142. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Vasile Pungan, Counselor to the President of Romania
  • Ambassador Bogdan of Romania
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger
  • Helmut Sonnenfeldt, NSC Staff
  • Kathleen Ryan, NSC Staff

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

V. Pungan: [Omitted here are unrelated comments.] This is an oral message.2

Dr. Kissinger: For the sake of my stenographer may we have a copy of that?

V. Pungan: No, this is an oral message.

Dr. Kissinger: After you finish may she go over it with you?

Amb. Bogdan: Certainly.

V. Pungan: (continues reading) [Omitted here is discussion of matters other than the European security conference or MBFR.]

[Page 441]

2) Taking as a starting point the strengthening of the process of détente in the world, I would like to present a few considerations relating to some of the pending issues. First of all in connection with European Security, as it is known Romania attaches great significance to that achievement in Europe of a cooperation based on principles of full equality, to the creation of an environment apt to guarantee the security and independence of every nation, and to assure the non-interference into domestic affairs. With that in view Romania is firmly acting for the preparation and the actual taking place of the European Security Conference on security and cooperation.

The progress of the Helsinki talks is well known, and I don’t want to refer to it again. It is our evaluation that important steps have been taken toward solutions, and that conditions for convening the Conference have been created. However, I could not avoid mentioning that from the development of the preparatory talks in Helsinki and from the exchanges of views I had with representatives of other states, the impression emerged that the United States has reservations and showed somewhat less diminished interest in the taking place of the Conference. We would be only glad to see such assessments and impressions disproved by reality. Romania attaches a great significance to the participation of the United States in process, preparation and holding of the Conference, aware that the position of the United States can have an important role in the works of the Conference and in the favorable solution of European matters. For these reasons we would be interested to see the United States showing a greater interest and contributing more actively to the achievement of understanding, taking into account the interests of all nations and leading to strengthening the peace and security of Europe.

Dr. Kissinger: Do you have anything specific in mind?

V. Pungan: To help [hold?] the conference as soon as possible and to have on the agenda the real problems of security.

Dr. Kissinger: Like what?

V. Pungan: I have questions that are really important for security like disarmament and force reduction.

Dr. Kissinger: You want force reduction?

V. Pungan: In a separate part.

Dr. Kissinger: Go ahead and finish your letter.

V. Pungan: The second aspect is represented by the talks taking place in Vienna—your reduction of armed forces.

Dr. Kissinger: Balanced?

V. Pungan: Yes, and some other term.

Amb. Bogdan: Ours in original.

Dr. Kissinger: You have a Romanian term?

[Page 442]

Amb. Bogdan: Measures of [omission in original text] and military disengagement.

V. Pungan: (continues reading) B) A second aspect relating to the situation in Europe is represented by the talks taking place in Vienna on the reduction of armed forces. As you are well aware, Mr. President, Romania has been constantly preoccupied and vitally interested in the reduction of forces in Central Europe, eventually in the withdrawal of all foreign troops and the reduction of national troops under appropriate conditions. Although in Vienna the subject matter is going to be the reduction of troops in Central Europe, Romania is vitally interested to participate in these talks, both in the preparatory and in the substantive stages, to express her views on all problems. It is understandable that the problem of reduction and withdrawal of troops is of equal concern for Romania as well as for other states because it is an essential part of European security as a whole and of the security of every single European state.

Of course we want to make it clear that our participation in the preparatory and substantive negotiations does not mean any desire from our part to become a signatory of the agreements to be concluded. These agreements should be signed by the states directly concerned. However, it would be necessary in our view, that the United States agree with the participation of Romania and other interested states in these negotiations under the conditions I have mentioned before.

At the same time Romania would like to see reduction of troops arrived at in other zones. We are particularly interested in the Balkans area. We would welcome with satisfaction any manifestation of the United States’ understanding and interest in a meeting among the Balkan countries leading to peace and cooperation in the area.

Dr. Kissinger: Is there an agreed upon definition of Balkan area?

Does that include Greece?

Sonnenfeldt: And Hungary?

Dr. Kissinger: Yes, Hungary?

V. Pungan: Of course Greece is included. Hungary would have to be discussed.

Dr. Kissinger: And Turkey?

