251. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Meeting between the Secretary and French Foreign Minister Sauvagnargues


  • France
    • Jean Sauvagnargues, French Minister for Foreign Affairs
    • Jacques Kosciusko-Morizet, French Ambassador
    • Francois Puaux, Director of Political Affairs, French Foreign Ministry
    • Constantin Andronikoff, Minister-Counselor, Interpreter
  • United States
    • The Secretary of State
    • Helmut Sonnenfeldt, Counselor of the Department
    • Wells Stabler, Deputy Assistant Secretary for European Affairs
    • Richard D. Vine, Director, EUR/WE, notetaker

[Omitted here is discussion of matters other than the European security conference or MBFR.]

Sauvagnargues: On the conference on European security, there doesn’t appear to be much to say except for the formula on peaceful change. This is something on which we could have major difficulties with the Soviets. I talked to Gromyko about this, but we have to support the Germans in this matter.

The Secretary: Where did we get that new German formula? There is a new formula.2 Apparently Genscher and Dobrynin met here and Dobrynin put forth new language.

Puaux: I’m happy about that, but I don’t know the details.

Sonnenfeldt: It is still based on the American version, but removes the word “only” from its present place and puts it so that it only modifies “peaceful change” and not “international law.”

The Secretary: That might meet one of the German concerns if it qualifies “peaceful means.”

Sauvagnargues: What a good solution! Do the Russians agree?

The Secretary: It’s a Russian formulation.

Sonnenfeldt: The Germans have not yet agreed to the formula, they are still examining it.

[Page 735]

The Secretary: We can talk to Genscher about it at Camp David. Excuse me, I should take this telephone call. (Discussion of the formula during the Secretary’s absence. Sonnenfeldt gives the formula to Puaux, making clear that this formula does not have Genscher’s final approval. Secretary returns after an absence of a minute or so.)

Sauvagnargues: As far as Basket Three items are concerned, we are proceeding to a first reading in Geneva.

The Secretary: The only question in my mind is which European will be the first formally to agree to a summit. I suspect that Schmidt will do so in Moscow. I find the subject boring. We won’t be the first. It will be some European. My impression is that Schmidt has already agreed to a summit, although I don’t know that. The longer we prolong the negotiations, the more significance will be attached to the outcome. We should best end this with decency as soon as we can.

Sauvagnargues: But you have no objection to our proceeding with a first reading?

Sonnenfeldt: The Russians object violently.

The Secretary: Our view is that we should have a common position to present. Even if the Soviets were prepared to make concessions, they would have to make them to one country which would use the concessions for domestic purposes and evoke similar demands from other countries. It would be a never-ending process. We must have a common view, before or after the first reading, of the limits beyond which we will not push. Are they meeting now?

Sonnenfeldt: The meeting is set for Thursday.

The Secretary: So there has been no first meeting?

Sonnenfeldt: The Russians are still opposed and we must decide.

Puaux: We are all agreed in the Nine and so are the neutrals. If the U.S. takes a stand in the Coordinating Group we can proceed.

The Secretary: There’s been a lot of speculation that we had an arrangement with the Soviets on this. But there are no longer any Nixon interests. You would agree, Mr. Ambassador, (to Kosciusko-Morizet) that the CSCE can do nothing for us domestically. If anything, it’s a slight liability. It is not a major issue. As I see it, the outcome is clear and we should not try to prolong beyond a reasonable period.

Sauvagnargues: But we’ll need something in Basket Three.

The Secretary: Can we agree on a common position after a first reading?

Sauvagnargues: I agree with your basic position. I think we have still to agree on how to present that position, and that is something we must discuss.

The Secretary: The Russians are not going to make any concessions until they know that they will mean something in terms of [Page 736] getting a final agreement. That is the biggest technical problem for them at the moment.

Puaux: If we go through the first meeting with brackets, the Soviets will probably insist on their own language and formulations in the brackets. For them that will be a big bargain.

The Secretary: We are not opposed to that.

Puaux: Yes, but you don’t seem prepared to say that publicly.

The Secretary: Why hasn’t that been done?

Sonnenfeldt: I thought it had been agreed. We had better get out new instructions to our delegation to make that point clear.

Sauvagnargues: We should make a determined effort to hold the Soviets to normal negotiating procedures. They seem to think they are exempt. If they don’t agree, then we shall have to think of something else.

The Secretary: I have the impression that the Russians were prepared to come and go through this exercise.

Sonnenfeldt: We’ll get some new instructions out to our delegation.

The Secretary: I admit that I spend no sleepless nights over this.

Sauvagnargues: I don’t either. But in the public mind, the Russians appear to be getting some assurances and we have to make sure that there is an appropriate balance.

[Omitted here is discussion of matters other than the European security conference or MBFR.]

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 140, Geopolitical File, France, Chronological File. Secret; Nodis. The conversation took place in the Secretary’s office.
  2. See Document 252.