160. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1


  • Your Meetings with Brezhnev

This is your basic memorandum. It contains a review of all the major issues that are likely to arise in your discussions, and provides talking points on each.

More detailed papers on the major subjects for your background and use are also enclosed in this book.2

Additional background material is in a separate briefing book.3 Also in the separate books are your conversations at the last summit,4 and my conversations in Zavidovo.5

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

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3. International Questions

A. Europe

Brezhnev was not particularly interested in the details of the European Security Conference, or of Mutual Force Reductions and asked that I take them up with Gromyko, who of course was extremely well informed.

Brezhnev’s main objectives seem to be:

  • —That the European Security Conference become a symbol of a new era of relaxed tension in Europe, flowing from the agreements with West Germany.
  • —He will press you for agreement to a timetable, that would complete the conference by the end of the year, and have the final stage as a massive summit meeting of 34 leaders.6
  • —As for the substance the Soviets have been driven by pressure from all sides to agree to an increase in contacts and freer movement of people and dissemination of information.
  • —In return, they have nailed down some general principles on territorial integrity and inviolability of borders that shore up the status quo.

On MBFR, Brezhnev has not said much. A year ago he said that the best approach was a symbolic reduction, of about 10 percent, in order to build confidence.

  • —He took the same position with Brandt when he visited Bonn7 and added that it would be worth adding some measures such as exchange of observers and limits on maneuvers (a position the West has long espoused).
  • Gromyko probed me for our position on the substance, even though it probably has been available through Soviet intelligence since we presented it to NATO. Gromyko did propose, however, that we begin some very private discussions on MBFR over the summer; and I told him we would consider it.

Our Position

Of course we must be very sensitive to the Allied reaction on MBFR. We cannot seem to be negotiating any substance on their behalf.8 Moreover, the Alliance is just beginning to pull themselves together to take a long, hard look at the substance.

In general we see three possible outcomes:

A 10 percent cut in NATO stationed (“foreign”) forces, and a reciprocal Soviet cut of numbers that would bring their total down to [Page 489] a common ceiling in the area. (West Germany, the Benelux, East Germany, Poland and Czechoslovakia.) The second phase would be a cut of ten percent for the national or indigenous NATO and Warsaw Pact forces.
The second approach would be a mixed package in which the Soviets would reduce their tank forces—that is about one Soviet tank army of ten divisions—and we would reduce about 1,000 nuclear warheads.
The third approach would limit the reductions only to the US and Soviet forces; we would cut by about 15 percent and the Soviets by some numbers sufficient to create parity (about a 2 to 1 reduction) in the zone of reductions.

The NATO inclination is for the first approach, mainly because the Germans feel under domestic political pressure to make a reduction if others do so.

—As you told Pompidou,9 for sound military-security reasons we oppose cutting national forces, and trading good NATO forces for second rate Polish and Czech divisions.

Therefore, we favor a Soviet-American cut, as long as the result can be rationalized as creating a parity in the area.

On the European Conference on Security and Cooperation:

We have no vital interest at stake; indeed, our main aim was to concede some of the atmospherics to the Soviets while protecting the substance. Since the Soviets want to dilute the NATO system by suggesting that a new system of “collective security” is emerging, we want to keep the outcome very general.

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 first Foreign Ministers meeting, which is set for July 3 in Helsinki, there will be committees and subcommittees established to work out final agreements.

Presumably, they will start working in the committees in Geneva by early September, and could conceivably finish by the end of the year, but this is doubtful, given the record of the preparatory talks that began in November and are just now winding up.

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The final product will be a series of declarations and some agreements in the cultural and economic field. The Soviets want the final meeting to be a summit. The Soviets have given us privately a draft of the final document, and we have discussed it with the UK, the French and Germans. It is out of date, but I imagine Brezhnev or Gromyko will press us to react. The Allies want to stay loose on this, and we should accommodate them.

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 around the turn of the year is a reasonable target. Certainly by the late winter the talks will be winding up.10
  • —Whether or not they 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.


  • —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.11
  • —Therefore, the balance should be at least equal in numbers which 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.)12

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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.

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

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 75, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Meetings with Brezhnev, Memoranda from Kissinger. Secret; Sensitive. A notation at the top of the first page indicates that the President saw the memorandum.
  2. Other portions of the briefing book are ibid. For the briefing paper on European issues, see Document 159.
  3. Additional background material is in National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 75, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Meetings with Brezhnev, Memoranda from Kissinger.
  4. See Documents 9498.
  5. See Document 147.
  6. Nixon highlighted this paragraph.
  7. See Document 152.
  8. Nixon underlined the entire sentence, along with “MBFR” at the end of the previous sentence.
  9. See Document 154.
  10. Nixon highlighted this paragraph.
  11. Nixon highlighted this and the previous paragraph.
  12. Nixon underlined “accept October 30.”