V. Pungan: Yes.

Dr. Kissinger: The Ukraine?

V. Pungan: No.

Amb. Bogdan: Prior to this Cyprus was not an independent state.

Dr. Kissinger: That is not a security factor. Then it would include Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Greece, Turkey and Albania. Why did you leave out Hungary?

V. Pungan: For historical reasons.

[Page 443]

Amb. Bogdan: Exactly, that was the Balkan entente3 before the war.

Sonnenfeldt: But they are all your friends?

V. Pungan: (finishes the message) In so far as she is concerned, Romania considers that in addition to the Balkan countries other interested countries could take part in such a meeting. We have in mind, in this context, in the first place the USSR as well as the United States.

C) Based on the interest of Romania in all these questions we would highly appreciate if the United States showed a more active interest in their solutions. I am raising this aspect because the impression has been created in Romania and not only in Romania, that the United States is preoccupied by her bilateral relations with other states. In so far as Europe is concerned, she would prefer not to commit herself actively in favor of a positive settlement in the interest of all states of the European problems. We attach a particular importance to the beginning of normalization of the relations between the United States and China. In our view this event is of historical significance for the normalization of the international life. We attach an equal importance to agreements and the understandings reached between the United States and the Soviet Union.

We look upon them as contributions to the building of a better world, a world of peace. At the same time we would not like the implementation of these arrangements becoming in any way detrimental to the European security, to the interests of other states including the interests of Romania.

I have brought this to your attention, Mr. President, a few thoughts preoccupying me in connection with the evolution and perspectives of today’s international life, with the hope that they will be properly understood. They are inspired by the desire motivating Romania’s policy of developing friendly relations with all the states of the world, and of placing as the basis of these relations the principles of full equality, independence and sovereignty. Obviously Romania, within limits of her possibilities, is determined to act for détente and cooperation. We would like to see our relations with the United States taking a more active role within the context of the present atmosphere of détente and cooperation. Such a development would be in the interests of our two peoples and at the same time in the interest of peace and understanding of the world at large.

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

[Page 444]

Dr. Kissinger: [Omitted here are unrelated comments.] In regard to the European Security Conference we have never held any objections to the Security Conference. It is not as clear to us what the advantages are, but we have agreed to participation and cooperation. There you have a forum with every Foreign Minister in Europe using it as a field of exercising his ingenuity. And every department head has an opportunity to draft his own proposal. We would like limited agenda items. We would be willing to speed up procedures for short term agreements, especially with our allies in Europe. We are in a positive position. We will not be obstacles and are willing to mave rapidly to a conclusion.

V. Pungan: We have discussed this with our people in Europe. We want the United States to understand what Romania expects from security. We want the United States to play a more active role.

Dr. Kissinger: Your objectives are clear. We don’t quarrel; it is also conceivable that the European Security Conference will degenerate into a morass of platitudes. What you say may come about naturally.

V. Pungan: We expect other states to go along with us.

Dr. Kissinger: What you are attempting to do is absolutely clear. What others are trying to do is also clear, and the two are not necessarily compatible.

Amb. Bogdan: You spoke about the passivity of the United States and the brilliance of the Foreign Deputies. We want to be more active. I believe we share the same concern that it might lead to the consecrated division in Europe.

Dr. Kissinger: We should certainly be willing to discuss with you on a private basis some understanding of outcomes, get your views, and talk seriously. In the present state of discussion it is not easy for us to know in which direction to exert pressure.

V. Pungan: I think it is important to start proposals, create conditions, and to expect an outcome.

Dr. Kissinger: Our view is to be fairly general and have brief agenda items. Western Europe wants detailed items.

Amb. Bogdan: It is not the length that is important, but the subject. We want to refine. There is always the problem of the subject. Of course the military issues should be discussed.

Dr. Kissinger: Force reduction, that is a different thing. Of course, let me know what exclusions you want.

V. Pungan: It is necessary to agree. It is necessary to keep in contact and to follow objectives.

Dr. Kissinger: To complicate intervention of outside forces in Europe is our policy. We are interested in what concretely should be done. I can’t guarantee how much pressure we will put on our allies.

[Page 445]

On force reduction—it is a complex issue because we want to avoid force reduction becoming as general and confused as the European Security Conference. We don’t want to open up a host of issues that will make it insoluble.

