280. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Ford 1


  • Status Report on CSCE


As the pressures of the final negotiating phase of CSCE start to build, the Soviets have tried to advance in certain subject areas, but have continued to probe Western positions and to remain firm on issues which they consider sensitive, such as individual contacts. Thus, there has been no rush of Soviet concessions and, partly as a result of this, many Western and neutral delegations are sticking to the ideas they consider important. The Soviets may have begun to feel time pressure, but thus far have been unwilling to make concessions to meet their own schedule. Nevertheless, our delegation in Geneva believes that if the Soviets make at least some key concessions, it is still possible to finish Stage II negotiations in time for a Stage III in early to mid-July.

The Current Situation

As Stage II of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe resumes following an Easter recess, earlier expectations of visible progress by Easter have proved unfounded. The optimism and compromising spirit of two months ago have been tempered by the dawning realization that the Soviets will not produce a rush of concessions—at least not yet. The lack of Soviet willingness to find reasonable compromises has produced a similar attitude among Western and neutral participants, who believe that if they simply accept Soviet terms, even on minor issues, the Soviets will be encouraged to insist on their way on issues of more fundamental importance.

The Soviets have reacted in this situation by beginning to use pressure tactics, coming down particularly hard on the French and the FRG. It seems likely that they have perceived the negotiating box now closing in around them: a deadline for completion of the Conference set by Brezhnev himself, and a limited number of concessions to offer in [Page 816] order to meet it. These trends are expected to continue to develop in this post-Easter period, which will compound the difficulty of trying to meet the timetable envisaged by most participants—completion of Stage II about the end of May or mid-June and a Stage III in early to mid-July.

Summary of Remaining Issues

The key remaining substantive issues at the Conference are as follows:

  • Principles (Basket I): Agreement is blocked by a knot of interlocking issues related to Germany and the Brezhnev doctrine. The United States has tabled a draft on peaceful changes of borders2 which is widely accepted. The French, however, have linked their agreement to this text to acceptance of language which would protect Quadripartite rights and responsibilities in Berlin and which would assert the equal value of all the principles. Romania objects to the U.S. peaceful change text and, with the neutrals, strongly rejects the French position on Quadripartite rights as too general and as reinforcing the Brezhnev doctrine.
  • Confidence Building Measures/Maneuvers: The Soviets have announced that they would be flexible on the geographic area and size of forces subject to prior notification of maneuvers if the Conference can agree “in principle” that such notification will be voluntary. The NATO countries and neutrals generally see no objection in principle to a voluntary approach to prior notification, if the Soviets will give a clearer idea of parameters acceptable to them. The Romanians have rejected the voluntary approach, with support from the Dutch.
  • Freer Movement (Basket III): Several separate questions relating to the overall issue of freer movement remain unresolved: introductory language for the human contacts and information sections of Basket III (human contacts), language on travel, audio-visual information (broadcasting), working conditions for journalists, libraries/reading rooms, and direct contacts among creative artists. Four out of the five remaining subjects under human contacts and information are presently stalled, due entirely or in part to US-Soviet differences. Our efforts to achieve better texts on the introduction on human contacts, travel, journalists and broadcasting have run up against the Soviets on matters they consider quite sensitive.
  • Final Documents (Basket IV): The EC–9, NATO and most neutrals support a Dutch proposal to include all CSCE resolutions in one overall signed document called “The Final Act” of the Conference. The Soviets [Page 817] indicate that they prefer four separate signed documents, one for each Basket. The Western participants believe that one overall document is the only way to ensure that each Basket has equal status. This promises to be a difficult issue.
  • Peripheral Issues: There are several political issues which, while not central to the CSCE negotiations, could make it difficult to conclude the Conference at an early date. These include Cyprus (with the Greeks and Cypriots stating they will not join a consensus on the results of the Conference unless there is clear progress toward resolution of the Cyprus situation, and the Turks threatening to question the credentials of the Cypriot delegation and refusing to accept the presence of Makarios at Stage III) and Mediterranean representation (the Maltese and Yugoslavs might hold out for some role for non-participating Mediterranean states in Stage III). Other international events, in the Middle East for example, or internal developments in participating states (such as Portugal) could also affect the timing of a summit conclusion.


Soviet reluctance to reach reasonable agreements on sensitive subjects, and the general unwillingness to give up important points has slowed Conference progress and will add to negotiating pressures in the weeks to come. However, it is still mechanically feasible for Stage II to be completed about the end of May or mid-June, provided the Soviets make some key concessions and peripheral problems can be kept under control.

This status report is for your information. As the Conference works toward a conclusion of Stage II during the next several weeks, I will keep you informed of the substantive developments and the timing of the Stage III summit in Helsinki.

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Presidential Subject File, Box 2, Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. Confidential. Sent for information. Clift drafted the memorandum on April 2 and forwarded it to Kissinger. Ford initialed the memorandum.
  2. See Document 275.