moreover, that we should aim to enter into a process of negotiation with the Soviets from a solid tactical position. The Alliance should find it possible to make reasonable and attractive proposals that would permit us to deal confidently with the Soviets if they wish to negotiate. If the Soviets refuse to negotiate on this basis, there is good reason to hope that Moscow could be made to bear most of the public blame for the resulting impasse.

The Present European Security Equation

We do not believe that basic East-West differences—such as the continuing division of Germany and the future of Berlin—are subject to easy or early resolution, or that a European Security Conference is likely to accomplish much in the period immediately ahead. Successful negotiations on European security can only result from a lengthy process, not from a single climactic event.

We also know that the ultimate Soviet aim in putting this proposal in play with the West is to place a seal of legitimacy upon the division of Germany and Europe, while we would hope for the opposite result from any process of European security negotiations. Moreover, the [Page 22] mere convening of a European Security Conference with East German participation would, of itself, go far toward achieving this Soviet goal—which means that West German views on the matter will merit particular attention.

Nonetheless, the fact remains that the Warsaw Pact’s European Security Conference proposal has a certain resonance in Western European public opinion. Last April, as you will recall, several Allied governments urged that a direct and generally favorable response to the Warsaw Pact proposal be included in the communiqué of the Washington Ministerial meeting. Their ardor was dampened largely—and at the last minute—by a Tass release issued just before the meeting that attacked NATO in typical Cold War language. The communiqué of the Washington meeting thus avoided mention of a European Security Conference and went no further than a commitment “to explore with the Soviet Union and the other countries of Eastern Europe which concrete issues best lend themselves to fruitful negotiation and an early resolution.” The Ministers instructed the Council in Permanent Session to study the matter, and the result has been a full-dress substantive review by the Allies of the issues on which East-West discussions might be held. This List of Issues (a copy is enclosed)2 will be the main substantive underpinning for the November and December meetings of the Council at higher levels.

Since April, the Soviets and their Allies have given renewed signs of interest in a European Security Conference, and we have reports that the Warsaw Pact will meet to draw up a proposed “agenda” in the near future. The November and December NATO meetings thus will have to decide whether the Alliance should respond directly to this Warsaw Pact proposal, and if so, how.

In making the essentially tactical judgment about the appropriate US attitude toward the issue of a European Security Conference, we begin with the assessment that the majority of our Allies will wish to adopt a generally favorable posture toward such a conference.

In that likely event, it is also our belief that we should not take a negative stance and oppose, in principle, an Allied statement that, at the end of a long preparatory path, a European Security Conference could be convened, with United States and Canadian participation from the outset. Many West Europeans look upon European security negotiations as their equivalent to SALT—as the vehicle by which Western European governments can engage visibly in negotiations with the East on issues relating to their security. Thus Western European pressures [Page 23] for a European Security Conference may well grow as SALT gets underway, and it would hardly be appropriate for us to appear to stand in the way.

We also believe that the Alliance has no need to react in purely defensive fashion to the Warsaw Pact’s European Security Conference gambit. Rather it should put forward in December substantive proposals that would meet Alliance interests if they could be negotiated with the East, that appeal to Western public opinion, and that—where possible—have divisive effects on the Warsaw Pact or put the Soviets on the defensive. The probability that some proposals are non-negotiable with the Soviets is thus not necessarily a bar to advancing them.

Issues for Possible Negotiation

The opinion amongst most NATO countries now is that an offer to negotiate balanced force reductions in Central Europe with the Eastern European countries should be one of the central elements in the Allied position. We share their view of the balanced force reductions approach because:

  • —The Alliance had publicly registered agreement in principle to balanced force reductions in June 1968 and again in April 1969.3
  • —The preparatory studies are well-advanced and could be converted fairly soon into proposals for consideration as possible negotiating positions.
  • —Balanced force reductions proposal would be useful in the internal political debates of member countries, including the United States, as an argument against unilateral force reductions.
  • —It would appeal to a Western public opinion anxious for tangible signs of progress toward disarmament. In the likely event that the Soviets refuse to discuss this question seriously, we would presumably be better placed to maintain the position that unilateral force reductions would be self-defeating.

