130. Letter From the Deputy Chief of the U.S. Delegation to the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (Vest) to the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Stoessel)1
Last week I had a chance to “see ourselves as others see us.” Henry Kissinger not too long ago talked with Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister Thorn in Washington.2 Thorn’s cable was repeated among other places to his representative at CSCE. He shared it with the other members of the 9 here where it created a stir, to put it gently.3 He kindly let me read it as well, a fact which obviously should be protected.
Thorn reported an atmosphere of impatience, uninterest in Western European concerns, and a disposition to brush them aside casually—in short an autocratic heedlessness. The details were as follows:
- MBFR—He bluntly told Thorn the Soviets were right to exclude Hungary so the Allies should accept the fact and get on with it. When Thorn protested that this was not simply an issue of political-military geography but was a fundamental question of how to treat with the Soviets, Kissinger made it clear that he knew best how to handle them.
- He urged that Quarles4 should be sacked because he was really not working out well in the MBFR situation in Vienna. (This was not [Page 400] a happy comment to Thorn who is a close personal friend of Quarles’ dating from the times when the latter was Dutch Ambassador in Luxembourg. I suspect the starchy small Dutch Establishment will not forget this quickly, and my Luxembourg colleague reported the Dutch general reaction that the U.S. was acting like the Soviets who had complained to Bonn about Brunner5 in CSCE.)
- He denied that there was any US-Soviet collusion other than the original MBFR/CSCE timetable of last September which had been worked out with the Soviets and endorsed by the Allies. (Luxemburgers found this not too convincing in the light of US conduct of MBFR and Kissinger’s conviction that he could handle the Soviets.)
- He added that CSCE was of no importance to the US but MBFR was such a key internal political necessity that the Western Europeans should not ruffle the Soviets in any way in connection with CSCE, should dispose of the mandates as quickly as possible since they were of little importance anyway (the French will like that), and should also wind up the conference quickly before public expectations built up which could not be met.
- Conclusion. Although U.S. has been more polite in diplomatic channels, this was Kissinger speaking and the EEC countries should look after their own interests very carefully since in the period ahead it seemed possible that the primary drive of U.S. policy would be accommodation to Soviet preferences rather than to those of its Allies.
You may well ask, so what’s new. It has been clear to me, since the memory of man runneth not to the contrary, that we value MBFR much more highly than CSCE. The geographical place of Hungary in MBFR has been argued for some years in NATO. However, the impact of the Thorn telegram bears watching. He is a respected politician in the European scene and as a Luxemburger is less suspect of special pleading than Foreign Ministers from one of the larger EEC countries. This will probably percolate through most of the Western European capitals and perhaps even reach the press. It will be fuel to the fairly large blaze of suspicion which already exists.
Meanwhile I stick to my last in Helsinki and urge that we work our way prudently through the CSCE mandates, meet the timetable for a late June conference opening date, point out that my position is based [Page 401] on NATO discussion and agreement, and do not propose to jump the NATO caucus to join the Soviets.6
- Source: National Archives, RG 59, S/S Files: Lot 82 D 307, Box 1, Correspondence, 1973. Secret; Eyes Only. Anotation at the top by Stoessel to Springsteen reads: “Still more on the HAK–Thorn conversation.” Vest’s letter is attached to a reply from Stoessel, March 16, in which Stoessel wrote: “There is no doubt that Henry’s remarks have caused a stir. While he may have taken the line he did quite deliberately in the hopes of producing some results through shock treatment, I fear that he may have gone too far. In particular, his reference to dealing with the Soviets can only add fuel to the fire about US-Soviet conniving. I shared your letter with Ken Rush, who is also concerned and will do what he can to see that this sort of thing is not repeated. However, as you well know, this is a realm in which we in this building do not have much control.”↩
- See Document 129.↩
- The British delegation at the Helsinki talks reported that the Luxembourgers had briefed the EC–Nine representatives about Kissinger’s comments at a working dinner on March 1. According to the British report of the Luxembourgers’ comments, Kissinger said that the Europeans were being “thoroughly unhelpful” with regard to CSCE and MBFR; that the West “should let the Russians, as sponsors, have what they wanted, a short snappy Conference with little substance”; and that “freer movement had tactical uses but would lead to nothing.” (Documents on British Policy Overseas, Series III, Volume II, Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, 1972–1975, p. 103, fn 6)↩
- Bryan Edward Quarles van Ufford, head of the Netherlands delegation at the MBFR exploratory talks in Vienna.↩
- Eduard Brunner, head of the Swiss delegation to the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe.↩
- On March 8, B.J.P. Fall of the Eastern European and Soviet Department of the British Foreign Office reported on a conversation with Vest to Tickell. According to Fall, Vest had called Thorn’s report of his conversation with Kissinger “basically accurate,” but that he did not think that Kissinger had “given very deep thought to the question,” and that “the President would want the American delegation to remain committed to the line agreed in NATO.” (Documents on British Policy Overseas, Series III, Volume II, Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, 1972–1975, p. 103, fn. 6)↩