192. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Meeting on Moscow Trip and Other Topics


  • The Secretary
  • Robert McCloskey, Ambassador at Large
  • Helmut Sonnenfeldt, Counselor of the Department
  • Arthur Hartman, Assistant Secretary for European Affairs
  • William Hyland, Director, Bureau of Intelligence and Research
  • Brent Scowcroft, Deputy to Advisor for National Security Affairs
  • Lawrence Eagleburger, Executive Assistant
  • Jan Lodal, National Security Council
  • Denis Clift, National Security Council

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

Secretary: [Omitted here are unrelated comments.] (Turns to Hartman) Can you bear it if we talk about MBFR? That’s something you know about. How did you like my trilaterals remark yesterday?2

[Page 569]

Hartman: It was great, especially if you put it together with the Vice President’s statement today.3

Secretary: I wonder what he meant. Anyway, he has more than restored the President’s youth. Let me look through the SALT book. (To Lodal and Sonnenfeldt) Will you guys be here tomorrow? Now let’s move on to MBFR.

Sonnenfeldt: The talking points are being typed.

Secretary: That’s OK, I want to focus on concepts. (To McCloskey). Bob, I think you will like our position. We want to withdraw 15 percent of US and Soviet forces, moving then to a common ceiling achieved through a reduction of indigenous forces. You should really appreciate this, Bob, especially its fairness. We would reduce 29,000 men without their equipment in exchange for a Soviet tank army of 68,000 men along with their tanks. We would also put a tank ceiling on them without any for ourselves. And then we could rotate 50,000 people for up to four months a year back to Europe. This is a fair proposal; why haven’t the Soviets accepted it yet? For four months a year we would be allowed to have more troops in Europe under MBFR than without MBFR.

Hyland: Yeah, and in addition they should give us free emigration out of the Soviet Union.

Secretary: Right, and we can throw in 36 F–4’s.

Sonnenfeldt: We sure could.

Secretary: It’s a good basis for negotiating.

Hyland: Grechko will be away in Iraq during your visit.

Secretary: Then they can’t make any decisions.

Hyland: They have already made them.

[Page 570]

Secretary: Well, they would be in a position to float only one position.

Hyland: They have already floated it to us.

Secretary: When we were in Moscow discussing SALT, Brezhnev was having Politburo meetings every day. Where can I go from here on this subject, how do we break out from here?

Sonnenfeldt: Any straight percentage cut involves a disparity.

Secretary: I think we could get a five percent cut if I limited it with a second phase.

Lodal: Five percent of what, US-Soviet or NATO-Warsaw Pact? Five percent of US troops is only about 10,000.

Hyland: Five percent would give us some 9,600 vs. 23,000 Soviets.

Secretary: What about five percent of the totals of both sides?

Lodal: About 38,000 vs. 46,000.

Sonnenfeldt: That would be a large number.

Lodal: Yes, and it doesn’t include air forces.

Secretary: What is NATO’s total force in Central Europe? Lodal: 777,000.

Secretary: Well, that type of a move would shock the Allies—this would be falling back from our current proposal of 29,000 for 68,000 to 38 for 45. And it won’t look like great progress to anybody.

Sonnenfeldt: Right, but I think it is useful for you to look at it as one different concept.

Hyland: They might swallow 10,000 US for some 20,000 Soviets.

Secretary: Would this work in terms of verification?

Hyland: Our capabilities for units are not too bad.

Lodal: Or you could try eight percent.

Hyland: 10,000 in return for 20,000 is something they could probably accept.

Secretary: The advantage of this tack is that Brezhnev proposed it to the President last year. It would be hard for him to get off this concept now. If we included air forces, it might be better from their point of view. If we made reductions including air forces in the base, would each side be able to determine the forces it withdraws?

Hyland: You would have to negotiate this. For us it would be better to specify at least a certain amount of ground force that must be reduced. Soviet ground forces are obviously more important for us.

Secretary: We must have ground force reductions but the question is whether we should have air force reductions. We would need in effect a form of ceiling for ground force reductions indicating that they should be not less than 5,000. But could we allow them to take more than that in ground forces?

