19. Minutes of a National Security Council Meeting1



  • The President
  • Vice President Agnew
  • Secretary of State Rogers
  • Secretary of Defense Laird
  • Attorney General Mitchell
  • General Lincoln, Director, OEP
  • Admiral Moorer, Acting Chairman, JCS
  • Director of Central Intelligence Helms
  • Under Secretary of State Richardson
  • Assistant to the President Henry A. Kissinger
  • Ambassador Walter H. Annenberg
  • Prime Minister Harold Wilson
  • Foreign Secretary Michael Stewart
  • Ambassador John Freeman
  • William Watts, NSC Staff
  • Helmut Sonnenfeldt, NSC Staff

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

President: What about European security matters?

Rogers: The problem concerning disengagement as a policy is that the USSR is seeking to create the impression that we have in fact opted for alternative #3.2 The fact is that we are going from alternative #13 to alternative #24 at a sensible pace. We must reinforce this impression.

We are a strong supporter of the present Alliance—for example, the President’s trip to Europe,5 my stand at the NATO conference,6 and Elliot Richardson’s speech on the European security situation.7

We must encourage cohesion and give economic aid.

[Page 46]

We must also understand what the USSR is up to. We want to negotiate; we will not just be belligerent.

On SALT, we are convinced that they are interested in serious discussions. Concerning our own troop strength, we will maintain it at present levels through 1971. In short, the foundationstone of our own security is NATO.

Concerning the European Security Conference, the Soviets do not give the intention of getting into serious discussions. First of all, they don’t even talk to us; rather for 6 to 8 months they discussed as to whether or not to invite us into the party. If they don’t talk to all interested parties at the same time, the offer would not have been made in good faith.

Beyond that, the Soviet approach does not deal with real security questions. The issues they have raised—trade and renunciation of forces—for example, have already been covered.

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

Wilson: I find this discussion fascinating as a form of governmental process. Even the inclusion of a third option for “intellectual symmetry” is most important.

And I agree that this third option is pretty well dead, although we must quiet the critics from time to time. The trouble is that the main danger to NATO is that it can be taken for granted. Czecholsovakia jerked everybody up, but there is a continuing need for external vigilance and more unity.

If we look at the Brezhnev Doctrine, it is interesting to note that the USSR has never chosen a country in the NATO Alliance. Actually Brezhnev has shown a high degree of military efficiency in imposing colonial policies.

As far as the European Security Conference is concerned, it was never really in doubt that the U.S. and Canada would be invited in. The Soviets never meant to be exclusive on this.

The question is just who is taking who for a ride. The right way to respond is not just to say no. But we must be properly prepared and deal with meaningful issues. Perhaps we should show a bit of rigidity, and crowd them a bit. It is my impression that Brandt is doing a bit of this. He is getting away from the old metaphors and pushing Ulbricht around. But he would never sacrifice security.

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

Stewart: [Omitted here are unrelated comments.] It is important to remember that NATO is not just a defensive alliance. I am worried about the opposition to the Alliance. “Is the damsel dead or only sleepeth?” [Page 47] We must try to avoid growth on that strand of opinion which attacks NATO as a waste. NATO is not just an armed camp; its existence does, in fact, relax tension and further relaxation may be attainable.

I would like to make four points:

We must not underwrite the Brezhnev Doctrine.
We must not just approve a limited agenda.
We must present the Soviets with real questions on such things as mutual force reductions and the German question, and
We must not be too showy. We must get some relaxation.

Wilson: I think we must avoid any big buildup about a European Security Conference—there would be too much hope for nothing.

Rogers: There is no problem here with public opinion. People are amazed at how ready we are to negotiate. We do not want to have some kind of big agreement in public on the agenda. But we do want to show ourselves as forthcoming.

RN: How would some kind of standing committee work?8

Stewart: It would have to do some preparatory bilateral discussion. Prime Minister Wilson is going to Moscow, and he may be able to find out if the Soviets are serious. Trade questions can go to existing organizations. As far as mutual force reductions are concerned, the neutrals are not interested. From time to time, certainly, we may want to bring the ministers together.

Wilson: It would be a good idea to have a heavy dose of safe subjects, such as cultural exchange and trade. We can compare notes on these, and give the standing committee a context, not exclusively related to difficult questions.

