114. Minutes of a Joint Verification Panel and Senior Review Group Meeting1


[Page 345]


  • Chairman—Henry A. Kissinger
  • State
    • John N. Irwin II
    • Walter J. Stoessel
    • Jonathan Dean
    • Raymond Garthoff
  • Defense
    • Kenneth Rush
    • Armistead Selden
    • Lawrence Eagleburger
    • Clayton McManaway
  • JCS
    • Adm. Thomas H. Moorer
    • Vice Adm. John P. Weinel
  • CIA
    • Richard Helms
    • Ben Rutherford
  • ACDA
    • Gerard Smith
    • David Linebaugh
    • Thomas Hirschfeld
  • OST
    • Dr. Edward David (Observer)
  • NSC
    • Helmut Sonnenfeldt


It was agreed that:

  • —the State Department would consider the desirability of another approach to the French on participation in the talks and come back with a recommendation;
  • —the Working Group should get an agreed sanitized version of the Evaluation Report for transmission to our allies;
  • CIA will do further work on the verification problems; —the Working Group will put together some concrete packages of what each side would be asked to do under various kinds of cuts.

Mr. Kissinger: (to Irwin) I have your draft cable here2 (a draft response to the Soviet note) and I’ll talk to you about the details later.

Mr. Irwin: Do we want to refer to a specific date?

Mr. Kissinger: All the Soviets have asked for is the end of January.

Mr. Irwin: I mean for the actual conference.

Mr. Kissinger: The date for the conference will emerge from the preparations. Don’t give them a date now.

Mr. Irwin: The NSC staff has wanted dates.

Mr. Kissinger: We don’t want a date for the actual meeting of the European Security Conference. A date for the MBFR meetings would be helpful for Congressional reasons.

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We have four basic questions today: 1) a response to the Soviet note; we will get a new draft and circulate it; 2) NATO participation in the MBFR talks; 3) how we prepare for the talks within NATO; and 4) some general substantive discussion on the directions in which we wish to go. We have plenty of time to prepare substantively for these talks. Based on my discussions in Europe, I think it is important that we get our European friends read into our thinking. We can start the education process before we have our own positions in great detail.

On the question of participation,3 I think we’re all agreed that we have to yield to the pressure from the flank countries in some way. Have we ever explained the facts of life to them? Have we pointed out that the Russians may want to trade Bulgarian forces for those of Greece and Turkey? The Soviets would be delighted to expand the number of countries involved but I’m not sure that would be so much in our interest. It could be messy.

Mr. Irwin: The attitude of our allies has favored flank participation or at least observer status for the flank countries. We have stuck to the “no participation” line.

Mr. Kissinger: In practical terms is there any difference between participation and observer status? Does observer mean they can’t talk? I have no reason to oppose flank participation but I wonder what we would really be getting into. If we are absolutely firm in linking MBFR with CES, I think we can get the Soviets to go along with a conference on force reductions in Central Europe. But if we give them any opening, they will try to expand the number of countries, including, even the neutrals perhaps. I think we should go into the January talks with a firm, rigid position. I don’t know which of the proposals is best. The Turks are proposing membership in the talks by a directly concerned state. If we leave this open to discussion we may be giving the Russians an opportunity to play around. Gerry (Smith), what do you think?

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Mr. Smith: If the Russians what to play games they can. The Turkish presence won’t interfere with that. I think we should just put the risks frankly to the Italians and leave it to them.

Mr. Irwin: We could still have them as observers, not participants.

Mr. Kissinger: Do you mean the Turks or the Italians?

Mr. Irwin: It has been suggested that we have one country, representing each flank on a rotating basis.

Mr. Kissinger: Then we’d get Portugal.

Mr. Stoessel: they’re not that interested.

Mr. Helms: Why not have all the flank countries represented? Why only one?

Mr. Stoessel: The Turks are the most vocal. They claim that anything in Europe affects their security.

Mr. Helms: Would the Greeks represent the Turks and the Italians?

Mr. Rush: No one wants them there.

Mr. Irwin: We don’t, but the Europeans are more favorably disposed. We have to decide here whether to try to get them to agree to observer status since we’re prepared to agree to that much.

Mr. Kissinger: If the Soviets are hell-bent on it they will do it. But they may not be hell-bent—they may just think they owe themselves a good run at it. I think we can get the Soviets to go along with a Central European scheme but not without their exercising their mischiefmaking potential.

