32. Minutes of a Combined Senior Review Group and Verification Panel Meeting1


  • US Strategies and Forces for NATO (NSSM 84)2
  • MBFR (NSSM 92)3


  • Chairman—Henry A. Kissinger
    • State
      • U. Alexis Johnson
      • Martin Hillenbrand
      • Leon Sloss
    • Defense
      • David Packard
      • Reginald Bartholomew
      • John Morse
      • Attorney General John N. Mitchell
    • ACDA
      • Vice Adm. John M. Lee
      • Thomas J. Hirschfeld
    • Treasury
      • Anthony Jurich
    • CIA
      • Gen. Robert E. Cushman
      • Bruce Clarke
    • JCS
      • Adm. Thomas H. Moorer
      • Col. John Wickham
    • NSC Staff
      • Helmet Sonnenfeldt
      • William Hyland
      • Wayne Smith
      • John Court
      • Col. Richard T. Kennedy
      • Marshall Wright
      • Jeanne W. Davis


[Omitted here is discussion of matters other than MBFR.]


It was agreed that the Verification Panel Working Group should develop and analyze specific “building blocks” with a view to dealing with individual parts of the problem which might be put together in various options packages. These topics should include:

  • … tanks,
  • … tactical aircraft,
  • … mobilization and reinforcement (including prepositioning of supplies and equipment),
  • … tactical nuclear weapons, and
  • … manpower reductions.

[Omitted here is discussion of matters other than MBFR.]

Mutual and Balanced Force Reductions—NSSM 92

Dr. Kissinger: We deeply appreciate what the departments and working groups have done on these papers.4 We recognize that the deadlines have been very short and hope all will agree that the results are worthwhile. The difficulty with the MBFR paper5 was that it was done in isolation and that some of the concerns were answered in terms of the NSSM 84 study.6 We could conclude that there should not [Page 77] be any discussion of MBFR. It is necessary, however, in view of present political pressures in many countries, and since SALT and Ostpolitik will both have mutual balanced force reductions as their logical conclusions. Also, it is better than unilateral force reductions. It is hard to have realistic schemes without knowing precisely how the military situation is being affected. We have not yet done the type of analysis we did in SALT, in which we took various elements of an agreement and analyzed their implications for our strategic situation. After that analysis had been completed, we put together various packages. In the case of MBFR, we have put together the packages before we have produced the building blocks through careful analyses. As a result, we have a package in which some say this and others say that. We cannot go to the President until we have more carefully defined these positions and have narrowed these disagreements to the smallest amount. We must have a more rigorous and systematic analysis of the various components—tanks, reinforcement problems, warning problems, etc.

Mr. Johnson: An important element is the political context in which this takes place. If there is a reduction in tensions, MBFR assumes a different aspect than in a Berlin crisis. If the political situation develops along positive lines in the next year or two, MBFR will be one thing; if not, it will be another.

Adm. Moorer: Perhaps we should wait for other things to jell before proceeding with MBFR.

Mr. Johnson: We should not wait, but should do the work now to enable us to move ahead on various assumptions.

Dr. Kissinger: We will need a position in time for the December NATO Ministerial meeting. An arbitrary percentage cut is, of course, easiest but we might use the MBFR exercise to assert intellectual leadership and approach the NATO strategy problems in that way.

Mr. Packard: The problems do not relate only to the level of forces—there are other factors. We could negotiate lower force levels, could fix up certain things that need fixing, and have as good a conventional capability as we have today.

Dr. Kissinger: In the SALT analysis we attempted to determine what worried us most. In the present situation, tanks and reinforcement capability worry us most. Could we undertake a separate study—for example, if we limit tanks, how should we do it. We may find that we wish to place some ceiling on tanks when we put a package together. So far we have not done enough homework to do this.

Mr. Packard: I agree the papers are awfully general.

Adm. Lee: We haven’t a sufficient basis for measurement. The options packages are too gross.

Dr. Kissinger: If our tactical air in Europe is highly vulnerable, but if it can also be moved quickly, why is it necessary to keep tactical [Page 78] aircraft in Europe. If we pull a division out, it would have tremendous political significance. If we pull an air wing out, we might sell it on strategic grounds. A promise to put the air wing back, if necessary, has credibility since it would be for the purpose of protecting our own forces. Since the Europeans are most concerned about ground forces, the withdrawal of an air wing with a promise to return it could be placed in a different political context.

Adm. Lee: These are the kinds of things which should be analyzed with a view to working out tradeoffs.

Adm. Moorer: This could be done, but it would be most important to retain our bases even if we withdrew some aircraft.

Mr. Johnson: We would have to retain bases to make it credible.

Mr. Kissinger: We might want to have more bases in Europe. What could we offer in a tradeoff? Is the high mobility of our aircraft overseas a trade for some things we want them to move out? We need some indication of how we might package asymmetrical cuts. With regard to manpower cuts, we have a good general analysis of the relative advantages and disadvantages of stationed forces and local forces. We need the same kinds of numbers as in the NSSM 84 study. The U.S. and USSR aside, are Western European NATO forces superior to Warsaw Pact forces? The political symbolism is a factor too. We will need more systematic analysis along the lines of SALT, weapons system by weapons system, under asymmetrical cuts. We need to see about tradeoffs. The Europeans cannot object to our doing our homework on what is, in fact, their proposal. Without this analysis, we will be in danger of being driven into one gimmick after another by the pressure of negotiations and will wind up in unilateral reductions. (To Wayne Smith) Is it possible to get that sort of analysis?

