149. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Ambassador Berndt von Staden of the Federal Republic of Germany
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Helmut Sonnenfeldt, NSC Senior Staff
  • Kathleen Anne Ryan, NSC Staff
[Page 466]

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

Kissinger: [Omitted here are unrelated comments.] On the timing of MBFR, they [the Soviets] proposed that it should take place one month after the completion of the European Security Conference.2 We said that was all right, as long as it was no later than October 30. They said that is academic. I don’t think this is true. Thus we will have to say that this point is disagreed.

von Staden: That means they want the third stage to end 30 days before, and they still want a Summit.

Kissinger: Yes, we didn’t commit ourselves. We took the position that you did.

von Staden: In the Soviet’s view, the second stage will start immediately after the Foreign Ministers’ meeting?

Kissinger: Yes. The European attitude on the Security Conference is beyond my comprehension. What the advantage to any State is of dragging the process out, I don’t understand.

von Staden: We don’t want to, but we are under the time pressure of the second phase.

Kissinger: It won’t be from us.

von Staden: The Soviets are trying to put us under pressure.

Kissinger: They never rejected it.

von Staden: They are making the link. This is their attitude.

Kissinger: Their interest is that the change be settled before MBFR.

That is their definition of linkage.

von Staden: The United States’ interests are to have MBFR begin before October 30?

Kissinger: By the end of October.

von Staden: What is the particular meaning?

Kissinger: None, just to have a date. It should be before Congress adjourns.

Now, this is really all that happened on the subjects in Moscow.

von Staden: May I add some more questions?

The Berlin question didn’t come up at all?

Kissinger: No.

von Staden: That is pretty much the center of our concern. Then there are two other points. The CSCE—the continuing organizational [Page 467] institutions of the conference and the other third basket cultural exchanges, etc.

Kissinger: On culture they are very much for it. They want to avoid that which is a means of undermining their system.

In regard to continuing organizations, they want something that has no vote, that does act by a majority vote. That is a continuing clearing house for contact. They use Bahr’s view that it is a continuing way of being related there.

von Staden: There is in my country and in Europe a school of thought which assumes that the Soviets are interested in an American presence. I have never been sure to what extent this is true, but some people feel that way.

Your attitude is unchanged?

Kissinger: Our attitude is … I didn’t make any comment to him,3 I just listened to him. I just listened to what he had to say. So I made no comment to him at all. Our attitude is that we are willing to consider some sort of a purely administrative security type of thing, but we have not reached that point in any NATO discussion, much less than with them.

von Staden: It is something we like very much and are always pressing. [Do] you have any suggestions as to what we might raise with the Soviets in Berlin?

Kissinger: [To Sonnenfeldt] Do you Hal? I don’t have any. I would try to avoid giving them the impression that you are very nationalistic and semi-neutralistic, which I know you won’t.

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

Kissinger: [Omitted here is an unrelated comment.] We4 don’t agree on everything. If we approach it with the attitude there is a meeting of minds … Take the MBFR debates if there is anything more stupid … it shows a total lack of analysis.

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

von Staden: [Omitted here is an unrelated comment.] As far as Hungary is concerned, I find it very interesting what you say. I don’t consider this a great success for the West.

Kissinger: The European attitude is ridiculous. If we have a common ceiling, we need a reduction of 6 to 1 in our favor. The maximum [Page 468] study is 15 percent, about 8,000 troops in Hungary. Do these 8,000 troops upset the total?

von Staden: I have never seen that argument in all my reading.

Kissinger: If you have a common ceiling without Hungary you have a one and one-half to one ratio. If you introduce Hungary you have 60,000 to 90,000 more troops. This transforms the ratio to five and one-half to one. That they will never accept. You will get fewer troops out of Europe and you prevent the most sensible approach.

Sonnenfeldt: You keep Hungary in the area, and if you keep Hungary out you can have a non-circumvention clause.

Kissinger: Our assessment is based on military not political considerations.

von Staden: I was never quite convinced that the Hungary case was of wide importance. My considerations were not on these data.

Kissinger: The idea of a private deal to exclude Hungary is ridiculous. Our analysis was what we really needed was a non-circumvention clause and to have Hungary and Italy out. We were better off without Hungary than with it.

von Staden: Ambassador Roth and his aide are both fine.

Kissinger: Roth is a first-class man. I am using it as an example. This sort of debate should be about how to improve. We are trying to reduce by our approach.

I wish you the best success for the Brezhnev visit. You will let us know?

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box TS 26, Geopolitical File, Europe, Year of Europe, Memoranda of Conversation. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. The conversation took place in Kissinger’s office at the White House. All brackets, with the exception of those that indicate omitted material, are in the original.
  2. See Document 147.
  3. Gromyko.
  4. The United States and Europe.