Mr. Irwin: (to Sonnenfeldt) Did you get any feeling from the NATO countries of their attitude?

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: The NATO countries haven’t confronted the real situation involved. Neither we nor Luns has made the case.

Mr. Irwin: We thought we could do it in the Deputy Foreign Ministers’ meetings on the 11th and 12th. But now it looks as though there will be no meeting. The Europeans say there is no need for a meeting; that the Kissinger trip settled some things and that we don’t need to settle others right now. They want to wait for the December Ministerial meeting.

Mr. Stoessel: they’re hoping to have the participation question settled before then.

Mr. Kissinger: We’ll have to yield if there is real pressure. Let’s find out whether this is what the principals in Brussels are thinking or what their governments are thinking. I don’t know how to get the governments focussed on this.

Mr. Garthoff: The Turkish Foreign Minister has already weighed in strongly—he sees it as a quid pro quo for letting destroyers into the Black Sea.

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Mr. Kissinger: If they’re determined, there’s no way to keep them out, but I don’t think we’ve made our case. Are any of them coming to the UN?

Mr. Irwin: I don’t know—we’ll check.

Mr. Kissinger: I don’t care about the outcome, but we should make the case.

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: We have to settle this before September. The Russians will be preparing for the CSCE meeting and they’ll whiplash us on MBFR.

Mr. Stoessel: The allies may drag their feet on a response to the Soviet note until we come forward on the matter of participation. This may create trouble in the alliance for something that’s not really that important.

Mr. Kissinger: We’ll have to work quietly and quickly.

Mr. Irwin: We’ll have to go to the countries through our Embassies to the Foreign Ministers.

Mr. Kissinger: Can it be done without making too many waves?

Mr. Stoessel: It can be, but we know the Turks and Italians want it. The situation won’t change.

Mr. Kissinger: I don’t like the idea of leaving the question of participation to the January meeting. It gives the Russians a chance to play around with the allies.

Mr. Irwin: No one wants to wait until January. It can and should be done quickly.

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: It we start loading this with our friends, they will load it with theirs. We’ll then have a bloc to bloc confrontation and the whole thing will sink.

Mr. Helms: Great!

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: Except for the reaction in Congress.

Mr. Kissinger: What is the French reaction?

Mr. Stoessel: They are holding themselves apart from the whole exercise. They didn’t speak on the question of participation.

Mr. Kissinger: What is the French reaction on the whole thing? Do they plan to stay out of the conference?

Mr. Stoessel: On MBFR, yes.

Mr. Kissinger: Is there any sense in going back to them to discuss it again?

Mr. Stoessel: they’re dug in.

Mr. Rush: Debre said no.

Mr. Kissinger: When I talked to Pompidou he didn’t say they would participate but he didn’t say under no circumstances would they [Page 349] participate. If they think we are approaching this as a security issue I’m not sure they won’t participate.

Mr. Stoessel: Five-to-one they won’t.

Mr. Rush: There’s a difference in trying to block something and in having an on-going MBFR. They might change their minds.

Mr. Smith: It would mean a complete change in French policy.

Mr. Irwin: They might support non-participation by the flanks.

Mr. Kissinger: It would seem desirable to get them involved in the preparatory work. The French approach to the security issue is similar to ours. I’ve not yet given up on their participation in the conference. We should try to talk to them again.

Mr. Irwin: Let us think about the French and participation and come back to you with a recommendation. We’ll see if another approach is really worth trying. What would be the purpose of having the French participate?

Mr. Kissinger: they’re defense-oriented. We’ll need a tough-minded analysis of what is possible and not possible, and they can be helpful in this. Also, if the French do not participate, I can see the games the Soviets will play.

(Admiral Moorer joined the meeting)

Mr. Selden: Jack Irwin can talk to the Italians and Turkish Foreign Ministers and see if they will change their attitude. He can point out all the difficulties.

Mr. Kissinger: State will come up with a recommendation on this. Some of these people may be coming down to see the President from New York.

Can we now turn to the method of proceeding with NATO. It had been my understanding that we would send a sanitized version of our Evaluation Report to NATO.4

Mr. Irwin: We agree.

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Mr. Rush: But it should be sanitized more than it is now. It would just confuse them. We shouldn’t give the various points of view to our allies. We should wait until we have a position.

