125. Editorial Note

During the second half of January 1973, President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs Kissinger held a series of confidential exchanges with West German Minister for Special Tasks Bahr and Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin regarding the Soviet draft declaration on European security (see Document 124), draft mandates for a European security conference, and the opening of mutual and balanced force reduction talks.

On January 17, Bahr wrote in a confidential message to Kissinger in German: “Moscow informed the Chancellor [Brandt] about the draft resolution for the Helsinki Conference and also expressed a willingness to accept an exchange of observers [for military maneuvers] as a confidence-building measure and a minimum of cultural exchange and human contacts. This led the Chancellor to state that he considers substantial progress to be possible. I would be glad if we could agree to a substantive response to the Soviet ideas within the next two to three weeks.” Bahr’s message to Kissinger was attached to a memorandum from Sonnenfeldt to Kissinger, January 18. Sonnenfeldt wrote: “Bahr also informed you that the Soviets had given the Germans the text of their CSCE resolution (which you already knew, I think) and had told them of their readiness to accept the idea of confidence-building measures, including observers at maneuvers, and a separate item on cultural and human contacts. This corresponds to Dobrynin’s talking points given you the other day. The Soviets, incidentally, also gave the French a similar preview, with the additional point that they could accept advance notification of maneuvers as far east as the Western USSR. Curiously, Bahr does not say that the Soviets gave them a preview of their MBFR note. Bahr suggests to you that in the next two to three weeks we conform our responses to the Soviet suggestions on CSCE.” [Page 383] Sonnenfeldt attached a draft response to Bahr from Kissinger, dated January 18, which Kissinger initialed. The special-channel message to Bahr reads in part: “As regards CSCE, I would be interested in your comments on the substantive points in the Soviet draft declaration. I agree that we should discuss it in order to develop a common response.” (Ford Library, KissingerScowcroft West Wing Office Files, Box 35, West Germany, Egon Bahr, Correspondence, #115–119; translated from the German by the editor)

On January 18, 1973, the Soviet Foreign Ministry presented the Embassy in Moscow with a note in response to the U.S. invitation of November 15, 1972, to the Soviet Union to attend talks on force reductions in Europe. The note reads in part: “The Soviet Government states its willingness to begin preparatory consultations toward negotiations on reducing armed forces and armaments in Europe on January 31, 1973. As far as the place for conducting consultations is concerned, we propose that they take place in Vienna (Austria).” The note continues: “The Soviet Government proceeds from the premise that reducing armed forces and armaments will involve in the first instance Central Europe. We have no objections to the proposal of the U.S. Government, contained in its note of November 15, 1972, concerning participation in the preparatory consultations by Belgium, Great Britain, Hungary, German Democratic Republic, Greece, Denmark, Italy, Canada, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, USSR, USA, Turkey, Federal Republic of Germany, and Czechoslovakia. In addition, the Soviet Government considers that also other European states who indicate an appropriate interest should have the right to participate in such consultations on an equal basis. If some NATO countries prefer to participate in the consultations as observers and in rotation, as follows from the proposals of November 15, 1972, there is no objection to this.” (Telegram 627 from Moscow, January 18; National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, DEF 6 EUR)

