159. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon 1


  • European Issues

Note: Our NATO Allies are particularly sensitive about US-Soviet discussions on the European Security Conference and on MBFR. The material below is consistent with agreed Allied positions. In your comments to Brezhnev you should find occasion to state that these are issues on which we must take account of the views of Allies, and maintain close consultations with them.

1. Timing of MBFRCSCE

Last fall, we negotiated with the Soviet Union a schedule in which the Conference on Security and Cooperation (CSCE) would start formally in June/July and the actual negotiations on mutual force reductions (MBFR) would start in September/October of this year. We want to keep to this schedule so that the start of MBFR negotiations will have an impact on a probable Congressional debate expected this fall over reducing U.S. troops in Europe. Our position therefore is that MBFR must start no later than October 30, 1973.

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  • The Soviets have taken the position that MBFR should start only after CSCE is completed. We cannot accept such a tight linkage since CSCE may last until sometime in 1974.
  • —Our Allies are looking to us to solve this problem.
  • —We have told the Soviets that while we are prepared to honor the timetable and proceed with the CSCE in early July, the Conference cannot be expected to make progress until a date is set for MBFR and that this date can be no later than October 30.
  • —The Soviets have indicated that they might be prepared to set a date for MBFR before the end of the year if we agree to get CSCE concluded by the end of the year. While we could accept the end of CSCE by year’s end as a goal to work toward, this would be highly divisive with the Allies, especially the French and British who do not want to be under time pressure. They also feel that the Soviets had already accepted September/October for MBFR and we would thus buy the same horse twice. This option is therefore probably not feasible for us.2
  • Dobrynin now hints that they will accept our date, if, in turn, you agree to take part in the final phase of the Conference as a summit level gathering. In your discussion you could say, while we cannot offer a firm guarantee on such a summit, given Allied resistance to it, we could agree to consider the idea if Brezhnev confirms the MBFR date for October 30.

2. Substantive Issues

As far as the substance of the Conference is concerned, we have no major disagreements with the Soviets. There are four main divisions for the future work (1) principles of relations among the participating states; e.g., respect for territorial integrity, non-use of force, etc.; (2) economic, scientific and technical cooperation; (3) human contacts; and (4) establishing some institutions to follow the Conference. After the [Page 486] first Foreign Ministers meeting, which is set for July 3 in Helsinki, there will be committees and subcommittees established to work out final agreements. The final product will be a series of declarations and some agreements in the cultural and economic field.

Your Main Points


Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe

The preparations have been careful, as we both agreed last May that they should be; even though somewhat protracted this will guarantee smoother work in the next phase.

  • —We have now met the timetable that we worked out last September in Moscow.
  • —We can continue to work with the Soviet delegations on the substance, and to blend this with exchanges in the private channels.
  • —There is a limit on how far we can go in prearranging a conference with so many involved; in any case, we should be satisfied with a modest outcome.
  • —On the timing, we cannot guarantee when it will be finished, but as far as we are concerned around the turn of the year is a reasonable target. Certainly by the late winter the talks should be winding up.
  • —We should both be careful to respect the interests of other countries involved and not seem to be dictating either substance or procedures.3
  • —Whether or not CSCE should be completed with a summit meeting of all the leaders is worth considering, if the results justify it. You do not rule it out, provided we can foresee the beginning of talks on mutual force reductions.

  • —Your view is that the net result must be to increase the confidence in the military balance, so that neither side seems to have an offensive advantage.
  • —This means that US forces cannot be treated as all others, because we withdraw 3,000 miles, while Soviet forces could be on the Polish border.
  • —Therefore, the objective should be at a balance of equal in numbers; this means that US-Soviet reductions would be about two Soviet for one American, so that there is a resultant parity. The size of the initial cut could be negotiated, but you agree that in the beginning it should be moderate (do not quote a percentage, lest Brezhnev claim that you have reached agreement).
  • We are prepared to begin talks this fall, as agreed last year. (If the Soviets have not agreed on a specific date, you should press Brezhnev to accept October 30.)
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Meanwhile, some very discreet exchanges could begin in the private channel.

  • —In any case, whatever the right proportion of reductions, it will be necessary to work out measures that build confidence, such as limiting maneuvers in the area of reduction and possibly stationing observers at key crossing points.
  • —Finally, there has to be some guarantee that the agreement will not be circumvented through other countries such as Hungary.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 75, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Discussions with Brezhnev. Secret; Sensitive.
  2. In a telephone conversation on June 10, Sonnenfeldt informed Kissinger of a disagreement on CSCE and MBFR in the draft communiqué for Nixon’s forthcoming visit to the Soviet Union. Atranscript of the conversation reads in part: “HAK: Look, my judgment is that they agreed to an MBFR start anytime this year; that’s good enough. Don’t you? S[onnenfeldt]: Well, it may be good enough for us. I think we have an alliance problem. HAK: Why should the Allies object whether it starts December 31 or November 1? S: Well, who knows. The Allies are on their high horse. They take the position we sold this once back in September, and the Russians are making us sell it the second time and their linkage with the CSCE. Everybody is reluctant to accept the terminal date with the CSCE because they somehow think that puts us under time pressure. HAK: That I can understand, but what if the Russians unconditionally accept it? S: If the Russians unconditionally accept some date this year, I think that’s all right, but if they accept it with a matrix (?), then I think we have a problem.” (Ibid., Henry A. Kissinger Telephone Transcripts (Telcons), Box 20, Chronological)
  3. Nixon highlighted this paragraph.