Mr. Kissinger: But we won’t have a position for several months.

Mr. Irwin: We can sanitize it more, but we should get it over there quickly.

Mr. Kissinger: We should at least get them the categories. If they don’t get at least that they’ll be off in never-never land.

Mr. Rush: If we give them the options we’ll just get them started off in different directions. We should give them a paper setting forth our objectives and needs.

Mr. Kissinger: There are not that many avenues open to us. We have three chief roads. This will force them to come to grips with the intelligence problem—the real dangers they face. If we give them only one package, they’ll start nit-picking the details of the package. The Evaluation Report leads only in one direction—symmetrical cuts leading to a common ceiling appear to be the best approach, subject to massive verification problems which we want to talk about.

Mr. Irwin: There’s some disagreement between the NSC staff, State and Defense on the common ceiling approach or some reductions from us and as much as we can get on the other side.

Mr. Kissinger: If we’re agreed that something should go to NATO, I can’t judge the degree to which it should be sanitized. Let’s get the Working Group to agree on what should be sanitized.

Mr. Irwin: We think it should go. The Working Group should look at the whole report and at the degree of our support for one approach. These are two separate things. There may well be differences on the latter. Defense wants small cuts, hopes to get more in return, but would settle on the same. I prefer the common ceiling.

Mr. Kissinger: We can use the forward-based argument against them on that.

Mr. Irwin: I have one semantic suggestion. We should stop talking about asymmetry and start talking about equality. The word “asymmetrical” implies we admit it’s not equal.

Mr. Kissinger: That’s a good point.

Mr. Irwin: We want equality—an equal ceiling for both sides.

Mr. Smith: The largest asymmetry is that we are in Western Europe legitimately and the Soviets are in Eastern Europe on a different basis. I can see a reduction of troops on a tacit basis. But if we agree formally that it is legitimate for both sides to have an equal number of troops, we are starting down a slippery slope. The Soviets want anything that will legitimize the presence of their forces in Eastern Europe.

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Mr. Kissinger: What is the alternative? To drop the negotiations?

Mr. Smith: We should continue the negotiations but keep in the back of our minds that we are not making a formal agreement.

Mr. Irwin: If we drop the geographic limitations, theoretically we could have more troops than they could because they could reinforce more quickly. But we know that’s not negotiable.

Mr. Smith: This whole notional structure has borrowed too heavily from SALT where both sides have fielded legitimate forces. In Europe, NATO is positioned for defense and the Soviets for offense. We can stabilize the situation by getting equality. But do we want an agreement registering that they have as much right to be where they are as we do? I should think we would want to keep this as low key as possible.

Mr. Kissinger: What other outcome can there be of a negotiation but an agreement?

Mr. Smith: A tacit understanding.

Mr. Kissinger: Then why negotiate?

Mr. Smith: To find out where agreement is possible.

Mr. Kissinger: We won’t have the problem of how to register the agreement in the near future. I agree that the trend of Soviet policy is to get their position in Europe legitimized. we’ve been saying what a great man Willy Brandt is for two years. It would be tough to reverse this.

Mr. Smith: I’m not suggesting that. I’m suggesting that it might be better if the issue of force withdrawals were not the subject of a solemn treaty.

Mr. Kissinger: We don’t have to face that issue now. Whatever figure we settle on has the effect of producing some legitimacy—whether by asymmetrical or symmetrical cuts.

Mr. Rush: An agreement won’t result in the recognition of our right to keep troops in Western Europe.

Mr. Kissinger: (to Smith) Are there some practical consequences to be considered now before the negotiations start or is this just something we should be thinking about?

Mr. Smith: We might possibly act slightly differently in the interim.

Mr. Kissinger: Nothing can happen until next fall.

Mr. Rush: Unless we have a clear outline of what we want, I’m frightened about moving out troops on the basis of a tacit understanding. The Russians may not understand the same thing tomorrow.

Mr. Kissinger: What they sign today they don’t understand tomorrow. We are agreed, then, to get a better sanitized version of the Evaluation Report and proceed to make it available to our allies. Can [Page 352] we turn now to the substance of our proposal. There are amazing uncertainties in our intelligence. Page 16 of the Evaluation Report5 indicates a 20% uncertainty.

Mr. Odeen: It could be as much as 15% higher or 20% smaller. Our best guess is about in the middle.