[Page 571]

Hyland: It is hard to verify reductions of air manpower if no aircraft are involved.

Secretary: The Joint Chiefs are going to be interested in all this.

They are marvelous at screwing up disarmament.

The only advantage of including air forces is to change the trading ratio somewhat, but we would still want to push for ground force reductions.

How would we link this with the last phase?

Hyland: We would negotiate that.

Secretary: The Soviets want a second phase link which includees specific reference to national forces.

Sonnenfeldt: The Soviets still haven’t accepted the idea of a US Soviet phase. You will probably have to accept some form of freeze on national forces.

Secretary: If we pull out less than 10,000 people after two years of negotiating, we would spur on Mansfield. After all, Laird took out 25,000 men from Europe to put them elsewhere. Haig and I had to stop that from the White House.

Sonnenfeldt: The only way to combat Mansfield in this context is to show him we are in a process, and not merely in a set of simplistic reductions. That involves a freeze and movement toward a second phase.

Secretary: Yes, gentlemen, but we will need a figure greater than 10,000.

Sonnenfeldt: What about three percent of NATO and Warsaw Pact totals?

Lodal: There is really no asymmetry involved in that.

Sonnenfeldt: I am talking of alternative concepts.

Secretary: I must say, I am coming to like the concept of withdrawing a Soviet tank army less and less. The problem here is that if we go through with it, we are logically signed up with a freeze on our tank forces as well. This will get us into the same situation of being criticized for codifying inferiority as in SALT, given all the demagoguery in this country. We will be accused of creating a tank gap. That’s the problem. So I have come off the tank cut.

Lodal: A European freeze hurts us.

Sonnenfeldt: Jan’s concept is to get the Soviet tanks to stay in Germany so that the Soviets will have to walk back to Russia.

Secretary: Why don’t we base our withdrawals on how many forces we would be allowed to rotate back? That would be great. They could then bring back more than 100,000 for months at a time. In fact, both sides could have more forces in Central Europe as a result of MBFR.

[Page 572]

Scowcroft: The exceptions allowing reintroduction of forces that you are talking about are there to help the Europeans feel better.

Secretary: We have less to gain from it than they do. Each August both sides would be free to go back to their old levels. In terms of working with NATO, can we negotiate a five percent US-Soviet cut without equipment, with the proviso that there would be a second phase and a common ceiling?

Sonnenfeldt: Probably.

Secretary: We would have three months to get this through NATO.

Lodal: It’s when you move to having percentage cuts based on NATO and Warsaw Pact totals that you start having problems with the Allies.

Secretary: Yes, but we could have done it that way if we had started this way from the beginning.

We could justify that we were dropping nukes from the equation after the nuclear trilaterals, and thus also dropping our demands for Soviet equipment.

Lodal: The problem is with the common ceiling. As it now stands, they have to take out three for our one to get to the common ceiling.

Secretary: The Soviets do?

Lodal: The Pact does. You can change this disparity by lowering the common ceiling but never getting all that was there, and through phasing. For example, you could set a common ceiling at 600,000 but only go down to 700,000.

Sonnenfeldt: Yes, but think of who would be doing all this. For the FRG, these reductions mean demobilization.

Lodal: One could thus bring the ratio down to two to one.

Secretary: Let’s not worry about this concept—it won’t be very active.

Lodal: They have talked about movement to parity if air forces were included.

Secretary: Couldn’t we jazz up the figures? If we add air forces, we may have to concede something on the commitment to the common ceiling. We could say that we continued to want it without requiring the Soviets to say the same.

Sonnenfeldt: All this amounts to one-tenth of an agreement. Questions of language, equipment, freeze, etc., would all remain.

Secretary: Another issue is how to handle the subject at the summit.

Hyland: The Soviets could agree to talk in terms of US-Soviet reductions at the summit.

Secretary: Well, that’s that for MBFR. Now, Art, what about CSCE?

Hartman: OK.

Secretary: What can I tell them about European security?

