178. Editorial Note

In telegram 224321 to Geneva, November 14, 1973, the Department instructed the Chief of the Delegation to the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, Davis Boster, regarding a “possible compromise over principles language:” “Dept believes that some gesture will have to be made soon toward accommodating growing Soviet concerns underlying their insistence on a reference to domestic law and customs in preamble to Basket III.” The instructions continued: “We would suggest approaching the problem by undertaking detailed study of non-intervention language in Basket I when this subject comes up for discussion in next few days. Since Basket I principles can and probably will be incorporated by general reference into some preamble or chapeau for Basket III, progress in the non-intervention language could be presented to the Soviets as the most appropriate and promising way of meeting their concerns, without plunging the conference into a very complicated additional drafting job for Basket III. In this connection, we are prepared, if necessary, to work from the language contained in the French draft declaration of principles on which, heretofore, we have been somewhat reserved.”

Boster replied in telegram 6103 from Geneva on November 16: “We appreciate suggested compromise in reftel [telegram 224321] and have discussed this idea informally with interested NATO allies. We believe Department’s suggestion may prove useful at later stage, but we feel it is not appropriate to the current negotiating situation, would not now receive any support from our allies, and would align us openly with Soviets against substantive positions and strategy being pursued by our allies. However, Soviets’ larger objective of including preambular language in Basket III (‘laws and customs’ is only one of the sets of principles Soviet seek to include in this preamble) is being partially met in another way.” Boster noted that with regard to Basket III, “the allies have held strongly to position that no preamble whatsoever is needed to precede concrete agreements. Strategy of allies is not to agree to have a preamble until Soviets have entered meaningful discussions of concrete proposals.” He continued: “French have been working carefully for a month to find a compromise (‘mini-basket’) solution under [Page 530] which synoptic presentations of all concrete proposals would be tabled in Basket II subcommittees. To satisfy Eastern bloc, formula has been found to apply this device also to preamble of Basket III, thus providing Soviets with tacit admission of possibility of a preamble to Basket III (which is where they want to include point on ‘laws and customs’), as well as discussion of this preamble in parallel with discussions of concrete Western proposals.” The telegram concluded: “Suggested action. If Department’s concern is to show responsiveness to Soviet interest in this question, I am having lunch with Kovalev and Mendelevich on November 20 and could say that we are giving careful attention to Soviet concern on point of preamble and that, as one way of trying to be helpful, we have given behind-the-scenes support to French proposal. I doubt that we should go further at this time in trying to reassure Kovalev about the ‘laws and customs’ aspect of the preamble as long as the NATO stand against it remains as strong as it is now.”

On November 20, the Department of State replied to Boster in telegram 228527: it concurred in his proposal “to indicate to Kovalev and Mendelevich that you are fully aware of Soviet concern on point of preamble to Basket 3, and that we have supported French proposal for structuring Basket 3 subcommittee’s discussion around mini-baskets as a way to keep question of preambular language for Basket 3 in play. At the same time, however, you should convey to Soviets your reading of strength of Western opposition to including ‘laws and customs’ in preamble to Basket 3 and inquire whether they have given thought to alternative approaches which might lend themselves to overcoming this difficulty. Beyond this, you may wish to inquire whether strengthening of language on non-interference in Basket 1 might not open way to possible compromise entailing specific reference in preambular language of Basket 3 to strengthened Basket 1 formulation, a possibility which had occurred to us as means to bridge important differences that persist.” The telegram continued: “Begin FYI: We believe that we should not delay further in reassuring Soviets that we are giving close attention to this issue, and therefore you should begin now to seek to soften their position, looking forward to a compromise that will permit problem of Basket 3 preamble from becoming a major stumbling block in CSCE. At the same time, you should continue your discussions with the allies, urging them to give consideration to possible compromises.”

On November 21, Boster replied in telegram 6208 from Geneva: “At luncheon given by Boster November 20, Soviet Delegation head, Deputy Foreign Minister Kovalev, took generally positive attitude toward current status CSCE work and for first time tacitly acknowledged—without complaint—that conference would not be over this year. He reiterated Soviet interest in principle of inviolability of frontiers and need for statement of non-interference principles in preamble [Page 531] to specific humanitarian cooperation agreements. He responded only in very general terms to our suggestion that some new approach to ‘laws and customs’ aspect of preamble be considered in light of strong Western opposition to this principle.” The telegram continued: “Inviolability of frontiers. Commenting on Boster’s statement of our concern that treatment of this subject include a provision for peaceful change of frontiers, Kovalev said he would like to clarify Soviet position. In Soviet view, principle of inviolability of frontiers was quite different and separate from idea of peaceful change. Soviets accepted that rectifications of borders can always take place in exercise of sovereign rights of states concerned, but principle of inviolability of frontiers should be crystal clear and stand by itself; it should not have any ‘cracks’ which might serve to undermine it. Boster said we fully understood Soviet concern about this principle; nevertheless, since we all acknowledged possibility of peaceful change, we did not consider that this should be regarded as a ‘crack’ in the inviolability principle.” The telegram concluded: “Comment. Kovalev’s posture was somewhat more optimistic and relaxed than it has been in previous meetings. Apart from his implicit acknowledgment that CSCE would not be finished this year as Soviets had always hoped, his emphasis on quality of results and prediction of difficult drafting stage also implied acceptance of a longer phase II than originally foreseen. Kovalev showed no signs of flexibility on either issue of inviolability of frontiers or ‘laws and customs’ aspect of Basket III, but this is not surprising at this early stage of the negotiations. At the same time, Soviets are obviously building a basis on which to argue that conference progress now justifies beginning discussion of post-CSCE follow-on activity, a question which will arise for coordinating committee Nov. 29.” (All in National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 708, Europe, Switzerland, Vol. II)