164. Memorandum From Helmut Sonnenfeldt of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • Your Meeting with the NATO Permanent Representatives

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


There has been a reasonably good discussion in the Alliance about MBFR, and before the summer vacation the Allies would hope to hear our preferences among the three general alternatives: (I) stationed and indigenous cuts of 10 percent to a common ceiling; (II) a mixed package tanks for nuclear weapons, and (III) US-Soviet cut of about 15–16 percent for a common ceiling.

All, save the FRG, prefer the US-Soviet cut, but they are now more concerned to be involved in the negotiating process, and to create a wide system of constraints.

(Incidentally, this is the group that created the Hungarian nightmare.)

Your Talking Points

  • —You are pleased that NATO is grappling with the substantive options and has recovered [received] our input in a good and constructive spirit.
  • —You are aware that all want to hear our preferences among the various options; we should stop quibbling about words like “balanced”; substance is what counts, not words.
  • —Our view is that if MBFR is not to be destructive of Western unity, the outcome must be a consensus, in which all the allies play a full role.
  • —We have deliberately not taken a stand, lest we be thought to have already arranged the outcome with the Soviets.
  • —In fact, for very sound military reasons, we believe a Soviet-American reduction is the most advantageous, and that reducing national forces can be dangerous; trading good allied divisions for second-rate Czech and Polish divisions is unwise.
  • —Nevertheless, we recognize that each ally has a domestic problem, as we do, and that cutting national forces may be unavoidable; in any case, this stage should be deferred for as long as possible.
  • —We agree that constraints are important, and that there must be a tight non-circumvention clause; this has always been our position and the debate about Hungary struck us as needless.


They will all be wondering what bargain we may have reached with the Soviets, and what we expect from CSCE. You should not be defensive on the communiqué,2 but take the offensive in explaining why some symbolism may be to our advantage.

Your Talking Points

  • —We have always been skeptical about this Conference, and have engaged in it, first to force the pace on the Berlin negotiations, and then to commit the Soviets on MBFR.
  • —We should not expect to drive the Soviets out of Eastern Europe through declarations; the more we turn this into a confrontation, the more difficult it will be to explain why we compromised, as will be inevitable.
  • —Our view is to terminate the Conference with the least damage; thus we can accelerate the pace; in fact, we get more from the Soviets under deadlines than they do from us.
  • —As for a final summit, our view is that it may be unavoidable; all of the Eastern side will attend at the summit level and so will the neutrals, the West will isolate themselves, so it should not be turned into a confrontation.

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

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1336, Unfiled Material, 1973, 10 of 12. Secret. Attached but not printed are Tab A, a list of participants at the upcoming meeting; Tab B, telegram 126546 to all NATO capitals, June 28, summarizing Secretary Rogers’s briefing to the North Atlantic Council on Brezhnev’s visit; Tab C, telegram 3026 from USNATO, June 22, on the NAC’s discussion of the U.S.-Soviet agreement on the prevention of nuclear war; and Tab D, telegram 3008 from USNATO, June 21, on Rumsfeld’s consultations with the NAC on SALT.
  2. See Document 163.