138. Editorial Note
Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti visited the United States April 17–18, 1973, for talks with U.S. officials, including President Nixon. Among the topics he discussed with Nixon were the European security conference and MBFR. A memorandum of Nixon’s conversation with Andreotti in the Oval Office on the morning of April 17 reads in part: “The President stated that the European Security Conference is a prospect that Italy has supported. This Conference can be very helpful in reducing tensions between East and West. However, for the Communists it could be used as a device to lull the West into losing its sense of concern for maintaining adequate defenses. MBFR can become the basis of reducing the burden of maintaining the defense of Western Europe, but at the same time if we allow the fact that this Conference is to take place to lead us to lower our guard and relax on matters of our own defense, the Atlantic Alliance could practically come apart at the seams, which would be a happy result for the Soviet Union.” Later in the conversation, the President returned to the topic:
“The President said that (1) it is essential to maintain the defense of the Atlantic Alliance, and therefore reductions could not be made under [Page 427] any circumstances without a similar move on the other side; (2) secondly, the President said that the West could not afford to allow speeches and bland communiqués that might come out of the European Security Conference to lead to a dismantling of the Atlantic Alliance or to a moral weakening of the Alliance. No piece of paper would have any meaning without a moral commitment in our hearts and a determination to maintain our adherence and loyalty to that commitment, this is the strength of the Atlantic Alliance. If this is allowed to wither away, the Atlantic Alliance will be worth nothing, no matter what is written on the paper. There are of course forces in Europe as well as in the United States who would welcome dismantling of the Atlantic Alliance. There are many elements within the media of both our countries which are characterized by a new isolationist disease. Therefore it is for the leaders of all of our countries, particularly the big countries, to exert strong leadership in order to maintain the strength of the Alliance, because the Soviet Union could only be interested in negotiating these questions with a strong Atlantic Alliance and a strong United States. This is why there has been success in such negotiations heretofore. When you are playing a good game, you don’t change your plays. The President went on to say that in his view it would not be an overstatement to say that the future of peace in Europe and in the world is founded upon the strength of the Atlantic Alliance, through the kind of cooperation we have seen over the past 25 years. In this respect, all of the leaders of Europe and also of Canada are important. But the future lies in one hand, a hand with five fingers—five men: Heath, Andreotti, Pompidou, Brandt, Nixon—all leading with a firm determination that despite the lack of support on the part of some of the media in their countries, we cannot countenance the disintegration of the Atlantic Alliance. On the other hand, if these countries were to be parochial, each going its separate way, then all of our hopes for building a structure of peace and achieving a genuine détente will crumble. It is up to us, the President repeated … five men.” (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box TS 63, Memoranda of Conversation, Presidential File, 1973–76)
During a second meeting in the Oval Office on the morning of April 18, “President Nixon asked Premier Andreotti what his feelings were with regard to MBFR. He asked if in his view the present consultations were progressing on a correct course. In this regard, the President reported to Premier Andreotti that several of the Senators with whom the Prime Minister had met the previous day told him that the Prime Minister had been very firm in his discussion of this matter with the members of the Senate Committee. President Nixon said that he was grateful to him for that.
“Prime Minister Andreotti expressed the view that the USSR in order to accede to a reduction of forces must act firmly vis-à-vis the military leadership in the Soviet Union, which requires something in [Page 428] return from our side. So in the first place there must be a linkage between the European Security Conference, perhaps not legal but at least from the standpoint of timing, with the initial stage of MBFR. This of course could be fraught with dangers. Still it would be very useful for the West, and if properly managed within the NATO framework, as matters are being handled in Helsinki, it should be workable. Therefore as a first point, the Russians must be encouraged to see that in order to obtain the desired results on the European Security Conference, they will have to move forward on MBFR. Secondly, MBFR involves a value from a technical standpoint but is also symbolic as regards the direction in which we wish to move. Therefore it would be essential—and this in large measure would be a problem for the United States to consider—to set forth the timing for the achievement of a Europeanization of the defense of Europe [including burden sharing], and work toward linking this process to MBFR.
“President Nixon assured Prime Minister Andreotti that the United States would make every effort to maintain our strength and our commitment until there is a mutual reduction in forces. The President went on to say that the Prime Minister’s words regarding burden sharing would be music to the ears of many members of Congress. We are aware of the problems that this involves for the European countries. However, we also have to face a problem here, of which Prime Minister Andreotti would probably be aware as the result of his conversation with some of our Senators, for example, who think that because we have met with the Soviets, the world is now a safer place, and that we can reduce our forces unilaterally.
“Premier Andreotti commented at this point that the fall of Rome came about when Rome began to see its enemies as they wished to see them, and not as they actually were. It seems that all of the opposition elements in the world came to adopt a philosophy based on which they are more inclined to yield up their position, which in reality often is a matter of cowardice, convincing themselves that their adversaries have become good, and there is no more evil in the world. Had not President Nixon been able to count upon the armed might of the United States and of NATO to back him he could not have pursued the policies he has developed. Therefore it is in this direction that our commitment and responsibility lie. It is doubtful that Kosygin himself would have been able to accept the President’s policies had they not been backed with strength.
“President Nixon said that he could not agree more fully. Without this strength the Big Five could hardly be effective in bringing public opinion to see reality. This, the President said, was his and the Prime Minister’s responsibility.” (Memorandum for the President’s Files, April 18; ibid.) The brackets are in the original.