202. Backchannel Message From the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Scowcroft) to Secretary of State Kissinger in Jerusalem1

Tohak 85. Deliver to Bremer/Rodman for the Secretary. Sonnenfeldt asked me to send you the following in this channel.

This is in regard to Secto 1442 and your caution not to get the confidence building issue resolved before the President’s trip. The CSCE situation is such that on several issues there seems little if any prospect that they will get resolved in the next several weeks.

On the Basket Three preamble we are getting close to a substantive resolution in our bilateral talks but there remains a total deadlock over the tactics of getting the compromise floated. In my talks with Soviet CSCE delegation head Kovalyev in Geneva3 he was rigid in rejecting any Soviet initiative in finding a “country X” that might be persuaded to introduce the compromise. We on the other hand simply must not risk having our own hand detected in this, at least in my judgment. Once a compromise is floated we should then of course exert our influence with the Allies to move toward it. The Soviets, incidentally told me in Geneva, that their plan once the compromise is on the table is to move toward it only very gradually, by first tabling a slight modification of their current position and slowly receding from it toward the compromise. Even assuming you can persuade Gromyko to find “country X” this whole process is likely to take time.

Secondly, there is the substance of Basket Three itself. The Soviets have yet to show their hand on precisely what content they are prepared to accept. This is bound to be less than what the Nine want. Hence there will be further haggling on this.

Third, as regards the CBMs the British will almost certainly move very slowly and the Soviets at the moment have a very rigid position, i.e. limited frontier zones for the notification areas, six days advance notice and only corps or army-size maneuvers to be notified. We will of course implement your instruction in Secto 144, but our problem with the British is that they interpreted your general endorsement of [Page 617] their approach on March 284 as constituting full backing for it. In fact, you only told them that their approach is a good basis once the geographic area and unit size issues has been settled.

Fourth, the whole question of follow-on machinery has not even been broached yet in Geneva and it will undoubtedly take some time to resolve.

In sum, our problem is almost certainly not that of getting issues solved too fast but rather that of having a number of them still open when the President goes to Moscow and his being put under pressure from Brezhnev to get them solved.

Our whole position on CSCE has become rather ironic. We were always the most skeptical and yet today we seem to have become the key to success in both Soviet and West European eyes. The Soviets, evidently calculating that the President is eager for a successful summit finale, constantly badger us to get matters moving and we have to some extent encouraged this. The Nine meanwhile, having discovered that their earlier enthusiasm for this conference was misplaced and being increasingly subjected to domestic criticism about it, want us to use our clout with the Soviets to obtain results that will look good in European parliaments. Failing that, they are trying to position themselves in a way that a disappointing result, especially if consecrated at the summit level, can be attributed to US-Soviet connivance and the President’s “success.” Yet the stark fact is that now as before there is nothing of consequence in this exercise for us except to the degree that we can use the maneuvering about it for other purposes with the Soviets.

My own judgment would be that we ought not to extend ourselves much further beyond our efforts to get a tolerable Basket Three arrangement and to bring the CBM positions closer, and that we should do nothing further that might result in our being out ahead on the summit issue. The main point remains to get this operation over with as soon as feasible, if necessary with essentially minimal results and at Foreign Ministers level. I see little to commend the Brimelow view that since the Soviets are eager to get the summit we should use this to extort major Soviet concessions. We will not get such concessions—especially if the Soviets think that they can get a summit anyway—and even if we did they would merely be the source of subsequent disputes. Moreover, I see no reason why we should do the extorting, as [Page 618] the Europeans seem to think we should. Finally, the sooner this conference ends the quicker we will remove a source of increasing irritation with the Allies for essentially a worthless cause. And on top of that, Hyland and I are both persuaded that we will not get the Soviets to move on MBFR until the CSCE is out of the way.

What all this argues for is that we proceed as we are doing until the President’s Moscow trip; that on the occasion we avoid as much as we can further commitments to move the Europeans; and that after the summit we let matters take their course toward a fairly prompt and substantively modest conclusion.

I apologize for the length of this message but I wanted to give you my perspective on this matter before your next meeting with Gromyko. Art and I are sending you a front channel message with talking points and other pertinent material.5

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 216, Geopolitical File, Soviet Union, Dobrynin, Anatoliy. Secret. Bremer forwarded the message, along with other briefing materials, to Kissinger on May 7.
  2. Not found.
  3. No record of this conversation has been found.
  4. A memorandum of Kissinger’s conversation with Callaghan and Brimelow on March 28 is in National Archives, RG 59, Records of Henry Kissinger, Entry 5403, Box 7, Nodis Memcons, Mar. 1974, Folder 5.
  5. Telegram Tosec 296/92763 to Jerusalem, May 6, is in Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 216, Geopolitical File, Soviet Union, Dobrynin, Anatoliy.