113. Paper Prepared in the Department of State1

Initial Allied Reactions to the KissingerBrezhnev Talks on CSCE and MBFR—September 10–14, 1972


In initial and highly preliminary reactions to our reports to them of Dr. Kissinger’s discussions with General Secretary Brezhnev,2 the Allies have characterized the talks on MBFR generally, and specifically the Soviet note given to Dr. Kissinger on September 13,3 as a step forward.

Some Allies are prepared to believe that there would be sufficient parallelism in time between CSCE preparatory talks beginning November 22 and MBFR exploratory talks beginning in late January; and no strong criticism has yet been voiced of the Soviet proposal that the MBFR talks be held outside Helsinki. Questions have been raised concerning the omission of a reference to substantive MBFR discussions by the Soviets in describing MBFR talks.

Several Allies—primarily the Belgians and those on the Southern flank of NATO who have pressed for inclusion in MBFR talks (Italy, Turkey, etc.)—have stressed in particular the importance of Allied cohesion in treating MBFR and CSCE issues. Some have also indicated that they would have preferred more thorough Allied consultations before the visit enabling Dr. Kissinger to voice an Alliance position on MBFR participation.4 (The Turks and Italians have not reacted in detail [Page 343] to the Kissinger visit, and we can expect strong criticism from them on the issue of participation.)

None of the Allies have opposed beginning CSCE preparatory talks in Helsinki on November 22, but a number have argued against accepting a specific date for CSCE itself (the Soviet proposal is for late June 1973) on the grounds that this would deprive the preparatory talks of their significance.

There has been little reaction so far to the Soviet proposal that CSCE itself take place in Helsinki.

All the Allies look forward to detailed consultations—on the basis of instructions from capitals—in the North Atlantic Council this week.

The North Atlantic Council

Ambassador Kennedy (with Mr. Sonnenfeldt) briefed the Council on Friday, September 15. Commenting on a personal basis, other Council members

  • —congratulated the U.S. team on the results of the talks;
  • —expressed general satisfaction with the degree of parallelism laid down in the Soviet note;
  • —cautioned (except for the French) that any date for a CSCE itself should be regarded only as a target date, dependent on results in the preparatory talks;
  • —hoped that MBFR exploratory talks would include exploration of substance as well as of procedural and organizational matters;
  • —repeated earlier arguments that the essential next decision among the Allies is that on participation of NATO members in MBFR explorations.

The Canadian Permanent Representative thought his authorities would accept a procedure whereby the U.S. would reply to the Soviet note after Allied consultations; several others, in stressing the importance of Allied cohesion, seemed to imply that this procedural question will be important to them.

Reactions in Capitals

The text of the Soviet note was also delivered by our Embassies in Allied Capitals on September 15, and Embassies were authorized to draw on the talking points provided by the White House. Initial reactions, while appreciative of the U.S. effort in Moscow, were sketchy and very preliminary.

UK—Speaking personally, the Foreign Office’s NATO Department head called attention to the British view that MBFR negotiations should [Page 344] only take place if exploratory talks establish that negotiations would not risk Allied security. He thought the British would not have trouble with the Soviet proposal that a CSCE itself be held in Helsinki; the British would go along with a NATO consensus.5

FRG —Foreign Ministry officials found the parallelism concept adequately served in the Soviet note, but opposed setting a firm CSCE date at this time. They also warned that the U.S. position on MBFR participation could cause serious strain in the Alliance. The FRG would go along with a NATO consensus favoring separate sites for MBFR and CSCE preliminaries.6

France—The Quai also argued against accepting a precise CSCE date, but noted with satisfaction the separation in the Soviet note of CSCE and MBFR both in time and place.

Italy—The Italians rehearsed their interest in participation of NATO flank countries in MBFR talks.7

Other—The Belgians came down particularly hard on the importance of close Allied consultations.8 The Dutch, inter alia, voiced a lack of enthusiasm for holding a CSCE itself in Helsinki. Luxembourg Foreign Minister Thorn asked whether the Soviet note was solely a Soviet initiative or was requested by Dr. Kissinger.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 247, Agency Files, MBFR and CSCE, 1972. Secret; Limdis. Eliot forwarded the paper to Kissinger on September 19 under a covering memorandum.
  2. On September 15, Kennedy and Sonnenfeldt briefed the North Atlantic Council on the results of Kissinger’s visit to Moscow. Telegram 3739 from USNATO, September 15, includes an account of their briefing. (Ibid., Kissinger Office Files, Box 24, Trip Files, HAK’s Germany, Moscow, London and Paris Trip, September 9–15, 1972, Misc. Cables and Documents)
  3. Telegram Hakto 22 from Moscow, September 13, provided the text of the Soviet note: “1. The multilateral consultations to prepare the conference on questions of security and cooperation in Europe will start in Helsinki on November 22. 2. The conference itself will begin its work in Helsinki in late June, 1973. 3. Preliminary consultations on question of procedure and organization relating to the problem of reducing armed forces and armaments first of all in Central Europe will begin in late January, 1973. The consultations will be conducted in a place other than Helsinki. The exact time and venue of such preliminary consultations as well as the subsequent negotiations (conference) on this problem will be held on a non-bloc basis. 4. A conference on the problem of reducing armed forces and armaments in Europe will start in September or October, 1973.” (Ibid., Hakto 1–35)
  4. According to telegram 3739, Ambassador Spierenburg of the Netherlands stated: “He thought that it was now urgent that the U.S. give its reply to the Turkish compromise proposal regarding participation of flank countries in MBFR discussions. He thought that the most important considerations in this was the maintenance of solidarity of the alliance.’
  5. As reported in telegram 8723 from London, September 15. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 729, Country Files, Europe, United Kingdom, Vol. VII)
  6. As reported in telegram 12637 from Bonn, September 15. (Ibid., Box 687, Country Files, Germany (Bonn), Vol. XII)
  7. As reported in telegram 5290 from Rome, September 15. (Ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, DEF 6 NATO)
  8. As reported in telegram 3469 from Brussels, September 15. (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 669, Country Files, Europe, Belgium, Vol. II)