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


  • The Recent Warsaw Pact Proposal for a European Security Conference

It now appears that the so-called Budapest Appeal of March 17, in which the Warsaw Pact countries proposed holding a conference on [Page 6] European security, is going to be an item of major interest at the NATO Ministerial meeting.2 Most of the allies feel that NATO should make a positive response, although all of them would agree that an early conference would be undesirable.

I believe that we could accept the principle of an eventual conference on European problems but that the actual convening of such a meeting must await signs of progress on concrete European issues. Without such progress, a conference would probably find the East European countries closely aligned with a rigid Soviet position, while the western participants would be competing with each other to find ways to “break the deadlock.” The net result might well be frustration and western disunity, both of which would tend to set back prospects for an eventual resolution of European issues.

Consequently, our emphasis should be on the need for talks on concrete issues and for consultations within NATO designed to develop coherent western positions on such issues.3


If you approve of the above approach to the question of a European security conference, I would like to provide it to the Secretary of State for his guidance in the forthcoming NATO Ministerial meeting.4

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 256, Agency Files, NATO, Vol. IV. Secret. Sent for action.
  2. The NSC discussed the upcoming NATO meeting, including the U.S. stance on a European security conference, at a meeting on April 8. According to Haig’s handwritten notes from the meeting, Hillenbrand characterized the European security conference as “a tactical ploy by Warsaw Pact—but also perhaps effort to improve.” Haig noted that “HAK favors para. 2—issue is degree to which we accept Warsaw’s.” Nixon asked, “Aren’t Italians pushing détente language?” Kissinger responded: “Problem w/security conference is there are few items for agenda.” Nixon stated: “Our purpose is to help with language—probably will never be a conference.” Hillenbrand suggested, “Italians will probably push some economic or cultural multilateral conference as a first step—we’ll listen. Para. 44 on force levels is also contentious—reductions—unilateral w/a phased mutual [withdrawal] —unilateral is effort to tie down U.S. in State’s view. HAK (according to Hillenbrand) favors other language. Kind of paper is easy w/only minor contentions.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–109, NSC Minutes 1969, Originals)
  3. On April 7, Rogers wrote the President that at the upcoming Washington NATO Ministerial meeting “euphoria, as a complement to the prospect of East-West negotiations, is threatening” and that the Warsaw Pact appeal for an ESC “is adversely affecting our Allies’ determination to maintain defense contributions.” Rogers recommended an allied response that was “cautious and conditioned by a call for concrete evidence of sincerity. The Allies also should stress, we believe, the need to maintain military strength as a precondition to negotiation.” (Ibid., RG 59, S/S Conference Files, 1966–1972, Entry 3051B, Box 66, CF–354)
  4. The President initialed his approval. In an April 9 memorandum, Kissinger informed Rogers that “the President has considered our attitude toward the recent Warsaw Pact proposal for a conference on European security. He asks that all concerned be guided by the following:” At this point, Kissinger inserted verbatim the second and third paragraphs of his memorandum to Nixon. (Ibid., Rogers Office Files, Entry No. 5439, Box 3, Chronological Files, 1969–1973)