264. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • US Briefing on Vladivostok Meeting


  • German
    • Mr. Guenther van Well, Assistant Secretary of State, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
    • Ambassador Klaus Blech, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
    • Ambassador Helmut Roth, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
    • Dr. Georg Massion, Counselor, Federal Chancellery
    • Mr. Guenter Verheugen, Head of the Working Group “Analysis and Information,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs
    • Dr. Fredo Dannenbring, Counselor and Head of the North American Bureau, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
    • Dr. Hans Guenter Sulimma, Counselor, Deputy Head of the Press Office, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
    • Mr. Carl Lahusen, Minister Counselor, Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany
  • US
    • Mr. Helmut Sonnenfeldt, Counselor
    • Mr. Arthur A. Hartman, Assistant Secretary for European Affairs
    • Mr. Scott George, Director, EUR/CE
    • Mr. Jan Lodal, NSC
    • Mr. D. Clift, NSC
    • Mr. Gerald Helman, Deputy Director, EUR/RPM
    • Mr. Herbert E. Wilgis, EUR/CE
    • Mr. Steven E. Steiner, EUR/CE
[Page 769]

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


Mr. Sonnenfeldt: There was almost no discussion of MFBR at Vladivostok. What discussion there was was in informal sessions. Brezhnev complained that Secretary Schlesinger had announced that two additional combat brigades would be stationed in Europe. The President replied that this move would not be necessary if we had an MBFR agreement.2 The Soviets gave us no advance notice of the freeze proposal they made in Vienna.3 The reason there was no more discussion of MBFR in Vladivostok was because of our concentration on SALT.

Ambassador Roth: Was there any discussion of CSCE/MBFR linkage?

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: We do not think that Gromyko’s remark about this linkage is very significant.4 We should discuss our tactics and strategy.

Mr. van Well: We should discuss what our reaction should be to the Soviet freeze proposal. We think they made this proposal because the NATO Ministerial meeting is coming up. The Soviets always make proposals just before a NATO Ministerial. When we were in Moscow Brezhnev said that CSCE should provide the political groundwork. After this groundwork is laid we can then go on to discuss troop and weapons reductions. Now the Soviet proposal is unacceptable to us. The question is whether we should reject it out of hand or make a counter proposal. The German suggestion is that we make a counter proposal. It would be good for NATO’s public image.

[Page 770]

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: We have not yet reached a firm conclusion. Obviously the Soviet proposal is not acceptable. We think the question is how to convey this feeling without appearing totally obstructionist.

Mr. Lodal: Our tentative feeling is that we are close to the end of the present negotiating session. The Soviets know the elements of our proposal. They also know we need time to consider their proposal. So we do not have to reject it. But we can tell them that it does not help much. We will see if we can work it in in some way. We should then wrap up this session and do some serious work during the break.

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: We have no time to table a counter proposal in this session.

Ambassador Roth: The question is what do we do with the British [Soviet?]proposal. We do not think that we can prepare a detailed counter proposal for delivery in this session. The NAC should discuss various scenarios.

Mr. Hartman: NATO’s basic position is known to the Soviets. We should take the recess and then prepare separate scenarios.

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: We are still sorting out our ideas. We will make some suggestions in Brussels in a few days. We have noticed some speculation in the German press that we made a deal in SALT on dropping FBS in favor of putting the nuclear package into MBFR. This speculation is totally wrong.

Mr. van Well: We are concerned over the public effect of the Soviet proposal before the NATO Ministerial. There could be criticism in the German press if the Soviet freeze is contrasted to NATO’s putting in two new brigades. The strongest argument against the Soviet proposal is that we need some agreement on data before we can agree to freeze.

Mr. Hartman: Do you think MBFR should be discussed in the NATO communiqué?

Mr. van Well: Yes, and we should prepare contingency language in case the Soviets leak their freeze proposal.

Mr. Lodal: I agree.

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: And we can do this without disclosing the Soviet proposal?

Ambassador Roth: Perhaps we can use the Soviet proposal to get the data question on the table.

Mr. van Well: The Soviet representatives tell us that the West has responded to all the Soviet points except one. That is the inclusion of nuclear elements. They are waiting for our response on this point. What are the US thoughts? Should NATO take this up after the recess?

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: We are thinking about this but we have reached no conclusions. If we do make a decision we will then consult with you.

[Page 771]

Mr. van Well: The recent Brookings study5 has provoked much discussion in the German press. We do not comment on this.

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: Neither do we.

Ambassador Roth: We have just received the US paper on the inclusion of air manpower.6 We are concerned that you are making this proposal at this time. This is a very sensitive question for Germany. We want to protect against the possibility of future reductions of German air manpower. Our Minister of Defense is very concerned about this possibility.