The following day, Kissinger and Dobrynin discussed the Soviet note. A transcript of their telephone conversation on January 19 at 9:22 a.m. reads in part: “K[issinger]: Oh, one other suggestion I had for your consideration about that conference, the MBFR preliminary agenda conference. I was wondering, you have accepted the list of participants we have, but you said we should also invite all the others. D[obrynin]: Well, there was … K: I understand. Let me make this compromise suggestion to you. Supposing we stick, we have the original conference that will be composed of the countries that we’ve proposed. And that then we will agree at the conference to invite anybody else who wants to be heard. D: In this way original conference will be invited. K: They will say any other European country which wants to express its views should come to the meeting. D: No, no, I would like to understand. Because now … K: That was in our original letter. D: Yes, and when they [Page 384] come in after some deliberations. K: Well, we could decide that. For example, after they come to Vienna they could do it. D: After they come to Vienna. And then proceed [omission in transcript]organ of conference which will handle it. K: That’s right. D: The only difference is between … K: The original group and the working group. D: So the only real difference between your proposal and our proposal is that at the very beginning whether it should be invited all who want to participate, but when they arrive, then there will be a committee which will handle all the things. Your other proposal begins with … K: Who will then invite other countries. D: Okay, you make it as preliminary remarks. K: Right, and on Vienna as a site, I can tell you informally we are quite favorable, but we don’t want to spend an enormous amount of capital with our allies to force them to do it. D: Yeah, I understand. K: But frankly, I mean this is between you and me, the British have been especially difficult, and we have now told them that they should be a little more quiet. This is strictly between you and me. D: My feeling is this proposal you mentioned, this is now so to speak in our confidential channel … K: That’s right, but we haven’t told the State Department yet. D: No, I understand. But this is [omission in transcript] because I will mention to Moscow that I talked to you … K: We’ll support that. D: So in this case we still have now a proposal. K: That’s correct.” Dobrynin called again at 2:25 p.m. to clarify Kissinger’s remarks. (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, Henry A. Kissinger Telephone Transcripts (Telcons), Box 18, Chronological File)

On January 24, the North Atlantic Council announced in a press release that the Allied countries had replied to the notes from the five Warsaw Pact states inviting them to exploratory talks on MBFR, including the Soviet note to the United States of January 18, and had accepted January 31, 1973, as the opening date for consultations. On the venue of the talks, the press release noted that although “full advantage should be taken of the preparations that have already been made in Geneva,” “Vienna is not ruled out if satisfactory arrangements can be made there in time.” With regard to participants, the press release cautioned that although the Warsaw Pact states had accepted the list of participants proposed by NATO countries for the preparatory talks, the “question of participation” in the MBFR talks would exercise “a significant influence upon the development and results of the proposed talks.” The issue of participation in the actual talks, however, could be “further discussed at the exploratory talks themselves.” (Telegram 392 from USNATO, January 24; ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, DEF 6 EUR)

On January 24 at 5:49 p.m., Dobrynin phoned Kissinger to discuss the European security conference and MBFR. With regard to the European security conference, a transcript of their telephone conversation reads in part: “D: I have just two paragraphs from Gromyko. One is about the European Conference. K: Yeah. D: You remember, you suggested [Page 385] there was a little bit of distress with you that as a preliminary you suggested consultations, to make two or three phrases expressing what is in each point. K: Yeah. D: [omission in transcript] a mandate protocol or explanation of … K: Right. D: So, they discussed [omission in transcript] about it, and they thought this idea, and they gave me the letter to give to you and to the President our draft of [omission in transcript]. There are two or three phrases, maybe, no more. Points of the agenda. K: Can you send them over? D: Yes. I will send it to you.” Dobrynin informed Kissinger that he would also be sending over a document on MBFR. “D: OK. The only thing in the second point is [omission in transcript] on about one point of Hungary, I would like to tell you orally when you read it. You remember the question, one, why we need Hungary. K: Yeah. D: Well, we give serious relation [consideration?] to this one. But it is a remark only for your consideration. Please do not tell anyone in State Department or to your allies. If you or some other countries make a real and feel that Hungary should be included not only as participant but then as negotiators the reduction troops from their territories, too. [sic] We could agree only under the provisions that they are prepared to do it, but then we will invite Italy to do the same. (Laughter) This is not impudent but [omission in transcript] because really the number of states which you propose includes all the members of the Warsaw Treaty [omission in transcript]. At the same time the socialist countries, you know, are easily stored [sic]. K: I understand. D: So even [omission in transcript], but if you read it, you will soon be agreed on the condition of Italy’s [omission in transcript]. K: Well, now may I … you know that joke where Ribbentrop before the war went to a dinner party and met Churchill. D: What about? K: And Ribbentrop said, the next war will be different. We have Italy on our side. And Churchill said, that’s only fair, we had them last time. D: (laughs).” (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, Henry A. Kissinger Telephone Transcripts (Telcons), Box 18, Chronological File)

Later that day, Dobrynin’s talking points on the “all-European conference” and on “reduction of troops to Europe” were delivered to Kissinger. The talking points on the European security conference listed “draft assignments for committees” at the conference, including “the first point of the agenda (European security),” “the second point of the agenda (economic cooperation),” “the third point of the agenda (cultural cooperation),” and “the fourth point of the agenda (regarding the creation of the Committee).” Both sets of talking points are ibid., Kissinger Office Files, Box 77, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Moscow Trip, CSCE.

