187. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • The Secretary
  • Joseph J. Sisco, Under Secretary for Political Affairs
  • Helmut Sonnenfeldt, Counselor
  • Arthur A. Hartman, Assistant Secretary for European Affairs
  • William G. Hyland, Director of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research
  • Alfred L. Atherton, Jr., Deputy Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs
  • Major General Brent Scowcroft, The White House
  • Harold Saunders, The White House

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

[Page 553]

Secretary: [Omitted here are unrelated comments.] But what about CSCE?

Sonnenfeldt: I sent you a memo suggesting we try one more time with our compromise language on Basket III and then fall back.2

Secretary: On CSCE we can give the Russians something. We can give them a text and we can give them a summit.

Sonnenfeldt: You will want to swallow a couple of times before you do that.

Scowcroft: What does it cost?

Sonnenfeldt: It costs something in Europe if we have a summit with the Russians and none with the Allies.

Hyland: You could give Brezhnev a target date in July for CSCE and hold open the question of level of participation.

Secretary: Nothing can happen at a CSCE summit. I wouldn’t go until we have everything agreed. It would only be to make speeches and sign documents.

Hartman: I think we can be relaxed about the summit and follow-on machinery. But what will Pompidou say when he goes to Moscow?

Secretary: When does he go?

Hartman: March 12.

Secretary: Brandt told me that Pompidou is going to give CSCE away in Moscow and said he wants to give it away too. Why shouldn’t we give it away?

Sonnenfeldt: I think we should graciously support the French and Germans giving it away.

Secretary: Just a moment. We can’t be sons-of-bitches everywhere. We have to show the Russians they are getting something out of détente. I am looking for things to give them that don’t cost us anything. We have screwed them at every turn. Can you imagine what the Jacksons are saying in the Soviet Union about Vietnam, the Middle East, the wheat deal, MBFR. We have not been softening up the West for the Soviets and they have discovered that it is possible for Western public opinion to be both for peace and anti-communist. The Soviets are totally stymied everywhere and I am afraid if we can’t give them something, there is going to be an explosion.

Hyland: If we are going to give them a CSCE summit, let’s do it before Pompidou goes to Moscow.

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

[Page 554]

Secretary: I would like a paper by tomorrow afternoon on long-range strategy with the Soviets, assuming we can do nothing for them in the Middle East.

[Omitted here is discussion of the Middle East.] But if we can give them nothing in the Middle East, how can we be responsive in CSCE, the summit and Berlin?

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

Scowcroft: MBFR.

Secretary: I must say the present German position on MBFR baffles me. They tried to explain it to me in Bonn3 but it was over my head.

Hartman: They are willing to reduce, but they don’t want to be singled out as the only Western country doing so in the second phase.

Sonnenfeldt: There is a new wrinkle. The Russians want to make sure that there is a freeze on Allied forces after the first phase so that the Allies cannot make up US reductions between the first and second phases. It is very logical, but it is not yet the US position.

Secretary: Could I have a paper by tomorrow afternoon that lays all these possibilities out?

Hyland: Why are you having an MBFR meeting this week?

Secretary: To educate myself.

Sonnenfeldt: The next operational MBFR issue is nuclear consultations with the British and Germans, and the British also want to talk about SALT.

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

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Records of the Office of the Counselor, Entry 5339, Box 4, HS Chron Official. Secret; Nodis; Eyes Only. The conversation took place in Secretary Kissinger’s office.
  2. Not found.
  3. Kissinger visited Bonn March 3–4; he discussed MBFR with Scheel on March 3. A memorandum of their conversation is in National Archives, RG 59, Records of Henry Kissinger, Entry 5403, Box 7, Nodis Memcons, Mar. 1974, Folder 6.