Mr. Irwin: The indigenous forces are just as uncertain.

Mr. Kissinger: they’re more uncertain. I’m trying to understand with [what]the uncertainty factor is. What does a 10% cut mean? If we’re talking about division manning with a 20% uncertainty, a 10% cut doesn’t mean a goddamned thing.

Mr. Eagleburger: We can’t really say—it would be lost in the noise level.

Mr. Kissinger: We would have no base with which to compare a cut. We couldn’t just clock 10% moving out. They could be moving some out and some in. How could we manage a treaty unless there was some definition of the point at which we start destroying equipment and withdrawing forces and how. I’m trying to understand it.

Mr. Garthoff: I would suggest putting it in terms of units. We know what 30% of a division is.

Mr. Kissinger: We know what a division headquarters is.

Mr. Garthoff: This would be within a reasonable range of verification.

Mr. Kissinger: We won’t know about the indigenous forces.

Mr. Garthoff: There are some uncertainties on our own side. We don’t know exactly how many troops we have there.

Mr. Odeen: If we operate at division levels, we have some verification means through communications. They could, of course, feed back individuals into other units which would be beyond our capabilities to detect.

Mr. Smith: This would argue for some joint committee to develop ways to demonstrate fulfillment of the agreement. The Soviets apparently acquiesced in some on-site inspection in connection with the satellites. There may be some sort of device for this.

Mr. Kissinger: We should get a more precise definition from the Working Group of what exactly we are asking them to do. Suppose we want to make our cuts by individuals and theirs by units? What arguments [Page 353] would we use? The probable outcome would be symmetrical in that sense. Does anyone think that kind of agreement is obtainable?

Mr. Stoessel: We would leave the equipment for our units.

Mr. Kissinger: What if we asked for compensation in return for geography?

Mr. Odeen: If we pull out people, we can get them back in the same time as units. Also it would be more verifiable.

Mr. Kissinger: Let’s get the Working Group looking at what we would ask them to do if we want to move units out.

Mr. Odeen: We’ll do some more work with CIA.

Mr. Kissinger: Can we do anything to improve verifiability?

Mr. Helms: It depends on how well we have penetrated the Warsaw Pact forces.

Mr. Smith: I wonder if the Soviet attitude on inspection will be the same in this kind of deal. Before they were worried about penetration of the Soviet Union proper.

Mr. Kissinger: That would be a very good thing to do.

Mr. Helms: The Military Mission in Berlin worked quite well in this area. But when you come to saying someone has violated something, secret agents make bad witnesses.

Mr. Kissinger: Is there any way we can improve our knowledge? On equipment, 20% uncertainty; on artillery, 40%; on aircraft, 20%.

Mr. Helms: We can improve on that with a little time. The major categories are a common ceiling, symmetrical reductions, very close to each other, and mixed packages. I haven’t seen any package which knew how to handle air forces.

Adm. Moorer: They can move in hours.

Mr. Kissinger: The problem won’t get any easier once we start talking.

Adm. Moorer: I don’t know that that’s the place to start.

Mr. Kissinger: I’m not saying it’s the place to start, but we need to have a position by the time the talks start. Would a 10% cut include air forces? If it did, would it include planes? personnel?

Adm. Moorer: We should start with the ground forces. The basis of our approach should be as simple as possible. It will be hard enough to verify. Trade-offs can get very complicated.

Mr. Kissinger: We need some analytical basis for knowing how to respond to a Russian proposal—what it would do to us. Also whether an x% cut has the same connotation. The difference is what they would do. These could be analyzed together. Are we talking about only manpower? Equipment? What equipment? Is equipment a difficult problem for them?

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Mr. Helms: It’s even more difficult for us than for them. We have 3000 miles of water to get across. I think we have to decide where we stick our flag and then stay with it.

Mr. Smith: We might adjust the focus of our verification. 18,000 troops can’t affect the balance in Europe. It’s not the same as dealing with strategic forces which could upset world balance. The Soviets could bring in troops without our knowing it. Maybe they already have and we’ve been living with it. We shouldn’t apply a stiffer standard under an agreement. Our intelligence limitations won’t let us. We would know if it something serious were going on.

Mr. Helms: Has anyone ever determined a margin of safety?