On January 25, Kissinger wrote in a special-channel message to Bahr: “Dobrynin has given me the texts of mandates for the Committees of the CSCE based on the four point agenda which the Soviets have already tabled in Helsinki. The mandates proposed by the Soviets are [Page 386] much briefer than those tabled by the West, exclude any reference to confidence-building measures but include a mandate for the consultative committee which the Soviets want to have created by the CSCE. I have not so far informed our own agencies about this Soviet document and want to withhold comment to Dobrynin until I have a reaction from you. Dobrynin says the Soviets have provided the same texts to you and the French. Given the great interest which the European Nine have taken in the Western mandates tabled in Helsinki, I would greatly appreciate your judgment on how we might best proceed in the situation that now exists. There seem to be two basic choices: (1) attempt to work out a compromise between the Western and Soviet texts, a task that presumably will take a considerable amount of time and work, or (2) take the position that all suggestions for mandates should be given to the CSCE Committees when they begin their work. At Helsinki we would, under this choice, simply settle on the agenda headings. We are prepared to take the first course together with you. Your reaction would be extremely helpful.” Bahr replied in a message to Kissinger in German on January 26: “I held out the prospect to the Soviets of a response for next week at the earliest because we will be able to determine our preference on the matter only this weekend. I will let you know for certain on Monday at the latest through this channel.” (Ford Library, KissingerScowcroft West Wing Office Files, Box 35, West Germany, Egon Bahr, Correspondence, #115–119; translated from the German by the editor)

On January 25, Kissinger and Dobrynin discussed the latter’s talking points on MBFR during a telephone conversation at 6:30 p.m. A transcript of the conversation reads in part: “K: All right. On MBFR, let me tell you what we will do. First, in your reply, you insist on Vienna. You know, in a nice way. D: Yeah. K: The United States will support you. D: Yes. K: Secondly, on membership. We think the easiest solution would be the following, although that’s essentially what I already told you at lunch. If you would accept our participants and if you would propose Romania and Bulgaria as observers, then we would agree at the Conference. If you want to exclude Hungary from the working group, we will agree with you. D: No, no; it’s not quite clear. Because as of now, it’s not really question about—really we don’t specifically worry about Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria. Really, it is not a problem for us. Because we discussed it with our allies and we could handle it in one way or another. So the question really I would like a more clearer [statement?] of your position. Well, there was a proposal originally—K: You see, the problem with us is if we exclude these southern countries now, I just can’t imagine how we’re going to handle it. D: This was a proposal you can invite all of them. K: But we don’t want to invite the neutrals. D: Oh, this is a problem.” Dobrynin then raised Moscow’s concern that MBFR not become a bloc-to-bloc negotiation: [Page 387]

D: One is proposing otherwise your very clear position bloc to bloc, Henry. It is so clear, bloc to bloc. There is no other way to do this. Because You’re just proposing exactly bloc to bloc. K: Well, is that bad? D: You know when you discuss in Moscow—at least in my presence—Gromyko tried to explain and in the presence of Brezhnev, and you just shake hands and said: Well, all right, though you don’t quite understand what does it mean, what you said (laughter) all right to. This I do remember. More than that, this is in a communiqué—or rather the paper you receive from us. You asked us to give you, and we give you paper. That is, everything you asked. That was in written form, and one phrase which is—and this would be on non-bloc, bloc [basis?]. So now you coming back to bloc basis.”

Kissinger subsequently phoned Sonnenfeldt to discuss Dobrynin’s remarks. Atranscript of their telephone conversation at 6:30 p.m. reads in part: “K: Hal, I just talked to Dobrynin. And he says they can’t accept this. S[onnenfeldt]: They cannot? K: Now what he proposes is that we take this working group; that we confine the meeting to the working group, the preliminary meeting. And then say the working group has the right to invite others. And that we can propose the southern flank, and they’ll propose anyone else, including neutrals.” After briefly discussing the Soviet position, Kissinger asked, “Do you want to talk to Stoessel and see what he thinks?” Sonnenfeldt replied, “Yeah, if I can locate him someplace.”

