102. Telegram From the Department of State to the Mission to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization 1

136857. Joint State/Defense message. Subject: US approach to MBFR.

In anticipation of East-West MBFR discussions, US envisages active efforts over next months to develop, in common with Allies, approach to be taken in course of East-West talks. Accordingly, USNATO should circulate following text to Allies, looking toward consultation in NATO on aspects of MBFR, leading up to Deputy Foreign Ministers meeting, preferably during week of October 9:

Begin text:

In the Ministerial communiqué of May 31, 1972, the Allies envisaged multilateral MBFR negotiations preceded by suitable explorations, and proposed that multilateral explorations be undertaken as soon as practicable either before or in parallel with multilateral preparatory talks [Page 315] on CSCE. In order to prepare for explorations and negotiations the US believes that the Allies should initiate early consideration of the basic approach to MBFR that should be pursued in such multilateral talks. Accordingly, there follows an outline of current US thinking.

The US believes that above all MBFR should be consistent with the principle of undiminished security for all parties. We continue to subscribe to the Allied view recorded in CM (71)492 that MBFR could be envisaged as an integral program in which reductions should be phased in their scope and timing, where appropriate, and adequately verified. Any reductions should also be preceded and/or accompanied by appropriate constraints.

It is not certain that the Soviet Union and its allies are prepared to negotiate agreements that adequately meet Allied requirements. Accordingly, we believe that MBFR should be pursued cautiously and patiently.

The substantive task at this stage is to reach a consensus on the overall objectives for MBFR and the substantive basis for an Allied position which can advance these objectives.

MBFR objectives. The Allies initially could agree on the following objectives to guide their approach to the MBFR process:

  • —contribute to a more stable military balance at lower levels of forces while maintaining military security undiminished;
  • —limit military capabilities which we perceive as threatening or destabilizing;
  • —reduce the risk of misunderstanding through miscalculation, ambiguous military activity, and surprise attack; and
  • —thereby reduce East-West tension, and enhance political stability. In order to achieve these objectives, MBFR should deal with the basic asymmetries that characterize the military balance in Europe. These are:
  • —disparities in the number of military personnel and certain types of equipment in the prospective reduction area;
  • —disparities in the potential for reinforcement;
  • —the offensive orientation of Soviet and Warsaw Pact forces in central Europe, at least as we perceive them; and
  • —the Western disadvantage in verification and warning because of the greater openness of Western society.

[Page 316]

We believe that it is essential to raise these issues with the Soviets in order to make clear our determination that an MBFR agreement take them into account to achieve undiminished security. The Soviet response can give us an important indication whether there is a possibility of reaching a mutually satisfactory agreement or not.

Illustrative reduction options. The US is currently broadening its studies of illustrative reductions to include, in addition to equal percentage reductions, options which focus on these particular asymmetries and not simply on reductions per se. In particular, we are examining a variety of common ceiling options based on:

  • —reductions in the 10–20 range on the NATO side;
  • —reductions in both stationed and indigenous forces;
  • —reductions which involved a thin-out of stationed forces on the NATO side, but the removal of units and equipment on the Warsaw Pact side.

A common ceiling option focuses on the positive objective of creating a more secure military balance at a lower level. It corrects the numerical disparity between NATO and the Warsaw Pact forces in the reduction area. It is simple in concept. It reflects an application of the principle agreed to by the Soviets in the Moscow communiqué of May 29 following President Nixon’s visit—“the security interests of the parties based on the principle of equality.”3 It avoids the problem of attempting to equate in some way the disparate force structures facing each other in the central region.

The thin-out in stationed forces on the NATO side and the removal of units on the Warsaw Pact side focuses on the problem of reinforcement asymmetry between the US/UK/Canada and USSR. It also takes into account the disparity in the verification capabilities of the two sides.

We are also considering special limitations on Warsaw Pact tanks because that aspect of the Warsaw Pact force structure is most threatening and destabilizing to NATO.

The US is now in the process of drawing up and analyzing options based on these elements looking toward a presentation of the results of our studies as soon as practicable.

Collateral constraints and verification. As we go forward in this effort we are giving the fullest attention to the views of the Allies on MBFR elements and phasing. We continue to regard collateral constraints and verification provisions as essential elements to a comprehensive MBFR process.

[Page 317]

We should seek agreement on appropriate collateral constraints which would enhance stability and reduce the danger of either side miscalculating the intentions of the other and also reduce the risk of surprise attack. Such constraints could provide a yardstick for more confident, more timely interpretation by each side of military activities by the other. These constraints would be valuable in themselves and would also increase confidence that a reduction agreement was being observed.

With regard to verification, there should be agreement on noninterference with national technical means, as embodied in the SALT agreements. At the same time, the question of on-site inspection should be left open, making it clear that verification measures required would depend on the reduction measures agreed upon.

We are hopeful that this approach will provide the basis for an Allied position on MBFR that will meet the following considerations:

  • —fully protect Allied interests, including military security;
  • —demonstrate both to Allied domestic opinion and the Soviets that we are serious in seeking an agreement that provides undiminished security for all parties; and
  • —establish a strong bargaining position to protect a wide variety of possible negotiating postures.

As soon as the US thinking is further refined we would envision a phase of intense Alliance consultations. In the meantime we would welcome the views of the Allies on this preliminary outline of the direction of US thinking on MBFR.

On the specific question of the approach to be taken in the opening exploratory phase of MBFR talks, we intend to provide our views separately.4 End text.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–064, Verification P/SRG Group Meeting MBFR 8/3/72. Secret; Priority. Drafted by Linebaugh and approved by the Deputy Secretary. Cleared by Springsteen, Eagleburger, Smith, McGuire, Garthoff, Crittenberger, McManaway, Hyland and Miller. Repeated to all European diplomatic posts, Athens, Ankara, USNMR SHAPE, USCINCEUR, USDOCOSOUTH, USLOSACLANT.
  2. Not found.
  3. See Document 98.
  4. In telegram 136858 to USNATO, July 28. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–064, Verification P/SRG Group Meeting MBFR/CSCE 9/20/72)