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


  • MBFR Status

As a result of the NATO meeting on Monday, the Alliance has inched forward on the question of Hungarian-Italian participation.2

It is agreed that within the next day or two the Allies will put forward a proposal to lay aside the Hungarian question, but press for a private Soviet commitment that Hungary will in fact be included in the reduction zone without Italy. This will almost certainly be rejected, but the way will then be open for the US to gain support for its compromise: namely that Hungary’s status be specifically designated as unresolved, but the status of all other participants will be defined.3 (For us this compromise will be a way station to Hungary’s exclusion. For [Page 395] many Allies, thus far, it will still remain a step toward its eventual inclusion. So we obviously won’t be out of the woods.)

  • —If the Soviets want to get on with MBFR business, they should accommodate us on this.
  • —If they want to be tough, they can insist on designating Italy as undefined, or insist that Hungary be dropped. In this latter case, the Alliance will have to face the consequences of the exclusion of Hungary—which all of the Allies are reluctant to do.

We have had extraordinary difficulty in persuading the Allies to the flexible on the Hungarian question.

  • —The Allies strenuously object to being “stampeded.”
  • —None of them believe the Soviets are determined, and all of them believe there is give in the Soviet position.
  • —The Benelux do not want to be committed to full participation if Hungary’s status is undefined, but in the end they will not leave the Germans alone.
  • —The UK has been the toughest in all the discussions: they refuse to take the Soviets seriously, and are insistent that the Allies not start the entire exercise by making a substantive concession. (Rush’s efforts have not convinced them otherwise though he made a very effective presentation.4 I can’t tell whether this is again just Foreign Office working level or all of Whitehall. Cromer told me he would make sure Downing St. understood our position.)
  • —None understand why we are in a hurry.

While complaining to you about our bad faith in not supporting the Soviet position as agreed privately,5 the Soviet representatives in [Page 396] Vienna as well as others in the Soviet bloc are going out of their way to convince our Allies that they will bargain about Hungary. For example, they have suggested to Dean various compromises, such as including Denmark or dropping Luxembourg. Only a few days ago, the Soviet representative told the Belgians (of all people) that the West should be “patient” since Moscow takes a while to make up its mind. The Hungarians have made it clear that they are outraged about the Soviet position and have even urged the West to be tough. Similar noises have come from the Poles and even the East Germans.

All of this suggests that the Soviets are deliberately prolonging the Hungarian affair and driving wedges between us and our Allies. Indeed, by raising the Hungarian-Italian issues so early they have made it impossible even to open the conference—which was not my understanding of how they would play the question.

It may also be that the actual Soviet aim is to include Italy. Gromyko has just emphasized this in Moscow to the departing Italian Ambassador, and as I pointed out in my message to you in Peking6 there is some suggestion in Vorontsov’s complaint that you agreed to include Italy, rather than drop Hungary. This could explain the strange Soviet behavior on whether Hungary should be in or not.

Since Italian inclusion is clearly not in our interest and the Allies are even more adamantly opposed to Italian inclusion than Hungarian exclusion, you may want to remind Vorontsov that we have not agreed to make an effort to have Italy included, but only to drop Hungary.

Finally, whatever we agree on, the Allies will not agree to exclude Hungarian territory entirely. They (and we) will want to have some constraints on Soviet forces in Hungary. But this can wait till the negotiations really start next fall.

Attached at Tab A is a telegram from Strausz-Hupe which gives you the flavor of the problem we have with the Allies.7

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 214, Geopolitical Files, Soviet Union, Dobrynin, Anatoliy, Background Papers (“Talkers”). Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. Urgent; sent for information.
  2. Telegram 906 from USNATO, February 20, reported on the North Atlantic Council meeting on February 19. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, DEF 6 EUR) The Soviets and Hungarians refused to permit Hungary to become a full-fledged participant in MBFR talks unless the Western participants agreed to Italy’s full-fledged participation. (Intelligence Note RESN–61.10, March 1; ibid.)
  3. Telegram 26959 to Vienna, February 13, repeated to USNATO and all NATO capitals, instructed U.S. negotiators to seek such a “procedural compromise.” It also stated: “US would prefer inclusion Hungary as one of twelve full participants, with Hungary one of countries in putative reductions area. If we cannot obtain Eastern agreement to its inclusion, as appears likely, omission of Hungary from status direct full participant in MBFR would clearly be preferable to alternative outcomes: (a) collapse or prolonged stalemate of MBFR negotiation; (b) inclusion in full status and in reductions area also of Italy or other Allied flank countries; or (c) dropping Benelux states along with Hungary from full MBFR participation—any of which would not be in our interests.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, DEF 6 EUR)
  4. Telegram 29670 to all NATO capitals reported on Rush’s conversation with Cromer on February 15. (Ibid.)
  5. On February 13, Vorontsov handed a note to Scowcroft for Kissinger. It reads in part: “As the White House was earlier informed, Hungary could give its consent to be included among the participants of a prospective agreement on reduction of armed forces and armaments in Europe on condition that Italy is also included in that number.” The note recalled that at that time, the United States did not object to such an approach, but now “the American representatives in Vienna together with representatives of other Western countries firmly insist on including Hungary among the participants of prospective agreement and at the same time do not suggest to include Italy among those participants. We expect that the US representatives at the Vienna consultations with get appropriate instructions in this respect—that is, either they should not insist on including Hungary in the area of reductions, or should go in direction of additional inclusion of Italy into that area.” (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box TS 38, Geopolitical File, Soviet Union, Dobrynin, Anatoliy, Background Papers)
  6. Not found.
  7. Telegram 827 from Brussels, February 16, is attached but not printed. It reported that the Belgians “are again disquieted by what they perceive as US disregard of their interests or, more accurately, of their equality of status within the Alliance. This feeling is intensified by vague suspicions that the US has some understanding with the USSR that take precedence over Allied consultations. The Soviet decision to withdraw Hungary from full participation, apparently made over the heads of the Hungarians (and other WP members) themselves, is, we suspect, seen by the Belgians not only as a forewarning of Soviet unpredictability but also as an instance of superpower manipulation.”