The following morning, January 26, Kissinger and Stoessel discussed the Soviet proposal over the phone. “S[toessel]: On that MBFR business—I reflected on it, accounted [sic] with Hal also, and the way I come out is probably best to go for this restricted list. K: OK, and then have them come back in their note with a restricted list minus Hungary. S: Yeah. K: With the right then to invite others whose views should be hard. S: That’s right. Now they might want to say something to the effect that Hungary has informed them that it does not wish to participate. It’ll be a bit transparent, but that might help a bit. K: OK. S: Then we’ll take a lot of flak from the flag [flank?] countries, but I think we can handle it. K: OK. Good.”

In a phone conversation, apparently on January 26, Kissinger and Dobrynin discussed once again the convocation of troop reduction talks. A transcript of their telephone conversation, marked “done before 27 Jan 1973,” reads in part: “D: Well, Henry, I received from Gromyko answer on this troop reduction business. Well, we agreed really what you suggest. In a sense just let them arrive, and we consider that it will be this way, that they will arrive—the Committee comes to Vienna because on the others we agreed upon. K: Right. D: And the idea is that they will arrive before the 31st of January, and ideas will begin effect on the date that was agreed upon in Moscow between you [Page 388] and Brezhnev—the 31st as you suggested. At the same time there will be representatives of Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania, East Germany and [omission in transcript], practically all from our side. And we assume all yours will be there at the beginning. Then they will discuss—I mean, about those who will compose this body for making decision along those lines we discussed upon. K: All right. D: And during this consultation we reserve the right to raise when it will be [omission in transcript]necessary about this neutral countries just as the right to raise during this preliminary consultation. K: Right. D: As you I understand reserve your right to exercise it. K: Right. D: (laughter) This is my impression, yes? K: That is correct. D: So this is answer just for you. K: But you will give us a formal answer?” At this point, Dobrynin confirmed that the Soviet Union would give a formal response to the Western notes of January 24 on January 27. He then read to Kissinger the text of the Soviet response before its official delivery. The telephone conversation continued: “K: Well, Anatol, you tell Gromyko that he has made a big effort and we will make a big effort. D: [omission in transcript] So, now, Henry, I hope by the way on both points—on European Conference, you remember, you sent to me your position? K: Yes, I have been in touch with Bahr. And he promised me an answer by Monday. D: Yeah, it will be very soon. K: And as soon as I—We are not the obstacle on that. D: I know. K: We can concert with the Europeans. And I will get in touch with the French after Rogers is out of there because they get too confused about our channels of communication.” Dobrynin then discussed the Soviet draft agenda (mandates) and draft declaration for the European security conference (see Document 124). “D: But the only clear position I would like to make—please make sure that your Delegation in Helsinki—I am not thinking about the final document because they don’t know about it—but I think about the so-to-speak mandate. K: Yeah. But I have to get some agreement from the Europeans first, Anatol. D: I know but—K: As soon as I have heard from Bahr, I will—D: I understand, but I think still a certain kind is up to you what kind of a preliminary they have to actually—on a working level they will—K: Yeah, I will—D: They shouldn’t necessarily know that we are already involved on a high level but—K: No, no, I will calm them down. D: Yes, because otherwise in a little bit they will say some suggestions or objections and our people, without knowing it, they will report to Moscow Americans making fuss. So you see. K: No, I will calm them down.” (All of the transcripts of telephone conversations are in the National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Henry A. Kissinger Telephone Transcripts (Telcons), Box 18, Chronological File)

