290. Editorial Note

In telegram 3772 from Geneva, May 22, 1975, forwarded to Secretary of State Kissinger’s party in Ankara, the delegation reported: “Soviets gave their response to Western global initiative on human contacts and information at May 21 and 22 informal meetings with US, UK, Irish and Danish dels, in form of oral indications of modifications they wish to make to Western paper, or in some cases in form of general statements of the type of text they have in mind. Western dels made no comments on substance during meetings. At conclusion UK rep indicated Western dels would give serious consideration to Eastern suggestions. Eastern dels took great pains to characterize their response as a serious attempt to reply to the Western initiative in a constructive way, which they hoped would make it possible to wind up these subjects quickly. However, the substance of their reply belied their words, contained few meaningful concessions, and proposed a whole shopping list of amendments, many of which were matters of detail, style or translation.

NATO caucus discussed Soviet response afternoon of May 22, and was unanimous in finding it most disappointing. Not only have Soviets stuck to virtually all their substantive points, they have also proposed many minor changes on issues which global approach was devised to avoid, such as organization, translations, and brackets, and on which West had already attempted to strike a 50–50 balance with Soviet positions. Allies noted that Soviets apparently realize they have [Page 849] made a serious blunder in mixing major substantive points with minor details, and that Soviet reps are now saying in corridors that only about 10 of their list of almost fifty changes are really important. Thus far they have not told anyone which points are the important ones or whether this means other points could be dropped. Allies also believe Soviets are now under considerable pressure, both because of approaching NATO summit where Stage III timing may be discussed, and because of their evident interest in keeping the global initiative alive. Some Allies are convinced that Soviet response was written on the basis of instructions they had received prior to global initiative, and that more flexible instructions may be forthcoming from Moscow when global initiative has been studied there. For all these reasons, NATO caucus concluded that Soviets should be made to understand that negotiating ball is still in their court, that their long list of changes would take months to negotiate, and that they should identify the real points for negotiation and drop the rest.

NATO caucus reached consensus on following tactics for the next few days: (a) take no precipitate action, either to enter negotiations on substance or to withdraw global initiative; (b) maintain Allied unity on all aspects of global initiative; (c) in contacts with Soviets, Eastern dels and neutrals express disappointment with Soviet response, and convey message that serious consideration will now have to be given as to whether global initiative should be withdrawn; (d) seek to get Eastern reps to identify the really important points which need to be negotiated, and to indicate whether other points can be dropped; (e) wait for Soviets to give further signals of flexibility; (f) exchange information and review situation again in caucus on Tuesday, May 27.

“In view of disappointing Soviet response, we believe it would be a mistake to enter negotiations on substance at this time, since this would lead Soviets to believe agreement can be obtained on basis of their present demands. On the other hand, we would prefer to keep the global initiative alive, since it forms a good basis for reasonable conclusion of negotiations on these subjects. In these circumstances we believe tactics agreed in NATO caucus are only reasonable course of action for the next few days. Should Soviets cut down their list of changes, or offer a few more serious concessions, we would recommend moving with our Allies to enter serious negotiations on remaining points at issue, pressing firmly for the reasonable substantive results we want.

“Highlights of changes proposed by Soviets are as follows:

[Omitted here are paragraphs a–c.]

  • “(d) Soviets suggested complete deletion of our paragraph on radio broadcasting.
  • “(e) In paragraph 5 of journalists text Soviets made woefully inadequate move in direction of facilitating wider travel by suggesting ‘gradually facilitating journeys,’ with no attempt to deal with our concept of [Page 850] providing wider opportunities for travel. In sixth para on early response to requests for travel they wished to eliminate alleged automaticity by inserting ‘as far as possible.’ In para seven on access to sources, they could only accept Swiss formulation which makes no reference to individuals. In the eighth and ninth paras on admission of technical equipment and on transmission of journalists work Soviets proposed amendments which would make these texts more restrictive than those they had informally agreed to in principle last fall and which are substantially reflected in Swiss text. In last para on expulsion they could only accept the Swiss formulation, which omits any mention that a journalist is not liable to expulsion for legitimate professional activity. They rejected any mention of technical staff, either in the text or in a footnote definition of journalists as in the Western proposal.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files)