122. Memorandum From Secretary of State Rogers to President Nixon 1


  • CSCE Multilateral Preparatory Talks
[Page 371]

Initial preparatory talks for CSCE, which opened November 22 at Helsinki, adjourned December 15. Progress was limited largely to procedural questions. The central issue of current East-West disagreement—the extent to which substantive issues will be tackled in the preparatory phase—will be addressed when talks resume January 15. The atmosphere of the talks thus far has been cordial and devoid of acrimony.

The representatives of the 34 participating states have proceeded at a deliberate pace, reaching agreement prior to the December 15 recess only on rules of procedure for the talks and—as a working hypothesis—on a three-stage format for CSCE (initial meeting of foreign ministers; detailed preparations in committees; concluding high-level meeting).

The Soviets pressed unsuccessfully for rapid agreement on “practical matters” like the agenda, organization, date and venue of the conference. However, a majority, including all the NATO Allies, held that CSCE must be carefully prepared through consideration of substantive questions at the Helsinki talks. Similarly, the Soviet preference for no holiday recess, or only a very short one, found no support outside the Warsaw Pact delegations.

In conformity with our positive approach to CSCE, I have instructed our delegation to make every effort to avoid polemical exchanges at Helsinki. It has developed good working relations with the Soviet delegation, while side-stepping several Soviet suggestions for stage-managing the proceedings through private understandings with us.

I am encouraged that the NATO Allies have approached the issues in a firm, businesslike manner, while holding frequent informal consultations in which the French usually participated. These inter-Allied discussions at Helsinki have meshed smoothly with the parallel consultations among the EC Nine. On the Warsaw Pact side, the Romanians boldly established an independent position from the outset, while the others have marched in lock-step with the Soviets.

When the talks resume in January, they will return to the disputed issue of the work program. Most delegations, despite Soviet objections, have insisted that it include the elaboration of terms of reference for the various preparatory committees that are likely to begin their work in phase two of CSCE itself, following the initial meeting of foreign ministers. When the work program for the preparatory talks is agreed upon, discussions will then likely turn to the CSCE agenda, where I expect two difficult issues to arise: the NATO proposal for discussion of the freer movement issue as a separate agenda topic; and Warsaw Pact insistence upon an agenda heading permitting consideration of the establishment of a permanent organization for European security and cooperation.

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At that point, I would expect renewed press interest in the talks, stimulated by the prospect of controversy. Our delegation will continue its restrained approach in briefing media representatives, but experience suggests that others will speak more freely. We also will continue to work with our Allies to avoid exaggerated media emphasis upon the East-West differences that will inevitably come into the open as the talks proceed.

William P. Rogers
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 248, Agency Files, CSCE and MBFR. Confidential. Hyland wrote on an attached correspondence profile: “No action necessary.”