Mr. Lodal: The US suggestion is that reductions of air manpower can be permitted up to 15% of total reductions. Permitted not required. This is the US intention, to reduce our air manpower 15%. In addition we want to set a ceiling of 15% for the Soviets.

As you know, air manpower can be reintroduced quickly so we do not want the Soviets to reduce more than 15%. We still want reductions in Soviet ground forces.

Ambassador Roth: We are concerned that the US proposal prejudices the final outcome.

Mr. Lodal: It is a touchy question. What is German thinking on Option III?7

Mr. van Well: We are cautious. Let the Soviets show their interest. In principle we do not oppose its introduction. However, the figures used in the Brookings report were a shock. The psychological implications on Option III are important.

(Mr. Lodal left the meeting at this point.)


Mr. Hartman: We would like to begin our discussion of CSCE by ascertaining the results of your Moscow trip. For our part, it came up only in a side conversation in Vladivostok8 during the SALT discussions. Gromyko listed five or six areas where he thought progress had been made in CSCE, and he asked whether we could wind up the conference by January 1. The Secretary replied that this was impossible. [Page 772] The Soviets then asked whether the conference could conclude in February. The U.S. side replied that perhaps with good will and the necessary compromises this could be done. However, there would be need for further progress in Basket III.

Mr. van Well: I would like to begin with some general remarks about CSCE. First, we consider that we should continue on the present course and complete the first reading in Geneva.

Mr. Hartman: When could this be completed?

Ambassador Blech: It is hard to say. We have just heard that some progress has been made on Principle VIII (self-determination), which had been a major hurdle. The problems here were created by other Western Europeans who wanted a “balancing sentence” to the effect that self-determination should not be used from the outside to dismember another country. Such a “balancing sentence” could be paralyzing. Principle IX, on the other hand, is not too much of a problem, but non-discrimination remains a difficult question. In addition, there are major problems on peaceful change and Principle X, namely the question of equal validity and interpreting each of the principles in the context of all the others.

Mr. van Well: This (equal validity) is the only detail which the Chancellor raised with Brezhnev in Moscow.

Mr. Hartman: It strikes us as a theological question.

Ambassador Blech: This question is not theological for us. I have the impression that the Soviets have the wrong notion of German aims and that they assume that equal validity builds a position to allow the FRG to say at some future point that without peaceful change and selfdetermination, we do not have to respect the other principles. We have tried to explain to the Soviets that this is not the FRG goal and that we do not contest the validity of the other principles. Our question deals with the matter of interpretation, not the validity, of the other principles—namely, that no principle should be subordinate or undercut another. When peaceful change was moved out of Principle III and put into Principle I, we have the problem of someone saying that Principle III (inviolability) derogates the possibility of peaceful change in regard to Central Europe. We must make it clear therefore that the concept of peaceful change in Principle I is not qualified by the inviolability precept. We could do this by saying in Principle I that nothing in the over-all declaration qualifies it. However, this formulation was dropped at Geneva.

We are prepared to discuss suitable formulations and to try to find one to satisfy both FRG needs and Soviet and Eastern European concerns. I want to emphasize, however, that this does not deal only with the German problem, but should be considered a general principle. The principle of self-determination should not be used to dismember a [Page 773] country in violation of Principles I and IV. We have not offered a formulation on this, as the French have a draft which they think adequately expresses our view. As in the Helsinki declaration, all principles should be respected and applied equally.

There is also a problem of interpretation in this regard. The French formula is satisfactory, but there are misunderstandings on the Soviet side. Sauvagnargues in Moscow unintentionally referred to a “lien entre les principles,” which the Soviets took to mean that all of the principles are tied together. The FRG has been avoiding discussion of the interdependence of the principles, and we still think we can sell the French formula to the Soviets.

Mr. van Well: As I said, we need to complete the first reading. This can’t be done, however, until there is an agreement on CBM’s. We therefore need a CBM’s text at the first reading, as this can’t be put off until the last minute. Then there is the question of whether we should wait to resolve peaceful change and equal validity until the beginning of the second reading. Neither we nor the Soviets like leaving this issue open. But how can we resolve it? The Soviets are trying to isolate us on this issue and they succeeded in doing so on April 5.9 They tried this again, when in September and October they handed out three different versions of their proposal. Gromyko said in Moscow (October 28–30) “you are responsible”, and he pointed his finger at Foreign Minister Genscher. The Soviets consider that we are backtracking and that the April 5 text is the only valid one. This could be a disruptive issue, and we must be careful.