On January 27, Bahr wrote to Kissinger in a confidential message in German: “We will decide at the end of the week about the reply to [Page 389] the Soviets. Your opinion regarding the following thoughts would be very important to me. I will propose to say the following to the Soviets: ‘We will limit ourselves in Helsinki to determining the agenda headlines and designating the commissions, whose task will be to work out resolutions in the second phase of the conference. In doing this, they can make use of the various proposed mandates as working material.’ If the Soviets accept the proposal, we will save time in Helsinki and avoid the risk of having to reach a compromise between the different conceptions of mandates, which would leave both sides dissatisfied, which could prove later to be an obstruction in working out the resolutions, and which in any case would not yet resolve the basic problems with regard to the resolutions. If the Soviets do not accept the proposal, our tactical position will then improve for the then necessary working out of compromise formulas for the mandates. I do not fail to recognize the difficulties of achieving the agreement of all the Allies to this proposal. In this regard, I would be interested in knowing how the French will react to the Soviet papers. We have not discussed it with them.”

On January 29, Kissinger replied in a special-channel message to Bahr: “Your proposed reply to the Soviets corresponds to our own present thinking. If you should decide to proceed along that line, I think we could support it. It would be important to have your judgment how other Western governments would react, especially since the Nine took the lead in developing the detailed mandates tabled by the West. Would you be able to take a major role in persuading the European Allies that this is the wisest course to take? Should the Soviets refuse to accept the compromise solution of postponing the use of the various mandate proposals until the second phase, we do, as you indicate, face the problem of working out agreed mandate formulations. In this regard, what is your judgment as to the acceptability of the short Soviet version given to you and us? Incidentally, we have not talked to the French about the Soviet papers and have no private information regarding their attitude due to the absence of their Ambassador, who is our channel to Pompidou. In both contingencies, we have the problem of the Soviet proposal for some post-conference machinery. I would be interested in your view of this problem.” (Both in Ford Library, KissingerScowcroft West Wing Office Files, Box 35, West Germany, Egon Bahr, Correspondence, Unindexed [1]; translated from the German by the editor)

On January 27, the Soviet Foreign Ministry delivered to the Embassy in Moscow its reply to the Western notes of January 24 on MBFR preparatory talks. The note reads in part: “The Soviet Government is sending to Vienna, Austria, by January 31, 1973, its representatives to conduct with representatives of other European States, the USA and Canada preparatory consultations on the question of mutual reductions of armed forces and armaments in Europe. The Soviet side proceeds [Page 390] from the premise that there will be determined already in the course of the preparatory consultations—through exchange of opinions both on a multilateral and a bilateral basis between representatives of the interested states assembled in Vienna—the composition of participants in a possible agreement or agreements concerning reduction of armed forces and armaments in Europe, on which in essence there are no disagreements…. In this, it stands to reason that those countries which will be reducing their own armed forces and armaments, as well as countries on whose territory forces subject to reduction are located, should participate in examining and deciding the substance of questions.” (Telegram 976 from Moscow, January 27; National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, DEF 6 EUR) On January 31, representatives of Eastern and Western states gathered in Vienna to discuss preparations for talks on mutual and balanced force reductions.

On February 9, Bahr replied to Kissinger’s message of January 29. In his confidential message, Bahr wrote: “Due to developments in Helsinki, I consider it no longer possible to pursue at this time my proposal of January 27. The Soviets have tabled in the meantime a part of their draft mandates. The discussion is in full swing. The other Western governments and the neutral states would not understand it if we now speak out in favor of breaking off the discussion and agree only to agenda headlines. If the negotiations in Helsinki come to a standstill, it will have to be decided whether to return to the earlier thoughts. Until then, we will work toward reaching an agreement on the basis of the Western proposals regarding the mandates for commissions and sub-commissions. I am positively inclined with regard to the question of follow-on organs because I see in them the possibility to secure for the United States an additional, institutionally-anchored right to participation in Europe. However, we have not yet discussed this question with the other Western governments. I am quite clear that there will be difficulties within the Alliance in reaching a common position. We must reach an understanding in the near future regarding how internal agreements can be reached for the shaping of opinion in the West. It can already be seen in Helsinki and Vienna that these multilateral events are much more difficult to navigate than something like the Berlin negotiations. Internally, the MBFR enterprise will be relatively easier for me than the enterprise of CSCE.” (Ford Library, KissingerScowcroft West Wing Office Files, Box 35, West Germany, Egon Bahr, Unindexed [1]; translated from the German by the editor)