While the German question remains, of course, central to the problem of European security, we did not think it appropriate in the present political context for the United States to take the initiative on a matter of the most direct and immediate interest to the Federal Republic and concerning which German diplomacy has itself been very active in the last few years. The new German Government4 also will undoubtedly have an active Eastern policy and consult with us about it.

Hence, for the purposes of the present exercise, on Germany and Berlin, we would limit ourselves to an effort to build Allied support [Page 24] for the tripartite efforts to ease pressures on Berlin and for the Eastern policy initiatives which the Brandt government will be pursuing.

However, we feel balanced force reductions—a proposal long in play—is not enough by itself for us to propose in November and December as the American suggestion for the collective Allied response to the Warsaw Pact initiative.

Thus, we also believe that we should endorse a Joint Declaration on the Principles of European Security as a proposal of tactical utility. It could be advanced as a means of placing an additional restraint—however slight—upon the Soviet Union’s use of force to discipline its Allies. It could be designed to remind Western public opinion of the past transgressions of the Soviet Union and to have divisive effects within the Warsaw Pact. The declaration should encompass such principles as non-intervention in internal affairs, including among members of an Alliance, abstention from the use or threat of force; respect for the independence and territorial integrity of states; and agreement to settle differences by peaceful means—all points now extant in the United Nations Charter but packaged in a declaration of applicability to the European area.

You may recall that the British advanced an East-West Code of Good Conduct proposal before the Czech crisis, but have left it dormant since. The French also have suggested East-West agreement on a Declaration of Non-Intervention that would be designed, implicitly at least, to inhibit a repetition of the Czech affair. Foreign Minister Schumann floated it in Moscow recently5 and—not surprisingly—found the Soviets reticent. We have reports that the Warsaw Pact may advance a Code of Good Conduct proposal of its own.

In summary, as we now see it, the total Western response in December to the Warsaw Pact initiative will comprise five main points:

Balanced force reductions—a renewed and stronger signal of Allied willingness to negotiate.
Reference to a Joint Declaration on the Principles of European Security.
Berlin-Germany—support for the tripartite probe6 and the Federal Republic of Germany’s initiatives on inner-German relations.
Hortatory statements on enhanced East-West economic, technical and cultural exchanges, which some of the Allies—notably the Italians—will insist upon.
Statement of willingness to consider an eventual European Security Conference, provided it is properly prepared in advance and includes the United States and Canada from the outset.

State telegram number 181393 (enclosed) to USNATO,7 which was cleared by Dr. Kissinger, sets forth our preliminary guidance on the foregoing points.

We believe this cautious but positive approach is consonant with your policy toward Europe and plan to proceed along the above lines.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 683, Country Files, Europe, Germany, Vol. IV. Secret. On November 5, Sonnenfeldt forwarded Rogers’s memorandum to Kissinger. In a covering memorandum he wrote that it “raises again the major problem of holding State back from over-commitment to the idea of such a conference simply in order to appear to respond positively to the Warsaw Pact overtures, so that we ‘demonstrate to public opinion’ our willingness to negotiate European security issues constructively with the Soviets.” (Ibid.)
  2. Not attached. NATO Document C–M(69)46, “List of Issues for Possible Negotiation with the East,” October 2, is ibid. It is summarized in Tab C to Document 5.
  3. See footnotes 2 and 7, Document 5.
  4. Parliamentary elections in West Germany on September 28 resulted in the formation of a new coalition government with Willy Brandt of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) as Chancellor and Walter Scheel of the Free Democratic Party (FDP) as Vice Chancellor and Foreign Minister.
  5. Schumann visited Moscow October 9–14. The joint Franco-Soviet communiqué envisioned a “properly prepared European conference” that “could constitute an effective means of developing co-operation between all the European States” and end “the division of Europe into blocs.” (Keesing’s Contemporary Archives, 1969–1970, p. 23864A)
  6. See footnote 3, Document 5.
  7. See Document 7.