We thought not to include the Balkans, but only the Central Front. As I understand the discussions don’t exclude the various countries listening in. But we do think that the actual negotiations should be conducted in a more restricted form. We are prepared to exchange ideas on a bilateral basis and to have your reaction. We would talk seriously.

V. Pungan: We would like the possibility to tell you what we have in mind. The results of these negotiations are important for the security of the whole of Europe. Of course, the agreements should be signed by the countries involved in them, but we think it is important for us to be there.

Amb. Bogdan: I think it a good idea to present a more detailed agenda.

Dr. Kissinger: Could we have your ideas independent of participation in the discussion?

Amb. Bogdan: We have had some at the level of the State Department.

V. Pungan: It is a good idea to talk in principle.

Dr. Kissinger: On the issue of Balkan security, I have never studied that problem. My studies stopped in 1914. Those talks about the negotiation of a little sliver of land, whose name I don’t remember, do you? I have not studied the problem. I don’t think the United States has studied it in great detail. I will look into it to find out what the implications are, since every Romanian project is more complicated than it looks. We will look on it with interest. We are not directly involved. We are not as involved there as in Western Europe. Let me study it. I won’t be able to give you a formal answer before you leave.

V. Pungan: We are also studying it.

Amb. Bogdan: We have repeated it so many times that we are coming to understand it ourselves.

Dr. Kissinger: (laughing) That is the great problem of diplomacy. People think once you have proposed something you understand it completely.

V. Pungan: If we have new elements, I will keep you informed.

Dr. Kissinger: Big power diplomacy, I take it for an axiom that we cannot let it be used to undermine the interests of other countries. I think some parts of big power diplomacy might even strengthen the position of smaller countries. Smaller countries have the potential of weakening it. Our discussions in Peking and Moscow are in the same order. We will not knowingly make an agreement that sacrifices the [Page 446] interests of other countries. Sometimes we don’t know what the other’s interests are. We expect Brezhnev to be here this summer, if there are any points that might come up to which you are especially sensitive … You can be certain we will talk very seriously. With Peking we have never discussed Eastern Europe in concrete terms. My impression is that the leaders there wish you well. Our settled policy is not to support newer relations at the expense of the older ones. But, some tendencies can develop. Is there any other subject?

We attach importance to staying in close touch. My life is so busy that I cannot always participate in the discussion, but Sonnenfeldt has my total confidence.

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

Dr. Kissinger: We are dedicated and believe for many reasons that it (the ESC) should be a success and in what we started in 1969 we shall make a major effort.4

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1027, MemCons—HAK & Presidential, April–November 1973, 5 of 5. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. The conversation took place in the Map Room at the White House.
  2. The text is of an oral message from President Ceausescu to President Nixon; a copy of the complete transcribed message is ibid.
  3. The Balkan Entente was an informal defensive alliance formed among Romania, Yugoslavia, Turkey, and Greece in 1934 to protect each state’s territorial integrity.
  4. In a subsequent meeting on April 27, Kissinger informed Pungan that Nixon had read the oral note from Ceausescu. The memorandum of conversation reads in part: “Dr. Kissinger: In respect to the European Security Conference we don’t disagree with the general tone of your President’s observations. We will be no obstacle to the constructive outcome. Our difficulty is that there are so many ideas floating around in Helsinki. We usually let these ideas run around for a while until they crystallize. Otherwise we would have constant problems with every country from Luxembourg to Liechtenstein. Is Liechtenstein there? Sonnenfeldt: Yes. Amb. Bogdan: Even San Marino. Dr. Kissinger: We can’t negotiate bilaterally with every participant in the European Security Conference. But we are always ready to hear your ideas put to us bilaterally. On any other matters go to Sonnenfeldt, and after he has left either Hyland or Eagleburger. Regarding MBFR, we are less sympathetic to procedural than to substantive matters. Mr. Ambassador, why do you look so crushed? Amb. Bogdan: Substantive rather than procedural, no, I am not. Dr. Kissinger: We would like to keep the number of participants of Romania [sic] at a manageable level.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1027, MemCons—HAK & Presidential, April–November 1973, 5 of 5)