Peaceful change has a key role in our parliamentary debates and has important domestic political implications. The formula worked out by the U.S. in July10 is known to the Soviets. If it is the FRG which must reach a compromise with the Soviets, we would come out with less than the U.S. formula. We then would take the blame for diminishing the Secretary of State’s formula.

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: The Soviets are adamantly opposed to the July formula.

Mr. van Well: I would like to say something about our tactics in CSCE, and the Foreign Minister agrees with what I am about to say. [Page 774] First, the FRG prefers that the U.S. now pursue this with the Soviets. We have not discussed this recently with the other members of the ECNine, but the Nine Foreign Ministers earlier gave their approval to the text developed by the Secretary of State and agreed that the U.S. should table this text at Geneva. We consider that it is best for this to be pursued now in Washington by the Secretary of State as it was he who discussed it in Moscow.

The Soviets say that the U.S. formula looks like an appeal to change frontiers. This is ridiculous. The FRG is not wedded to any particular formulation, but is wary of the Soviet claim that peaceful change must be based on “international law.” The Soviets have their own definition of “international law.” We are not unhappy with the formula Gromyko gave us in New York, and we would like to pursue this.11

We also have a question concerning the interdependence of the principles. The U.S. made an interesting breakthrough in the communiqué on the Gierek visit in stating that all of the principles are interrelated.12 This is good as a start, as it indicates that all of the principles form one whole. The French are very interested in this and will be firm. They wish to take the initiative. The FRG does not want to be out in front alone vis-à-vis the Soviets. The Soviets want to discuss this bilaterally with us, but we are opposed to this.

Another point is that we do not want to end up with an imbalance of Western vis-à-vis Eastern bracketing after the first reading. We therefore need a presentable text on CBM’s. Our leverage here is that the Soviets want an early conclusion to the conference. Time pressures are mounting on them, as they would like to have a conclusion in time for their May 8 celebration of the 30th Anniversary of the German capitulation and the East Berlin meeting of Communist parties scheduled for the same date. The Soviets are also very interested in the follow-up, but we don’t have much room for maneuver there.

Mr. Hartman: The Romanians pressed us hard on the question of follow-up and said that the Western position does not take account of the changed situation. They consider the follow-up essential to keep the West involved in the East. They claim they have some neutral support, possibly including Yugoslavia.13

Ambassador Blech: We don’t deny that Romanian interests may coincide with ours, but when they conflict with Soviet interests the Romanians [Page 775] fall flat. If, on the other hand, their proposals don’t elicit Soviet pressure, we must be even more alert.

Mr. Hartman: What is necessary on CBM’s?

Ambassador Roth: There is some possibility of reaching agreement on the size of forces, but we must avoid the Soviets’ zone proposal14 and define the area to be included within the Soviet Union. The question of who should be informed should not be too difficult to settle.

Mr. Hartman: But not until the Soviets give up their zone proposal.

Mr. van Well: The British are carrying the ball on that point.

Mr. Hartman: Yes, but they (the British) are still pushing us hard on movements.

Mr. van Well: Callaghan raised the follow-up question with us in Bonn on November 10. Foreign Minister Genscher said that regularization of meetings on the ambassadorial level could be discussed in the first review. We envision this as being in 1977, as we will need two years to evaluate the situation following the conclusion of the conference.

Ambassador Blech: Ambassador Kovalev recently tried to push me back to the April 5 formula, and I tried to push him back to the Soviet formula presented in New York. Kovalev replied that he “didn’t know” anything about that. Kovalev emphasized that the third condition, namely the formulation “in accordance with international law,” is necessary. But I asked how could there be a peaceful change of borders which is not in accordance with international law. Kovalev gave the Munich Agreement as an example. I replied that this is not a good example, as Czechoslovakia was not consulted and the agreement was reached under the threat of force, which violates the other principles involved in CSCE. I think the Soviets could fall back to the twocondition formula (presented in New York) if they conclude that they have no hope of achieving the three conditions by dividing the West.

Mr. Hartman: What is the relationship of Basket III to our final bargaining tactics? How much push will be necessary and how does Basket III interconnect with the other issues?

Ambassador Blech: We have no indication that the Soviets connect them. Some Basket III questions are on the way to resolution, for example, family reunification and mixed marriages. The Soviets have been surprisingly generous here because they want to move things.

[Page 776]

Mr. van Well: We don’t feel ourselves to be under pressure from the other Western Europeans. To the contrary, they told us to be firm. I personally think the Soviets link German flexibility in CSCE to the Berlin situation, and I agree with Mr. Hartman that the Soviets are under GDR pressure on this. Gromyko told us in Gymnich that “some,” rather than “we,” have difficulties with this. The Soviets then saw confusion in the West, and they became more rigid.

