175. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • The Secretary’s meeting with the Belgian Foreign Minister
[Page 523]


  • Belgium
    • Renaat van Elslande, Foreign Minister
    • Walter Loridan, Ambassador to the U.S.
    • Viscomte Etienne Davignon, Director General for Political Affairs, Foreign Ministry
    • Paul Noterdaeme, Chef de Cabinet
  • U.S.
    • The Secretary
    • Walter J. Stoessel, Jr.
    • Ambassador Robert Strausz-Hupé
    • Helmut Sonnenfeldt
    • Richard D. Vine

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

Mr. van Elslande: We have conceived of CSCE as a success from the Western viewpoint only if there were a certain balance among all three baskets. We believe that there will be real détente only if the economic and inter-human contacts follow the military and security measures. Progress on the third basket would be a step forward. We have the impression at times that the only interest of the U.S. is in the first basket, not in the second or the third.

The Secretary: (reviews with his colleagues the terminology of the three baskets) Up to now I have conducted foreign policy in a more restricted circle. I am not used to having my words passed to over 122 foreign chanceries and circulated among 850 civil servants. European-American relations would be in great danger if my remarks were to be widely circulated or put out in public. I am therefore a little reluctant to speak frankly.

Nevertheless, I will go ahead. As an historian, in connection with the third basket I have serious doubts about the proposition that the proliferation of human contacts will produce peace. It is like the premise that the working class throughout the world is peaceful. Even before the First World War people traveled freely without passports. And, nevertheless, we managed to get a good war started. I am not against human contacts, but I think that the idea has become an intellectual fashion and I want to see it put into perspective.

The American position on human rights will be to state our respect for human rights and advocate their furtherance where possible. The question is how far to push for them? Our foreign policy will be to attain what is attainable.

We have an amazing group in the United States who argue that by withdrawing our troops from Europe and by abolishing missiles we will produce a new era with trade. They argue that a couple of hundred million dollars’ worth of trade will produce all these marvelous [Page 524] results. I believe that a system which has successfully resisted for more than fifty years will not be bought off. We have to avoid a situation in America where we talk ourselves into the psychosis that talks with the Soviet Union become a precondition for the flourishing of human freedoms in the U.S.S.R.

We think there are realistic restrictions on what we can count on and expect from these talks. We want a minimum of drama, since we feel that nothing great can come of it. Perhaps that indicates a lack of imagination on my part. We need to avoid a great confrontation.

Our concerns in a CSCE are that it not become too dramatic and that it not undermine NATO. Those are our sole goals and they are modest. We are restricting our third basket ambitions. If we can get over that problem, then our hope is that the conference will end with a meeting of the foreign ministers, not a summit.

I suspect, however, that if we refuse a summit meeting the Europeans will agree to one. We will not be pressing for a summit. I want you to know that if you do not press for a summit you will have our heartfelt support.

I have just been advised that luncheon is ready any time we are. That is very courteous—what it means, however, is that luncheon is ready whether we are or not.

To finish up, it is true that political and military matters permit more concrete agreement than agreements on human rights. I believe, however, that we should take what is obtainable. I do not believe that the Soviets will be prepared to concede much on human rights. Mr. van Elslande: We had the impression that you favored a summit.

The Secretary: My view has always been that the level of a final conference should be commensurate with the results achieved by the conference. It is a painful fact that in 1969 everybody in Europe was beating us over the head to agree to a CSCE. We reluctantly agreed to the views of our European friends and allies and now everyone appears to reason that it was we who were pushing for CSCE in the first place. I plead agnosticism. We are neither for or against a summit. We want to avoid a drama, but if there is a Wagnerian spectacle in the negotiations and then a resolution of the problem, a summit will be hard to avoid.

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 271, Memoranda of Conversation, Chronological File. Secret; Nodis. The meeting took place in the Secretary’s office. The memorandum was drafted by Vine and concurred in by Eagleburger. Van Elslande also met with Rush on October 9. A memorandum of their conversation is in National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 248, Agency Files, CSCE and MBFR.