208. Action Memorandum From the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Stabler) to Secretary of State Kissinger1

CSCE: “The Laws and Customs” Issue in Basket 3

The Finns tabled in Geneva on June 5 two proposals which broadly conform with the prior US-Soviet understanding for dealing with this issue. However, contrary to Dobrynin’s earlier suggestion that further contacts take place only in Washington or Moscow, the second-ranking Soviet delegate in Geneva, Dubinin, approached Sherer directly, saying [Page 634] that the operation had been set in motion and that it was now up to the US delegation to ensure its success. Dubinin added that “the scale of the means used to achieve the objective should match the scale on which the agreement had been reached.” (Geneva 3582 at Tab B)2

Sherer, who is not fully privy to our talks with the Soviets on this matter, needs instructions on next steps, and we propose sending him the guidance at Tab A.3


The two Finnish proposals tabled in Geneva on June 5 are the following:

  • —An amendment to the paragraph on the principle of nonintervention which provides that participants will “respect the political, economic and cultural foundations of other participating states as well as their right to determine their own legislative and regulatory systems.
  • —An amendment to the Finnish draft basket 3 preamble reading as follows: “Convinced that cooperation conducive to creating better conditions for increased cultural and educational exchanges, for broader dissemination of information, for contacts between people, and for the solution of humanitarian problems should take place in full respect for the principles defined in the document on the principles guiding relations among the participating states.” (This replaces a similar but less satisfactory Finnish formulation earlier tabled in CSCE that we cabled to you in Jerusalem; we do not know why the Finns revised it.)4

These texts follow the general lines of our understanding with the Soviets, but with the following points of difference:

  • —We told the Soviets we could support language on respect for “legislative and regulatory systems,” provided it appeared in the sovereignty and not the non-intervention paragraph of the principles declaration. We pointed out that we proposed to the Allies last November in Geneva a comparable approach in the non-intervention paragraph but they rejected it. Therefore, we preferred to try it out in the sovereignty paragraph this time.
  • —We did not agree to support the formula, “respect the political, economic and cultural foundations of other participating states.”

The Soviets may have deliberately added some negotiating fat to the proposal which they may agree to trim off later. Possibly, too, they may themselves propose shifting the “legislative and regulatory systems” language from the non-intervention to the sovereignty paragraph.

EC Nine delegations at Geneva caucused after the Finnish proposal was tabled and decided that the language on “legislative and regulatory systems [Page 635] was absolutely out of the question,” a position echoed by some neutral delegations.5 While we had expected an adverse reaction, Western European irritation has been compounded by several weeks of Soviet stalling on basket 3. They see the Soviet hand behind the Finnish move and interpret it as another sign of Moscow’s obstinacy in basket 3.

The Agreed Scenario

After lengthy discussions in Moscow and Washington, you approved and we conveyed to Dobrynin here on May 13 our agreement to a scenario, outlined below. Dobrynin later told us Moscow agreed to our scenario, entailing the following steps:

The Finns tabled the proposal in Geneva.
The Soviet side indicates its reaction in CSCE. (The Soviets have not yet reacted to the Finnish package.)
US delegation initially remains silent or noncommittal on the Finnish package.
At an early meeting of the NATO caucus the US argues in favor of the Finnish compromise. (We told Dobrynin that our success at this point will depend heavily on the progress being made on basket 3 substance and that the Allies, despite our best efforts, will bracket the Finnish language on baskets 1 and 3 pending agreement on specific substantive issues in basket 3).
If appropriate, US supports the compromise in NAC discussions. (We originally had in mind possible discussions in the NAC in permanent session. Because of the delay in getting the Finnish proposal on the table, the first occasion for NAC discussion is likely to arise at the Ottawa Ministerial.)
Pause for reflection. (We pointed out that the Allies will want to give the Finnish proposal careful consideration in capitals and will need a reasonable amount of time to digest the issue.)
Next steps. (If, as is possible, Allied CSCE delegations remain opposed, we would be prepared to pursue further steps to obtain acceptance of the compromise, including bilateral approaches if appropriate.)
At a later stage, we would speak in favor of the Finnish proposal in CSCE. (We would also, if appropriate, point to the need for concrete results in basket 3 to balance our support for the Finnish proposal.)

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We added to Dobrynin, pursuant to your instructions, that we will carry out fully our part of the understanding to achieve Allied agreement.

Based on the scenario, above, the next move is up to the Soviets; they should indicate in Geneva their reaction to the Finnish proposal. We should also disabuse them of the idea, which Dubinin reflected in his conversation with Sherer, that it is now up to the US to bring this matter to a successful conclusion. As we pointed out on several occasions to Dobrynin during the May 13 conversation, our success in gaining Allied acceptance of this compromise approach will depend on the progress being made in Geneva on basket 3 substance, and this will entail Soviet concessions.

If our delegation jumps into the fray too quickly in Geneva, the Allies will suspect a prior US-Soviet understanding and stiffen their opposition to the Finnish proposal. Moreover, given the current Geneva atmosphere of smoldering Western resentment at Soviet tactics on basket three, we believe Sherer’s initial approach to this issue in the NATO caucus should be in very low key.

Finally, we doubt that we can make much progress with the Allies on this, in the immediate future, at delegation level in Geneva. However, the issue will very likely arise at the Ottawa Ministerial, giving you an opportunity to urge your colleagues to reflect on the possibilities for a reasonable compromise based on the Finnish proposal, and entailing Soviet concessions on issues in basket 3. We anticipate that your persuasive efforts would then be reflected in instructions from Allied capitals to NATO delegation heads in Geneva, leading to more realistic attitudes there.


That you approve the instructions at Tab A.6

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Records of the Office of the Counselor, Entry 5339, Box 8, Soviet-Summit-1974. Secret; Nodis; Sensitive. Drafted by Streator and sent through Sonnenfeldt. In a covering note, Sonnenfeldt wrote to Kissinger: “For your meeting with Dobrynin, I am attaching revised materials on CSCE to reflect late developments, as well as updates on bilateral matters.”
  2. Telegram 3582 from Geneva, June 6, is attached but not printed.
  3. The attachment is a draft version of Document 210.
  4. Not found.
  5. Telegram 3582 from Geneva (attached) reported that “Swiss delegate said he saw no possibility that phrase on ‘legislative and regulatory systems’ would be accepted by EC-Nine or some neutrals.” The telegram continued: “NATO caucus on principles discussed Finnish initiative afternoon of June 5, following EC-Nine caucus on same subject. Nine had decided that Finnish proposal for language on ‘legislative and regulatory systems’ was ‘absolutely out of the question.’ ”
  6. There is no indication of Kissinger’s approval or disapproval, but he did approve the instructions; see Document 210. Also see Document 209.