25. Backchannel Message From the Ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (Ellsworth) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

713. I have little to add to the Secretary’s report to the President on the Rome ministerial.2 What we came out with was a communiqué which has given the Alliance some propaganda mileage, without moving very much closer to an ESC.

The way the French and Germans played the meeting was interesting. The French were active, and were almost indispensable in finding a compromise position on multilateral explorations which all could accept. The FRG, on the other hand, did its best to avoid taking a position on anything.

We can hardly say that France has decided to play a more active role in NATO, but Schumann’s actions at Rome, coming on the heels of a more cooperative French attitude here over the past few months, may give us some reason to think this could be the case.

German silence was probably a short-term tactical device aimed at maintaining domestic and international flexibility until it is clearer how their Ostpolitik will go. But it is also possible that the FRG is feeling its way toward a new relationship with the West—a relationship which will be both less solid and less stolid.

The U.S. will face some tough decisions between now and the December NATO meeting. Our allies are almost certain to be pushing hard for some formal system of multilateral negotiations with the Warsaw Pact. The degree of pressure will to some degree depend on what we decide to do about troop levels, how the Soviets respond to NATO’s MBFR proposal, how Ostpolitik and the quadripartite negotiations on Berlin progress, and SALT. But pressure there will be—particularly if troop cuts look likely.

We will need to keep in mind the relationship between what comes from SALT and the U.S. position in Europe. One impact of an agreement would almost certainly be to encourage our European allies toward a more active role in East-West negotiations. At the same [Page 66] time, the longer SALT continues the more we will be squeezed between Soviet demands that we include forward based aircraft and exclude IRBMs, and West European demands to the contrary.

In any event, our problems in December will be sufficiently complex, and the decisions taken at the December meeting sufficiently important to longer-term U.S. interests that the USG should begin now to examine the range of issues that are likely to arise, the options open to us, and the limits to which we would be prepared to go.

Warm regards.3

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 259, Agency Files, NATO, Vol. VIII. Secret; Eyes Only.
  2. Sonnenfeldt underlined “Secretary’s report to the President on the Rome” and wrote a question mark in the margin. For the Secretary’s report, see Document 24.
  3. A notation at the end of the message reads, “OBE per Sonnenfeldt.”