265. Minutes of Secretary of State Kissinger’s Staff Meeting1


  • The Secretary of State—Henry A. Kissinger
  • Mr. Ingersoll
  • Mr. Maw
  • Mr. Sonnenfeldt
  • Mr. Mulcahy
  • Mr. Bowdler
  • Mr. Hummel
  • Mr. Stabler
  • Mr. Atherton
  • Mr. Hyland
  • Mr. Lewis
  • Mr. Enders
  • Mr. Anderson
  • Ambassador McCloskey
  • Mr. Stern
  • Governor Holton
  • Ambassador Buffum
  • Mr. Eagleburger
  • Mr. Springsteen

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

Secretary Kissinger: I want to hear first about this French communiqué with the Soviets.2 I have yet to read the text.

[Page 778]

Mr. Stabler: On the summit, you mean. Well, on that, it is quite true that they have gone much further than anybody else. They have indicated—

Secretary Kissinger: Can I hear the text? Incidentally, where is Hartman?

Mr. Stabler: He left last night for London. He had a commitment there today.

Secretary Kissinger: Like what?

Mr. Stabler: Well, apparently he is speaking to a group of bankers, financial people. I think it was arranged some time ago. It says the two sides pointed out considerable progress was made during the second stage of the Geneva Conference particularly in the last week, in preparing the drafts of the final documents. “The Soviet Union and France declared their determination to step up efforts in considering questions which are not yet agreed upon within the framework of the agenda adopted in Helsinki, so as to conclude the second stage of the conference. They state that good prerequisites have been created for the conclusion of the conference at an early date, for holding its third stage, and for signing its final documents at summit level.”

Secretary Kissinger: Well, you know damned well if we had said this, the Europeans would be climbing the walls.

Mr. Stabler: And that is particularly so—

Secretary Kissinger: If you remember that dinner—I forget when it was—we had at the Quai D’Orsay, when the French would not let us say privately that the efforts had to be speeded up.3 In July.

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: Even in Ottawa.

Secretary Kissinger: I know. But in July. They would not even let us put down a desirable position on paper, lest it leak to the Soviets.

Mr. Stabler: It is also quite true that as far as the Schmidt visit in Moscow4 is concerned, that that was absolutely just completely devoid of anything: discussed questions relating to the Conference on Security Cooperation, they would agree to its successful conclusion as soon as possible. And there is absolutely total refusal on the part of the Germans to agree to any reference to the level at all. So they sidestepped it neatly.

Secretary Kissinger: We could have at successive summit meetings gone quite far in that direction. And time and again we have been dissuaded [Page 779] by the Europeans, and time and again the Europeans have told us that this would be handled on a united basis. I don’t think we should take it. I have always known—as you know, I have always said the only question is which European will sell out first. In fact, I said it to Schmidt last week.5 I said if he didn’t do it, then Giscard would certainly do it, and if he doesn’t do it, Wilson will do it. But somebody is going to do it. It is no great loss to us.

Mr. Stabler: There is one press report, which I have no way of checking at the moment. It said that he agreed to this in exchange for concessions by the Soviets to Basket Three.

Secretary Kissinger: That too is not acceptable. Supposing we came back from a summit meeting and said we had bought the following concessions.

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: We have known for ten days that the Soviets and the French are working out a basket—one portion of the Basket Three.

Secretary Kissinger: What is Basket One?

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: Basket One is the Declaration of Principles. On one of the humanitarian paragraphs in Basket Three they have been—I think the Germans told us, didn’t they—or maybe even the French themselves, in Geneva.

Secretary Kissinger: But the basic point is—I couldn’t care less what they do in the European Security Conference. They can write it in Swahili for all I care. But that isn’t the point to me at all. The Conference can never end up with a meaningful document. And I think precisely because it wasn’t meaningful, it seems to me totally undermining confidence. Or am I wrong? What do you think, Hal?

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: You know, I think everybody has been talking to the Russians on their own. And we have been, I think, the most meticulous in telling everybody what we have been talking about, when it has come to points of substance. And the French, if they are dickering with the Soviets on Basket Three—

Secretary Kissinger: Both on substance and procedure, we have stuck meticulously to the agreements. I mean we have even privately never gone beyond saying we won’t be an obstacle, but it depends on our allies—and it is not an issue on which we are going to fight our allies—which is fair enough.

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: I think that the French are undoubtedly further along than anybody else in talking privately to the Soviets.

Secretary Kissinger: Shall we make a point to some of the other countries?

[Page 780]

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: I would imagine that Giscard will make it.

Secretary Kissinger: Giscard is not yet the United States.

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: Yes—I think we ought to make a point that we can all run this thing on our own, or we can do it together.

Secretary Kissinger: And that sort of procedure has rather profound consequences in our perception of how far we can go in allied cooperation. I don’t give a damn about the conference. But precisely because nothing big was involved—the procedures are—

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: Well, the point is that we have always had the strongest reservations about multilateral dealings with the Soviets. And precisely—

Secretary Kissinger: Bilateral dealings.

