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


  • Secretary Rogers’ Report on the European Security Conference

The Secretary has cabled you a summary of the results of the Foreign Ministers session that opened the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE). (Tab A)2 The Conference endorsed an agenda3 and agreed that working groups would take up the agenda on September 18 in Geneva. The main subjects will be (1) general principles governing relations among the participating states, including certain military restraints such as the pre-announcement of maneuvers; (2) cooperation in economic relations; and (3) increased contacts, including freer movement of peoples, ideas and information. In addition, a special working group will consider what permanent institutions might be created to carry on after the Conference ends.

The Secretary reports that the Soviets emphasized the inviolability of existing boundaries in Europe, and the necessity to reconcile any freer movement of people, etc., with national sovereignty and laws. The Secretary believes that the united front presented by the Western Allies will make it difficult for the Soviets to achieve their objective of affirming the immutability of borders. Both he and many of the Western ministers went on record favoring peaceful change of boundaries, mainly to conciliate the German position, which holds that the FRGGDR boundary can be changed through peaceful unification. The Secretary also believes that the Soviets will be under considerable pressure to modify their present restrictive practices in the areas of human contacts and the flow of information and ideas.

The Secretary was struck by the realistic attitude of the allies’ ministers; while all of them share the hope for progress, none believes that the Conference will be a panacea, nor will the allies feed public euphoria. [Page 511] Indeed, they are trying to convey to public opinion that the CSCE is only a limited step and that NATO’s defense must be maintained.

On the final phase—which the Soviets want to be at the summit and before the end of the year—the Secretary comments that he found considerable reserve on a final summit, and that the amount of work remaining suggests a much later terminal date.

Comment: This first phase was essentially procedural. It has been agreed in advance that no real substance would be taken up, and after a round of speeches a bland communiqué would be issued.4 Despite the Western solidarity on the border question and on greater human contacts the long preparatory session suggests that, in fact, it is an illusion to expect the Soviets to change their internal system as a result of a declaration in Helsinki, and none of the participants has been willing to risk the failure of the Conference on this point.

As for holding the last phase at the summit, it is quite likely that as the conference proceeds there will be a growing desire on the part of many countries to attend a final summit. Though much work remains there is so little of substantive value involved in this conference it could be completed within 2–3 months, except for the interminable squabbling that is produced by trying to draft a declaration with the participation of 35 representatives, who are each pressing some particular national point of view. In any case, the first phase seems to have passed without any damage to the Western position, which is about all we can realistically expect from this exercise.

The Secretary now departs for Czechoslavakia.5

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 287, Agency Files, State, Vol. XIX. Secret. Sent for information.
  2. Attached but not printed is a retyped copy of telegram Secto 45/1895 from Helsinki, July 7. The original telegram is ibid., Box 673, Country Files, Europe, Finland, Vol. I.
  3. On July 3, the Ministerial meeting of the CSCE adopted the Final Recommendations drafted and approved at the multilateral preparatory talks, including an agenda and procedures for conducting negotiations at Geneva. For the text of the Final Recommendations, see Department of State Bulletin, July 30, 1973, pp. 181–188.
  4. For the text of the communiqué, adopted July 7, see ibid., p. 181.
  5. Rogers visited Prague July 8–9 to sign a consular convention.