RN: It would be a good idea to keep the pressure on them, but I have one fundamental understanding concerning any conference. A conference in and of itself helps them; a conference in and of itself does not help us.

Look at Glassboro—there was just an appearance of détente and euphoria.

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

RN: The Soviets themselves have serious internal economic problems and problems with East Europe. East Europe will move increasingly toward Western Europe.

[Page 48]

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

Wilson: Don’t under-rate the effect of the top Soviet leaders with contacts in the outside world. Soviet businessmen with whom we have considerable contact are increasingly questioning the rigidity of the system.

RN: That’s right; Kosygin is manager.

Wilson: There will be no Rapallo9 from Brandt; but the USSR is looking for a new Rapallo.

The French approaches under DeGaulle were mischievous more than fundamental.

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

RN: Let me add one thing. I have great confidence in European politicians. But as far as dealing with the managers in the Soviet Union is concerned, I wouldn’t want to leave the impression that the future of Europe should be left in the hands of the German, French and Italian businessmen.

Wilson: Yes, especially the Italians.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–110, NSC Meeting Minutes, NSC Minutes, Originals, 1970. Secret. The full text of the minutes of the meeting is scheduled for publication Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XLI, Western Europe; NATO, 1969–1972. On January 27, Kissinger discussed the meeting in a telephone conversation with Richardson: “We are having an NSC meeting tomorrow with Wilson attending. We will talk about some European issues, and I will begin with 5 or 10 minutes of outline of the issues. The President wanted to call the Secretary [Rogers] now, but I know he can’t be reached. Could he talk about the European Security Conference for 5–10 minutes? Do you think that can be done?” Richardson replied, “I think so.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Henry A. Kissinger Telephone Transcripts (Telcons), Box 4, Chronological File)
  2. Rogers was referring to the response to National Security Study Memoranda 60, 65, 79, 83, and 84, January 26, which listed “three patterns of relationship (or systems or models) which are sufficiently within the realm of the possible and have enough advocates to be worth examining.” Alternative 3 reads: “Disengagement: a formal European military and political settlement involving the disengagement of American and Soviet forces from at least Central Europe.” Text of the response is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XLI, Western Europe; NATO, 1969–1972.
  3. Alternative 1 in the response to NSSMs 60, 65, 79, 83, and 84 reads: “The present structure: The continuation of, essentially, the present relationships, i.e., basically a bipolar structure of power in which the USSR dominates Eastern Europe and the US is the preponderant military and political power in Western Europe; Western Europe is loosely organized economically and politically (although the Common Market has brought its six members partly along the road to economic union) and heavily dependent on the US militarily; Germany remains divided.”
  4. Alternative 2 in the response to NSSMs 60, 65, 79, 83, and 84 reads in part: “Enhanced Western Europe: a modified bipolar structure in which a more highly organized Western Europe becomes a significant independent power complex still linked to the US in a defense treaty and relying, ultimately, on a US nuclear guarantee, but which has an increased defense capability of its own. Germany remains formally divided, but the Western European complex consciously expands its trade and other relationships with the smaller Eastern European countries, including the GDR. In this situation, even though the East European countries would doubtless remain linked in defense arrangements with the Soviet Union, they might become more independent in their domestic and foreign economic and social policies.”
  5. Nixon visited Europe February 23–March 2, 1969.
  6. See Document 14.
  7. Reference is to Richardson’s speech of November 20, 1969, at a regional foreign policy conference co-sponsored by the Department of State and the World Affairs Council of Los Angeles. See Department of State Bulletin, December 22, 1969, pp. 584–588.
  8. In a speech to Parliament on December 9, 1969, Stewart proposed the idea of a standing committee on East-West relations consisting of representatives from NATO and the Warsaw Pact. It was an idea, he said, that “NATO should most carefully consider.” See Documents on British Policy Overseas, Series III, Vol. 1, p. 199, fn. 8.
  9. Germany and the Soviet Union signed the Treaty of Rapallo in 1922, which opened the way for economic cooperation and German rearmament on Soviet soil. The implication of “Rapallo” was a German-Soviet deal behind the West’s back.