126. Memorandum for the President’s Files by the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • Meeting with Prime Minister Heath and Sir Burke Trend, Friday, February 2, 1973, 4:00 p.m. Camp David

[Omitted here is discussion of matters other than the European security conference or MBFR.]

The President saw the East-West situation in the following light: The Western heads of government would be meeting at a time when the Soviets had achieved strategic parity and had no public opinion to worry about. The Chinese were gaining ground in the world. There was a great isolationist current proceeding in the world, and the spreading fashionable view of détente at any price. This put the West at a serious bargaining disadvantage. On the plus side, there was the Sino-Soviet split. It was hard to understand the reasons for the Soviet view, given their style; the Chinese view of the situation was easier to comprehend. The President thought that this major split was likely to last. The Russians could never be too sure of Eastern Europe. Just as we in the West had the problem of a race to Moscow, in the East there was a race towards the West. At the Security Conference they wanted to talk about exchanges in contacts; this was for them running a risk of disintegration. That was our opportunity. There was a problem of Europe becoming inward-looking. We could stall on the European Conference, but public opinion would not permit it. People needed hope without giving up anything substantial.

The United States would play the Sino-Soviet game to the hilt. Their rivalry was desirable. We would reassure the Chinese in the case of Soviet attack.

The President then turned the discussion to the defense issues. As to forward-based systems, the problem was how to relate them to central systems which were the most important. On MBFR, the President emphasized that NATO needed substantial conventional forces. We had to be sure not to weaken this conventional strength through [Page 392] MBFR.2 The President also stressed the need for a strategy to take care of alliance concerns about SALT I and SALT II. The United States would not be trapped by the Soviets. Yet if we looked at reality we had to understand that we were limited in raising defense budgets. Dr. Kissinger explained that we were using SALT II and the MBFR negotiations partly as a way of getting the Europeans to address defense issues seriously, and focus on the real question of security. Hopefully we could use these negotiations in the same way at home and head off or postpone Congressional pressures for unilateral cuts in our forces.

The President emphasized that we had to get a common US/UK position. We should have joint study groups. Military men, of course, didn’t think anything can change. But we would have to address these issues. The Prime Minister raised the question of briefing the Europeans on trends in Soviet missiles. The President said that this would be done in the context of US/UK cooperation. With regard to SALT, MBFR and so forth, we had good communications.

[Omitted here is discussion of matters other than the European security conference or MBFR.]

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box TS 27, Geopolitical File, Great Britain, Chronological File. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. According to the President’s Daily Diary, the meeting took place from 4:15 to 6:45 p.m. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Central Files, President’s Daily Diary)
  2. In preparation for the meeting, Kissinger included in a briefing memorandum to the President on January 30 a talking point on MBFR: “On Mutual Balanced Force Reductions, [your objective is] to reassure the Prime Minister that we will not seek a quick reduction with the USSR, but need the appearance of progress in the negotiations to satisfy our critics at home and to move the Soviets toward concrete issues of actual troop cuts; US-Soviet reductions will be the least damaging, but the UK and the Europeans will have to sponsor it.” (Ibid., NSC Files, Box 1336, Unfiled Material, 1973, 10 of 12)