Mr. Smith: Yes. We will get agreement on some basic numbers.

Mr. Packard: We should limit this to a few elements and not try for this kind of analysis across the board.

Dr. Kissinger: Agreed. We should focus on tanks and tactical air. The general proposals are there, and the agencies should work together in the working groups to spell them out in more detail.

The reinforcement problem also requires more concrete analysis. Prepositioning of supplies is an important consideration. Who would suffer more from a limitation on the prepositioning of supplies? Do we wish to require that supplies and equipment leave also when troops are withdrawn?

Adm. Lee: It would be easier for them than for us.

Dr. Kissinger: Is this true? Can we come back at all in any meaningful way without prepositioning supplies? Where are we relatively if we move out without leaving supplies and equipment behind?

[Page 79]

Adm. Moorer: At a disadvantage. They would reinforce through friendly territory while we would reinforce through hostile territory—waters predominantly occupied by some 350 submarines.

Mr. Packard: We could reinforce for only a few days using C–5A’s and would then have to go to sea deliveries.

Dr. Kissinger: On the assumption that prepositioning of equipment is permitted, how real are manpower cuts?

Mr. Johnson: They would be important in symmetrical cuts.

Dr. Kissinger: I am more attracted to asymmetrical cuts.

Mr. Johnson: So am I.

Gen. Cushman: They will be more difficult to negotiate.

Dr. Kissinger: I agree but, as in SALT, the Soviets may be ready to listen to serious proposals.

Adm. Lee: The situation is more confusing than SALT.

Dr. Kissinger: At least we do not understand it as well.

Adm. Moorer: We understand it, but there is an infinite number of variables.

Dr. Kissinger: We need to get an assessment of: (1) what the reinforcement problem is with regard to prepositioning of supplies and equipment; and (2) how to get on top of the problem through verification means. We should assume that we would get some warning. Have we ever done anything with regard to mobilization in response to Soviet moves—at the time of the Berlin crisis, for example?

Mr. Hillenbrand: Yes, we moved one battalion temporarily for training purposes.

Dr. Kissinger: We did not move anything with the battalion, however.

Mr. Johnson: We may well be reluctant to take measures that might increase tension.

Mr. Clark: We have had some success in determining the degree of Soviet mobilization.

Dr. Kissinger: If the system is extremely sensitive to our reaction to a detection of Soviet mobilization, then such reaction may magnify tensions. However, the record of our reaction to mobilization isn’t very good.

Adm. Lee: We can’t tell whether the mobilization of one division makes that much difference.

Adm. Moorer: It is a symbol of intent, however.

Mr. Hillenbrand: We did build up at the time of the Berlin crisis.

Mr. Kissinger: That was in response to a political situation and was not necessarily a reaction to Soviet mobilization.

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: It also reflected a change in military doctrine.

[Page 80]

Dr. Kissinger: We need an analysis of the countermeasures that would be required to react to whatever we pick up on Soviet mobilization. In SALT the amount of the violation would be so large and it would take so long, that we could react. If the violation were small, however, and it would require a massive U.S. movement to offset it, we should know it. If the tanks go out and then come back in, and we learn about it, what do we do with the information. I believe this is the direction in which the study should go. Does anyone else have any ideas.

Mr. Johnson: I think this is a good approach.

All agreed.

(The meeting adjourned at 11:40 PDT)

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–111, SRG Minutes, Originals, 1970. Top Secret. Printed from a copy with handwritten corrections, which have been incorporated into the text printed here. The minutes are dated September 1, but according to Kissinger’s record of schedule, the meeting took place on August 31. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1968–76) The full text of the minutes is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XLI, Western Europe; NATO, 1969–1972.
  2. NSSM 84 is scheduled for publication ibid.
  3. Document 21.
  4. Reference is to an ongoing series of studies on MBFR being prepared by an interagency working group. On July 30, Kissinger met with the Verification Panel to discuss progress on the various papers. According to notes from the meeting, Kissinger said: “Today, we will go over in [a] preliminary way [the] work done on NSSM 92 and see if we can develop an analytic framework for BFR like for SALT. Idea is building blocks, so we can move from option to option, as with SALT. BFR [is] more complex. [We are] not so far advanced in [our] thinking. The paper work has been done. The Working Group efforts are in two categories: 11 options [for balanced force reductions]—set aside for time being until get some other considerations; [and a] series of studies on conceptual problems.” (Ford Library, Records of the National Security Adviser, Program Analysis, Box 6, Verification Panel Subseries)
  5. Reference to a 57-page evaluation report on MBFR, August 26, prepared by the interagency working group on MBFR. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Institutional Files (H–Files), Box H–107, Verification Panel Minutes, Originals, 1969–3/8/72)
  6. See footnotes 24, Document 19.