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: I mean about going into this multilateral congress type of diplomacy—in part because it is so tempting for individuals to make deals.

Secretary Kissinger: But the fact is that you know we could have gotten something from the Soviets on a number of occasions, if we had been willing to go as far as this. You know that we desisted. We went through that whole second reading exercise, which is a fraud.

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: That was the point I was going to make.

Secretary Kissinger: We let four months go by, because the Europeans said they didn’t even want to put down their optimum position on paper, much less what they may have settled for here. And then to be confronted by a communiqué, without warning, that gives it all away, that seems to me impossible.

Mr. Hyland: But the French will say this is pretty close to what was in the U.S.-Soviet communiqué over a year ago.6

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: There we said we are proceeding from the premise, rather than the premise has been created.

Mr. Hyland: The French will say that broke the ice on the summit.

Secretary Kissinger: Nonsense. They never said that to us for a year. We didn’t have it in this year’s summit, we didn’t have it in Vladivostok.

Mr. Hyland: We had it in San Clemente.

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: We have had the same formula. But the main point—

Secretary Kissinger: The fact is that we never made a move on substance, and that we never made a move towards the summit—and that we never said that the premise has been fulfilled.

[Page 781]

Mr. Hyland: But we don’t know what Brezhnev told Giscard, either. Knowing Brezhnev, he probably said “The Americans will agree to this. In fact, they want it.”

Secretary Kissinger: There is always a telegraph or telephone.

Mr. Hyland: He did this to Pompidou a year ago.

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: He has done it to everybody at various times. But I think we can fairly make the point to the Europeans that this is going to be even more important than MBFR, where you actually move troops around; if this is going to be the pattern.

Mr. Stabler: For instance, do you make the point directly to the Europeans, or do we start first by asking the French what precisely this means. It seems to me just on the eve of the Martinique meeting—

Secretary Kissinger: I don’t give a damn about the eve of the Martinique meeting. I think it is ridiculous for Giscard to be a great hero with Brezhnev, and then to go next week and meet the President and be a great hero with the President. I mean that is the tawdriest kind of politics.

Mr. Stabler: I wonder whether we ought to go there first, rather than going round to the Europeans at this moment. I mean we may get to that point. But I wonder if we ought not to try first—indicate what we are surprised on this point, and see what they have to say.

Secretary Kissinger: It is going to be like the producers’ conference. By the time the French get through explaining it, they were carrying out our proposals, they were doing us a favor. What can this mean? Did we tell the French about what was discussed at Vladivostok?

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: I had the Ambassador in.7

Secretary Kissinger: So they can be under no misapprehension.

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: Yes—we talked to them.

Secretary Kissinger: Was it clear to them that we had not agreed to anything?

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: We were specifically asked by the Ambassador whether this passage on CSC in the communiqué meant any advance, and we specifically told them that it did not. [Omitted here is discussion of matters other than the European security conference or MBFR.]

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Transcripts of Secretary of State Kissinger’s Staff Meetings, 1973–1977, Entry 5177, Box 5, Secretary’s Staff Meetings. Secret. An attached summary of the meeting reads in part: “The Franco-Soviet summit and CSCE. The Secretary directed EUR to draft a telegram of protest to Paris, info NATO capitals. The French return to Jobert’s style of operations.” Telegram 270186 to Paris, December 10, contained the text of the U.S. démarche. Because Foreign Minister Sauvagnargues was too busy with preparations for an upcoming EC–9 summit, Secretary General de Courcel of the French Foreign Ministry received Rush the same day. Rush reported de Courcel’s reaction in telegram 29642 from Paris, December 10: “De Courcel responded that our interpretation of the French-Soviet summit communiqué is completely unfounded, and there is no cause for concern with respect to France’s continued adherence to the precondition that Stage II results must be considered satisfactory before any commitment to a summit can be made.” (Ibid., Central Foreign Policy Files)
  2. The communiqué signed by Brezhnev and Giscard d’Estaing at the end of Brezhnev’s visit to Paris, December 4–7, reads in part: “The two parties noted that in the course of the second phase of the Geneva conference, substantial progress has been made, notably in recent weeks, in preparing the final drafts of the definitive documents. France and the Soviet Union declare themselves resolved to intensify their efforts to resolve the suspended questions within the framework imposed by the schedule agreed at Helsinki and by the conclusion of the second phase of the conference. They note that favorable conditions have been created for the conclusion of the conference within a brief time and for holding its third phase and for the signature of the final documents at the highest level.” (Telegram 29497 from Paris, December 7; ibid.)
  3. See Document 232.
  4. Schmidt visited Moscow October 28–31.
  5. No record of this conversation has been found. Regarding Schmidt’s Washington visit, see Document 263.
  6. See Document 163.
  7. Telegram Tosec 468/260370 to Paris, November 26, reported on Sonnenfeldt and Hartman’s conversation with the French Ambassador. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 140, Geopolitical File, France, Chronological File)