224. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1


  • Your Talks with Brezhnev on the European Security Conference

A major conflict has developed between our Western European Allies and the Soviets over the content and procedures of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE). The issue is that the Europeans want to demonstrate that the Conference has yielded significant results in terms of reducing the barriers to exchange of information, the movement of people and related humanitarian and cultural issues. As indicated in your meeting with the heads of government in Brussels2 until the Europeans receive satisfaction from the Soviets they will not agree to a timetable for completing the present work of the Conference or to a final summit.

The Soviets recognize that they will have to make concessions, but they are determined to do so only if they have an assurance that any such agreements to freer exchanges are covered by a blanket provision that all such questions are subject to the internal regulatory and legal systems of the parties involved.

A compromise to this effect (called the Finnish compromise) is on the table in the negotiations.3 It has been met with Western scepticism; as agreed with Gromyko, we are supporting it but not putting pressure on for its adoption.

Brezhnev will:

  • —complain bitterly that the Conference is encountering unreasonable obstacles by so called cold warriors.
  • —claim that a summit had been agreed to in principle by Pompidou and Brandt, and was reflected in the communiqué of his last meeting with you.
  • —protest that the USSR will not be opened up to hostile propaganda and degenerate culture.
  • —say that if the final results do not justify it, he would not even send his foreign minister let alone go himself.

Your strategy:

You can agree that the talks have been extraordinarily slow, but at the same time you should play on his avowed interest in significant results to emphasize that many in Europe feel very strongly about showing that the rigid barriers and division of the cold war period are being gradually reduced.

  • —You could cite your talks with Wilson, Schmidt and Rumor4 to this effect.
  • —You could say that in light of the present situation, it would be best to pick a future target date in September and attempt to use the intervening period for settling the remaining issues—and we will work closely with the Soviets’ delegation; cite the “Finnish compromise” as an example of how we can make some headway.
  • —You should reiterate that there are real life issues:
  • —such as reunification of divided families, better conditions for journalists, exchange of magazines, etc.—on which the USSR needs to show some willingness to accommodate the position of others; this is the real meaning of a Conference on “Cooperation.”

On the summit:

You agree with him that neither you nor he would not want to attend a conference that accomplished little.

  • —thus the summit, which you will not oppose—is tied to good results.
  • —you and he should not try to dictate this but let matters take their course—once others see that the Conference is succeeding they will want to attend.
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Military Security

  • —We want to have major military maneuvers announced about 50 days in advance; the Soviets want only 5–10 days preannouncement.
  • —We want all maneuvers above a threshold of 10,000–12,000 men included; the Soviets say an Army Corps—40,000.
  • —We want the preannouncement and exchange of observers to apply to “Europe”; the Soviets want it to apply only to border zones—with a zone of 100 km along their Western frontiers.
  • —The West (but not the US) want also to include all “major military movements,” the Soviets oppose it outright.

You may want to make the following points:

  • —the Conference must give all peoples confidence that military tensions are being lowered.
  • —preannouncement of maneuvers and an exchange of observers are agreed by all, the only issues are ones of definition and application.
  • —there is room for compromise.
  • —we can cooperate with the Soviets’ delegation, if we know what the Soviets will settle for on this issue.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Kissinger Office Files, Box 76, Country Files, Europe, USSR, President’s Talks with Brezhnev on SALT. Secret; Sensitive.
  2. President Nixon met with the NATO Heads of Government in a plenary session of the North Atlantic Council on June 26. Telegram 4584 from Brussels, June 26, contains a summary of the leaders’ speeches. (Ibid., RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files)
  3. See Document 208.
  4. No record of Nixon’s conversations with Wilson or Schmidt have been found. A memorandum of Nixon’s conversation with Rumor in Brussels on June 26 reads in part: “[The President:] There is one major problem on which I want the Prime Minister’s advice, and that is CSCE. Many European governments oppose having a summit unless there is more substance, for example, on confidence-building measures and freedom of movement. Should we hang tough for more substance before agreeing to a summit? Or should we agree without their making all the concessions some of our countries want? Rumor: I agree with Belgium. I don’t wish a summit for its own sake; it would give the impression we are settling just for the status quo. On the other hand, if there are Soviet concessions, then we can only judge when we know what the concessions are. We can’t get everything, but we should get most of what we started out for. The President: I agree. There should be no agreement for its own sake or at the expense of our allies.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1029, MemCons—HAK & Presidential)