[Page 573]

Sonnenfeldt: The French version that you got just before this meeting about the PompidouBrezhnev summit is different from the other version you got.4

Secretary: I am inclined to believe the Soviets. (To Hartman) Is that information now circulating all through EUR?

Sonnenfeldt: I don’t think the ambassador understood what was going on on the subject of concluding documents in CSCE.

Secretary: But it stands to reason in CSCE that if the documents are concluded, there must be a summit; this is simply so by definition. (To Hartman) What do we tell the Soviets about the summit?

Hartman: We say if the work goes on and is completed, we think there could be a summit.

Secretary: OK.

Sonnenfeldt: No, we could say that we would like a summit to take place and won’t stand in the way of it.

Secretary: Right.

Now, can you explain this Basket III crap to me.

What is Basket III in the paper? Let’s look through it. (Leaves to take phone call; returns)

What’s in Basket III? (Reads portion of Helsinki final document)

Hyland: They haven’t started writing on it.

Sonnenfeldt: The Soviets said they could be flexible if they got their view in Basket III.

Secretary: What’s happening?

Hyland: The group in Geneva wants to add various portions on Human Contacts.

Secretary: This, as well as a link between Basket III and the general principles.

Where is the inviolability of frontiers issue? In the basic principles?

Hartman: Yes.

Secretary: And here our solution is to sneak in a reference to peaceful change in some other place in a way acceptable to the Germans. And the problem is that horse’s ass Scheel now wants to get more out of CSCE than he got in his treaty with the Soviets.

What’s that other abstruse point of Gromyko’s on principles?

Hyland: Oh, the ascending order of principles for the non-use of force, the inviolability of frontiers, etc.—and the concept of borders comes first.

Secretary: Where is inviolability in this paper in my book?

[Page 574]

Hartman: Here (Takes out separate spread sheet).

Hyland: The Soviet document is at Tab G.

Secretary: (To notetaker) Are you looking through the briefing books or taking notes?

Sonnenfeldt: He’s taking notes.

Secretary: Where is the frontier language? What do I tell Gromyko?

Sonnenfeldt: In keeping with what the Soviets told Sherer about their willingness to see reference to peaceful change put on a separate sheet and inserted later somewhere in the principles, you can tell them that we could live with it being on a separate sheet and inserted later.

Secretary: What other problems in CSCE?

Sonnenfeldt: CBMs, follow-on machinery.

Secretary: That’s it for CSCE. What else?

Sonnenfeldt: Test ban.

Secretary: We don’t want one. What do we get out of it for détente? On MBFR, why should the Soviets agree to our formulas for mutual cuts? They would have had 25,000 out of Europe if Haig and I hadn’t caught Laird.

[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 8, Soviet Union, Secretary’s Trip, March. Secret; Nodis; Eyes Only. The conversation took place in the Secretary’s office.
  2. Kissinger, responding to a question at a March 21 press conference about the potential impact of U.S.-European differences on his upcoming discussions in Moscow, stated: “Under no circumstances will we sacrifice European interests in negotiations with the Soviet Union, no matter what our disagreements may be with the Europeans. With respect to troop reductions—with the negotiations of troop reductions—they are continuing on the course that has been agreed to in NATO. We have had a trilateral conversation that has been foreseen with the U.S. and the Federal Republic this week. These conversations went well, and there is an agreed allied position which we will continue to pursue.” (Department of State Bulletin, April 8, 1974, p. 353) On the trilateral discussions on MBFR, see footnote 13, Document 355.
  3. In an interview with Reuters on March 22, Vice President Ford said with regard to the force reduction talks in Vienna that “some of our allies are saying that we won’t negotiate, we won’t have any compromises.” Ford continued: “They seem to be saying that predicated on the basis that the United States is going to keep its present force there ad infinitum. With the sentiment that is in the United States for a reduction, it may mean there will be a unilateral reduction unless we can get a mutual agreement with the Soviet Union. Some of our allies have to be realistic—that we should get an agreement; otherwise, there could be a unilateral reduction.” (John Heffernan, “Ford Renews Warning to Europeans,” Washington Post, March 23, 1974, p. A1)
  4. Pompidou visited Moscow March 11–13.