Mr. Kissinger: We have tables of how long it would take to various river lines. If this means that we need stricter inspection than we would be willing to live with under unilateral means then we should talk about it.

Mr. Smith: If the Soviets cheated we would resume our freedom of action.

Mr. Kissinger: How can we get our own thinking further advanced? I have no sense of any dynamic purpose. We are sliding into this conference and our only chance of success depends on our knowing what we’re doing. Dick (Helms), can you do some more work on the verification problems. Try to do it in categories with greater precision. The Working Group will put together some concrete packages of what we are asking them to do—who can do what under various kinds of cuts. Let’s meet again in two or three weeks. Then the whole thing will go before the President in an NSC meeting.

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: On the question of on-site inspection, we have a massive history of discussions with the Russians going back to May 10, 1955.6

Mr. Irwin: What about CSCE? Do we want two Foreign Ministers’ meetings?

Mr. Kissinger: Before or in lieu of Heads of Government meetings?

Mr. Irwin: We say one Foreign Ministers meeting. The Russians want one Foreign Ministers meeting and one Heads of Government meeting. The Europeans want two Foreign Ministers meetings.

Mr. Kissinger: Let’s leave this question open until we see what happens at the first meeting.

Mr. Irwin: Is anyone pushing on this?

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Mr. Stoessel: No one’s pushing. It would be a good idea to discuss this at the Deputy Foreign Ministers meeting but we need a clearer idea of what we want.

Mr. Kissinger: Let’s take a holding position.

Mr. Rush: It would be a mistake to have two Foreign Ministers meetings.

Mr. Kissinger: It would be a mistake to lock ourselves in now.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–113, SRG Meeting Minutes, Originals, 1972–73. Secret; Nodis. The meeting took place in the White House Situation Room.
  2. Reference is to a draft cable prepared by Shaw and Streator on September 19 for discussion at the meeting; it was forwarded to Kissinger on September 20. The draft cable, along with a covering memorandum prepared by Odeen and Sonnenfeldt, are in the Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 27, Chronological File.
  3. In a briefing memorandum to Kissinger, September 18, Odeen and Sonnenfeldt wrote: “All the agencies are prepared to cave in on the issue of participation and allow a representative of each ‘flank’ to attend the explorations as an advisor to delegations of directly interested Allied states. This approach may not satisfy the Turks, Italians, and others who want a flank representative to participate fully with a right to speak in both explorations and negotiations.” Odeen and Sonnenfeldt suggested three options: “Agree to the Turkish proposal, which has near unanimous support in NATO,” “allow a representative from each flank to attend explorations as a member of a delegation of a directly interested state,” or “propose to the Allies that the question of participation will be taken up at the January MBFR meeting with a view to including flank participants in the negotiations if this does not cause the Soviets to expand the area of reductions.” They recommended “the latter alternative with a fallback to the second alternative if necessary.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–065, Verification Panel/SRG Group Meeting, MBFR, 9/20/72, 1 of 3)
  4. In their briefing memorandum of September 18, Odeen and Sonnenfeldt wrote: “ OSD opposes sending any version of the Evaluation Report to NATO on the grounds that all the Allies want and need is a statement of U.S. preferences, not more analysis. Privately, OSD representatives are candid enough to admit that their real concern is that sending the Report to NATO will make it more difficult to get a U.S. decision along the lines they prefer (step-by-step negotiations starting with a force ceiling plus collateral constraints and leading to small, probably symmetrical, initial reductions).” Odeen and Sonnenfeldt added: “OJCS has been pressured by OSD into opposing sending the Report to NATO on the grounds that it might ‘confuse’ the Allies. However, we have been informed privately that JCS opposition is pro forma, and if a decision is made to send it, they will say the sanitized version is a good one.”
  5. The evaluation report, “MBFR Issues and Approaches to Reductions,” September 1972, prepared by the interagency working group on MBFR, is in the Ford Library, NSC Program Analysis Staff, Steve Hadley MBFR Files, Box 58, MBFR Evaluation Report (Aug. 72). An analytical summary of the report prepared by the NSC staff is in the National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–065, Verification Panel/SRG Group Meeting, MBFR, 9/20/72, 1 of 3.
  6. An apparent reference to President Eisenhower’s “Open Skies” proposal of July 21, 1955, in which he proposed that the United States and the Soviet Union open their skies for aerial inspections by the other side. The Soviet Union rejected the proposal.