123. Memorandum From Helmut Sonnenfeldt of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • Your Discussion with Dobrynin on CSCE

You asked for a paper that you might give Dobrynin. Bill2 and I have constructed a paper that addresses those issues that will probably trouble the Soviets once they digest the agenda, the committee structure, and the mandates that the West will table this week. (I sent you the Western document and comments on it while you were in Paris.)3 It assumes that we want to cooperate with the Soviets to the extent that cooperation does not pit us against the Allies.


Date. We are committed to convene the conference in June, and most of the CSCE participants go along with this date. The problem is that some of our Allies condition this date on adequate progress in the preparatory talks, which could be defined in fairly stringent terms—such as full agreement on mandates for committees.

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The Soviets will want to pin down the date (and the Helsinki site) without conditions. The obvious compromise path is to move simultaneously in Helsinki by fixing a tentative date while pursuing the agenda discussions.

There are some indications that the Soviets might want an earlier date than June. The French have mentioned April, and the Franco-Soviet communiqué4 refers to the “nearest months to come.” You might ask Dobrynin if they are considering another date. While we would not oppose it in principle, there are some practical problems if there is to be a Brezhnev visit in May, or Presidential travel to Europe in April.

Mandates. The origin of the mandates for the working committees is the EC Nine, under active French leadership (you should not accept Dobrynin’s accusation of US blame for this approach). While the EC countries set considerable store by these mandates, there is no consensus on their disposition. The Western countries would prefer to negotiate agreed mandates, but realize the Soviets may not be willing. The USSR may decide, however, to table its own mandates or declarations so as not to be confined to Western texts. A viable compromise is to settle for a thorough discussion of the Western mandates and any Soviet or other proposals and agree that they will be considered by the relevant committees, but do not require prior agreement.

Military Security Issues. As reported to you in the earlier memorandum, the Western “confidence building measures” are minimal and have been supported by US in an effort to head off broader issues. Some of our Allies—Belgium and the Dutch—will probably break ranks, and Yugoslavia and Romania will almost certainly make some proposals on force movements and on MBFR. The real problem for the Soviets, therefore, is that this agenda item opens the door to a militarysecurity debate. This is also a problem for us.

We can probably hold the line on our present proposals and develop an agreement on announcing major maneuvers and inviting observers which would represent a statement of intention, but not a legal or political commitment.

Our ability to work this out with the Soviets and the Allies would be facilitated by a smooth MBFR preparatory meeting, which may placate some of the Allies. Nevertheless, Yugoslavia and Romania will try to force more military issues into the discussion.


Permanent Machinery. This is a Soviet desideratum that will be countered in the first instance by our concept of subsuming the issue within the mandates of the committees and using existing institutions. These committees might create some limited ad hoc groups to work beyond the Conference’s termination. In other words, there might, for example, be an ad hoc economic group established to complete some specified work.

What the Soviets want, however, is some kind of pseudo political organ or secretariat that could serve as a bridge to the next conference, and perhaps allow some Soviet interference in Western affairs.

The current status is that the EC Nine have suggested to the NATO Allies a fallback position to inscribe on the agenda a separate item called “Follow-On to Recommendations and Results of the Conference.” This would be undefined for now and negotiated after other work had been completed, and the participants could judge whether some follow-on machinery was necessary. Given the commitment of most Europeans to a successful Conference, it is likely that they will fall into some compromise scheme with the Soviets on permanent machinery.

This allows us some room to appear cooperative with the Soviets: (a) we can avoid opposing inscription on the agenda, (b) discuss the purposes and functions of the machinery before the ministers adopt the agenda.

In the attached paper (Tab A), which you may wish to give Dobrynin,5 each of the foregoing compromises is set forth as a position on which the US could cooperate with the USSR in the Conference.

If you give this to Dobrynin, it will be important that when you come to some understanding with Dobrynin that arrangements will be made on this staff to permit the required monitoring and steering of the daily work in Helsinki to move to whatever agreements you have accepted.

At Tab A is the paper for Dobrynin.

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Tab A6

The United States will continue to support the convocation of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe in June, 1973. It would facilitate agreement on this date by all participants, if there is progress in establishing an agenda.

We should aim for agreement on an agenda in as much detail as possible, and a general understanding of which committees would be established by the Foreign Ministers when they meet in June.

It would also be desirable to discuss the terms of reference or mandates for these committees and to consider proposals by all the participants including any documents the USSR might submit. Committee mandates need not be finally agreed at this time, if it is understood that the proposals made in this phase would be promptly considered by the working committees once these committees were established.

In light of the known views of many participants, it is unavoidable that the Conference should consider certain military security measures that will be useful in creating confidence in Europe. The US supports two limited measures: announcement in advance of major military maneuvers and invitations for observers to attend these maneuvers. In our view both measures could be voluntary and it would be left to each party to determine their implementation. Although a number of countries hold strong views on military security measures, the US is prepared to work to limit the military security measures to these items.

The US has considered the idea of establishing an institution to follow the work of the Conference after its formal adjournment. It would be preferable to handle as much as possible of the post-conference work through existing institutions or through temporary organs that might be required under each agenda heading. The US will not oppose inscription on the provisional agenda of items related to the establishment of a permanent organ. Before consideration of this by the Foreign Ministers and the opening of work by the Committees, there should be further discussions in this channel on the purposes and functions of a permanent institution. In any case, detailed discussion of this issue at Helsinki should logically come after discussion of other agenda items.

The US is willing to work with the Soviet side on the foregoing questions.

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 214, Geopolitical File, Soviet Union, Dobrynin, Anatoliy, Background Papers (“Talkers”), Jan. 1972–Feb. 1973. Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. Sent for action. Kissinger wrote on an attached routing memorandum, “Good paper.”
  2. William Hyland.
  3. According to a memorandum from Sonnenfeldt to Kissinger, January 11, he forwarded a copy of telegram 160 from USNATO, January 10, which discussed these issues, to Kissinger as telegram Tohak 85. Sonnenfeldt’s memorandum of January 11, along with telegram 160 (attached), is in National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 248, Agency Files, CSCE and MBFR.
  4. Pompidou met with Brezhnev in the Soviet Union January 11–12. A joint communiqué issued after the meeting reads in part: “The USSR and France attached great importance to the all-European conference on security and cooperation, and confirmed their determination to do all they could to ensure that the multilateral preparatory consultations in Helsinki brought about an early mutual agreement, and also to ensure that the conference itself was convened as soon as possible in the coming months.” (Keesing’s Contemporary Archives, 1973, p. 25740B)
  5. Kissinger handed the paper to Dobrynin on January 17. No record of the meeting between Kissinger and Dobrynin on January 17 has been found, but see Document 143.
  6. No classification marking.