340. Editorial Note

On July 10, 1973, Phillip Odeen and Helmut Sonnenfeldt of the National Security Council staff sent President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs Kissinger a memorandum on “data uncertainty in the U.S. position” on mutual and balanced force reductions (MBFR). They wrote: “As usual when we reach a point of decision in MBFR, the data we have been using for our analysis and to construct options is turning to jelly. This has seriously fouled up our preparations to present the Verification Panel clear choices as to a preferred U.S. proposal which could be given to NATO as we have promised. The short of it is that CIA now reports that the Soviets have 70,000 and possibly 120,000 more ground forces in the reductions area than we thought previously. This means that instead of 390,000 Soviet troops there are probably 460 thousand in the GDR, Poland, and Czechoslovakia.” The memorandum continued: “If true, an increase in this magnitude means we are going to have to rethink the problem of MBFR. While parity becomes an even more important goal from a security standpoint it is also made more difficult to attain because of the increased asymmetry of the Soviet cuts. The new data effectively wrecks both the stationed force common ceiling and the U.S.-Soviet percentage parity proposals developed in the VPWG. Under the 10 percent stationed force common ceiling, in which the U.S. would cut 34,000, the Soviet reduction, instead of being 83,000 as we had thought, will now have to be 153,000. This much asymmetry makes the common ceiling proposal for stationed forces ridiculous. The percentage/parity cut becomes too expensive for us. If we try to achieve parity with equal percentages then the equal percentage that is required increases from about 15% to 35–50%. This would represent an increase in the U.S. cut which would grow from 32,000 to 60,000–100,000. This is obviously far beyond the size cut we have contemplated in MBFR.” (Ford Library, NSC Program Analysis Staff, MBFR/Measures Agreement Subseries, Box 26, MBFR Verification, 1975–76)

After discussing the new data from CIA, the Verification Panel reached the following conclusions at its meeting on July 18, summarized in the meeting minutes: “The Verification Panel Working Group should coordinate a briefing to NATO that: informs the Allies of our new intelligence information; presents the Options 1, 2, and 3A of the negotiating proposals under interagency discussion; stresses the potential negotiating pitfalls of a simple U.S.-Soviet percentage cut; [and]emphasizes the U.S. preference toward a common ceiling approach that [Page 993] is phased with a first phase comprising a 15% U.S. reduction and a 15% Soviet reduction including the elements of a tank army or its equivalent. It was further agreed that the United States should very carefully inform key Allied personnel that we would be prepared to consider a nuclear package in addition to the 15% personnel reduction in order to achieve Soviet reductions in the form of a tank army or equivalent major tank units. Finally, it was agreed that a briefing should be given to NATO as soon as possible.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Institutional Files (H–Files), Box H–108, Verification Panel Minutes Originals, 3/15/72 to 6/4/74)

In a meeting with Odeen, President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs Scowcroft, and other members of the NSC staff on July 23, Kissinger discussed the paper being prepared for NATO. The memorandum of conversation reads in part: “Mr. Odeen: On the MBFR paper to NATO. The second draft is out for comment now. We should have a final draft by the end of the week. Mr. Kissinger: I think we should throw in the mixed package. A proposal that we take out 29,000 troops without equipment for their taking out 65,000 troops with equipment. You don’t need NATO to start screaming that we are abandoning them again. Mr. Eagleburger: That is my worry. Dr. Kissinger: We ought to say that is just not possible. You can’t ask them to take out a whole tank army for 29,000 men. Mr. Eagleburger: We can ask. Dr. Kissinger: Yes, and we saw what happened in SALT. Mr. Odeen: There will be a meeting of the NPC on Friday. Dr. Kissinger: Are we going to explain the new intelligence? Mr. Odeen: We will tell them that in preparation for the meeting we had a review of the intelligence and we found this problem and that we will explain it to them. Dr. Kissinger: It won’t do us any good. Unless it gets into Schlesinger’s speech. Mr. Odeen: I don’t think we can do that. I think it is too late. General Scowcroft: It will make us look like fools.” (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 271, Memoranda of Conversation, Chronological File)

On July 24, Odeen and Sonnenfeldt forwarded to Kissinger the draft presentation to NATO of the U.S. negotiating proposal for MBFR along with their recommendations on six undecided issues regarding the U.S. negotiating position. Kissinger approved their recommendations. On July 26, the Department of State transmitted the approved U.S. proposal for the Alliance negotiating program to Ambassador Rumsfeld in telegram 146712 to USNATO. On July 27, the Mission to NATO replied in telegram 3582: “Ambassador Rumsfeld read and circulated text of ‘US views on MBFR negotiating approach’ per reftel in Council meeting on July 27. Initial reaction was positive.” (All in National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 264, NATO, Vol. XV)