289. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Helmut Schmidt, Chancellor, FRG
  • Hans-Dietrich Genscher, Vice Chancellor, FRG
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State and Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Helmut Sonnenfeldt, Counselor of the Department of State

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

Kissinger: Why don’t we start with MBFR? We have been talking to you and the British about this but we really don’t want to go to NATO without knowing your real view. If the problems are technical, it is one thing; but if they are real or fundamental reservations then it is another matter.

Genscher: It is alright if you introduce the new proposal2 but it has to be without prejudice to the future.

Kissinger: We don’t want a big debate in NATO.

Genscher: You will not get it from us.

Kissinger: I want to be sure that you realize there will be ceilings.

Genscher: Yes, we know that but that does not bother us as long as they are not specifically applicable to us.

Schmidt: Shouldn’t we want the CSCE to end?

Kissinger: Yes, that’s right. But we need NATO consultation on the MBFR proposal before that. We would not give it to the Russians until after CSCE is over. But we really don’t want a big NATO debate.

Schmidt: There are a good many views on MBFR in Bonn. Genscher here is rather hard and rigid. Leber and his ministry take a very military position. I myself don’t necessarily have a particular view.

Kissinger: We need MBFR mostly because of Congress.

Schmidt: I know that very well because I convinced you of it 5 years ago.

Genscher: What the Chancellor means by a “hard” position is our opposition to special treatment for the Federal Republic.

[Page 847]

Kissinger: I agree. But we need ceilings because we cannot reduce 54 aircraft without having a ceiling on the remaining ones.

Genscher: But we agree with that.

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

Kissinger: We have somewhat the same impression. They3 are being very pedantic on CSCE and Berlin and they are still haggling on CSCE as though they were at the beginning of negotiations rather than at the end. SALT is different because there Grechko is in charge. Gromyko was very tough on this and so was I.

Schmidt: It all seems very uncertain.

Kissinger: We know very little about the succession.4

Schmidt: Do you still want CSCE this summer?

Kissinger: We will do it but we don’t insist. We will not make any further concessions. The Soviet counter proposal on Basket III as far as I can tell is worthless and it is also foolish. It is bound to cause domestic problems.

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

Kissinger: [Omitted here are unrelated comments.] Gromyko complained to me about my Berlin trip but I laughed. President Ford is thinking of stopping in Bonn on the way to the CSCE.

Schmidt: That would be very good.

Kissinger: Just one more thing. They would like as short of a CSCE Summit as possible. I don’t think the President could stay more than two and one half days. If it takes any longer the Secretary of State should represent him.

Schmidt: I am not so sure. People want to talk to each other. Friends have begun the only opportunity for this now. I for instance want to talk to Brezhnev and to the Pole5 and to the GDR man.6 I have to do that. And then I need to balance them with others. Two and one half days would be too short. What we need is Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday to allow for bilaterals. And we should have a western meeting on the Monday night. There will be 35 leaders and each should talk 20 minutes.

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Kissinger: We prefer short speeches.

Schmidt: But there is Tito, Palme, Kreisky—you can’t walk out on them and there is also the Dutch Prime Minister.

Kissinger: Van der uyl.

Schmidt: No, not Van der uyl. den Uyl.

Kissinger: Okay, Den Uyl.7

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

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Records of Henry Kissinger, Entry 5403, Box 23, External Classified Memcons, May–December 1975, Folder 1. Secret. The conversation took place in the Chancellor’s Bungalow.
  2. See Document 357.
  3. The Soviets.
  4. An apparent reference to the uncertain state of Brezhnev’s health; see Document 290.
  5. Gierek.
  6. Honecker.
  7. On May 21, Scowcroft sent Ford a memorandum containing a report from Kissinger on his talks with Schmidt. It reads in part: “On other matters, Schmidt and Genscher agreed to be helpful on MBFR in NATO; Schmidt, in contrast to Kreisky and Gromyko, seems to favor a somewhat longer CSCE summit to allow for bilateral meetings and a possible Western caucus as well as speeches.” (Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Trip Briefing Books and Cables for Henry Kissinger, 1974–6, Kissinger Trip Files, Box 8)