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: They are very rigid now.

Mr. Hartman: We predicted in Ottawa that this would be difficult.

Ambassador Blech: My GDR colleague said it would be a tremendous problem for them and that the CSCE declaration cannot have one millimeter more than our bilateral treaties. I replied that it cannot have a millimeter less. However, it is impossible to transfer the bilateral setting to the multilateral.

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: I personally feel that the more we fuss over one issue in CSCE, the more difficulties we will have on others. The mere reference to peaceful change has significant political and psychological impact to the Soviets. We therefore should not be too juridical on this, and we should not lose sight of our other goals.

Ambassador Blech: We realize that the final conference document would not be legally binding, but the East would nonetheless consider it as such. The West therefore would not be in a position to defend itself by saying it is not legally binding.

Mr. Hartman: We might want to have an Allied meeting on CSCE before the NATO consultation in order to give us more focus. I do not know how our principals would react to this, however, as this is my personal idea. Such a meeting would give us a public context to clarify our efforts.

Mr. van Well: This is a good idea.

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: We must nonetheless keep the political character of the CSCE talks in mind. Over-emphasizing one issue could remove the political basis for resolving the others.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Records of the Office of the Counselor, Entry 5339, Box 5, Soviet Union, November–December 1974, Secret; Exdis. Drafted by Wilgis and Steiner with concurrence by George. Approved by Robert Blackwill (C) on December 23. The conversation took place in the Roosevelt Room at the White House. The Foreign Office officials were accompanying Schmidt on his visit to Washington from December 5 to 6.
  2. During a press conference in Germany on November 5, Schlesinger announced that the United States would be replacing 18,000 support troops in Germany with two combat brigades. (Craig R. Whitney, “Schlesinger Bids Europe Build Forces,” New York Times, November 6, 1974, p. 4) The exchange between Brezhnev and Ford at the Vladivostok summit took place during their conversation on November 23 at 2 p.m. (Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Kissinger Reports on USSR, China, and Middle East Discussions, 1974–1977, Memcons and Reports, November 23–24, 1974, Vladivostok Summit [1]) The memorandum of the conversation is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XVI, Soviet Union, August 1974–December 1976.
  3. Telegram 453 from the delegation to the MBFR talks, November 27, reported that in an informal session between Eastern and Western representatives at the MBFR talks the previous day, “Soviet rep Khlestov presented in writing a proposal to freeze all manpower in the area of reductions for the duration of the negotiations. In their preliminary response, Allied reps said this proposal was impractical because there was no East-West agreement on the numerical force totals of either side and undesirable because it would nonetheless contractualize the present East-West force relationship and create national ceilings on the forces of individual direct participants.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files)
  4. See Document 248.
  5. Apparent reference to a Brookings Institution study by Jeffrey Record that proposed reducing U.S. tactical nuclear warheads in Europe from 7,000 to 2,000. (Telegram 18703 from Bonn, December 4; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files)
  6. In telegram 263866 to USNATO, November 30, the Department transmitted a paper for discussion in NATO on this issue. In telegram 265622 to Bonn, December 3, the Department instructed the Embassy to discuss the paper with West German officials with the goal of obtaining Allied approval for including air manpower in MBFR negotiations in Vienna in 1975. (Ibid.)
  7. A reference to the U.S. proposal for MBFR, under discussion in NATO, to reduce U.S. tactical nuclear capability in Europe by 20 percent in return for a 20 percent reduction in Soviet armor; see Document 137.
  8. See Document 261.
  9. Telegram 5891 from Bonn, April 11, reported that West German Foreign Minister Frank had “expressed distaste for ‘premature compromise’ of this issue [i.e., inviolability of frontiers at CSCE]. He voiced displeasure that pressure for solution coming from Western (i.e., US and France) as well as Eastern countries and that Allies had left FRG in isolation on point of major significance to Bonn.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files) The Soviet and West German delegations to the CSCE in Geneva reached a compromise on April 5; for a summary of the compromise, see Document 198.
  10. See footnote 4, Document 233.
  11. See Document 252.
  12. For the text of the “Joint Statement on Principles of United States-Polish relations,” signed by President Ford and First Secretary Gierek on October 9, see Department of State Bulletin, November 4, 1974, pp. 603–604.
  13. See Document 259.
  14. With regard to confidence-building measures, the Soviets were taking the position at the CSCE in Geneva that any requirement for prior notification of military maneuvers should apply only to border zones. (Telegram 2804 from Geneva, May 4; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files)