23. Memorandum From Helmut Sonnenfeldt of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • Ambassador Ellsworth’s Report on NATO Communiqué Debate—You Should Talk to Elliot Richardson

The Ambassador has sent you a back channel message2 reporting on the status of the maneuvering in NATO over the communiqué for the Rome Ministerial meeting. He covers the same ground as our status report (Log #10237). (Tab A)3

On MBFR, he reports we have agreed to the idea of a separate declaration, based on a Canadian compromise, which would commit us to further explorations (bilateral) but no commitment to actual negotiations. While all the Allies want a strong signal, only the UK, Belgium and the Scandinavians want to go much further.

On a European Security Conference, there is a much wider split. The British-Belgium approach, supported by Scandinavians, would be only one step short of agreeing to a conference, since it would involve “multilateral exploratory talks.” If accepted, it would be almost impossible to avoid getting into substance in such explorations; the talks would be viewed as preparatory talks, thus conceding a major point to the Soviets, with nothing in return, and would in effect put great pressures on the Germans to complete their bilaterals with the Soviets, Poles and GDR, before the general questions involved were introduced into a multilateral forum.

In short, what the UK wants out of the Rome meeting is a multilateral European conference with no limitation on the number of participants and they want it now. The UK also wants a broad and undefined agenda.

The Ambassador reports that in the last few days many of the Allies have really come to understand just how broad—and dangerous—the total package is.

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The French, of course, are opposed to MBFR because it presumes a bloc-to-bloc approach and are unprepared to agree to multilateral exploratory talks.

The FRG is wavering. Schmidt wants something on MBFR.4 The Germans were aligned with the British at first. Now they have moved back toward our position, mainly because they are concerned with the impact of a call for multilateral exploratory talks on renunciation of force might have on their Ostpolitik.

Our three objectives, Ellsworth believes, should be (1) to maintain a position of strategic and political leadership within the Alliance; (2) prevent our Allies from being pushed into folly by their own internal political problems; (3) gain some propaganda advantage to show that NATO is not a stumbling block to sensible dialogue with the East. He rates our chances of holding the line as better than 50–50.

Since this cable to you, Brosio has had a composite draft prepared with alternative language, etc., and the British have circulated a nonpaper, explaining their ideas. It may be that the issues will finally go to the Ministers without resolution. Though Ellsworth did not ask for your intervention, and State has not touched base on this whole sorry affair, the question is do you want to intervene? At a minimum, you may want to take this up with Richardson, and indicate your opposition to the British approach, and emphasize that the Canadian compromise which we support is the furthest we can go. In addition you could stress that we cannot buy any specific criteria on MBFR that would limit the substance of our position, which is under review in the Verification Panel working group.5


That you take the question up with Elliot Richardson and indicate your support for Ellsworth’s approach and your opposition to the British-Belgian position.6

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 259, Agency Files, NATO, Vol. VIII. Secret. Sent for action.
  2. Attached but not printed. Ellsworth sent the backchannel message, 654 from Brussels, to Kissinger and Sonnenfeldt on May 17.
  3. The memorandum from Hyland to Kissinger, May 13, is not attached. A copy is in Library of Congress, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 290, Memoranda to the President.
  4. In a May 8 covering memorandum to a letter from Schmidt, April 22, Sonnenfeldt wrote to Kissinger, “He [Schmidt] has sent you a letter urging understanding for the German position on Balanced Force Reductions.” Sonnenfeldt stated: “The main points in their position are that NATO should formulate a ‘specific offer’ of talks to the Warsaw Pact, and that the NATO communiqué should list several criteria of mutual force reductions.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 683, Country Files, Europe, Germany, Vol. V)
  5. See Document 21.
  6. At the bottom of the page, there is a handwritten notation by David R. Young of the NSC staff, dated May 21: “HAK ‘discussed with Richardson; will go with Canadian.’”