344. National Intelligence Estimate1

NIE 11/12–73


Principal Judgments

The USSR’s engagement in MBFR negotiations has come as a byproduct of its broader détente policies, and the Soviet leaders view MBFR itself as a vehicle for furthering these policies. They perceive that the US Government is under various pressures to achieve fairly rapid results, and they hope this will give them a negotiating edge.

Neither in MBFR, nor in their broader détente policies for that matter, are the Soviets working for a fundamental reconciliation between East and West nor are they interested in underwriting West Europe’s stability and security. They have no intention of allowing East-West relaxation to lead to an attenuation of Soviet authority or Communist Party control in Eastern Europe. The Soviets would see much greater disadvantages than potential gains in an agreement which substantially altered present force levels or combat capabilities on either the NATO or Warsaw Pact sides. A central and recurring theme in negotiations will be the claim that the Warsaw Pact does not have a significant military edge over NATO in Europe and cannot agree therefore to making unequal cuts in its forces. The Soviets will hold hard to the position that the existing relationship of forces should remain essentially unchanged.

The Soviets would have a decidedly negative first reaction to a Western proposal calling for them to withdraw one of their tank armies, with men and equipment, while the US would have flexibility as to the kinds of units to be withdrawn and the disposition of equipment. The Soviets would also refuse to accept the proposition that a common ceiling for Warsaw Pact and NATO ground forces should be the goal of follow-on negotiations. The Soviets might even question whether proposals of this kind were bona fide. And they might, in anticipation of such proposals or in response to them, attempt to alter the bargaining framework by bringing forward their own counterproposals.

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However they play these issues, they will not want the negotiations to break down or become indefinitely stalemated. Perhaps their tactic would be to attempt to force the Western side to scale down its overall requirements and to make concessions with respect to the separate elements of its proposals. They could, for example, seek a quid pro quo in US armored forces in return for any reduction in their tank formations. They would also want to explore the possibility of tradeoffs involving US tactical nuclear forces in Europe.

It will be the aim of the Soviets to have a minimum of collateral constraints attached to a reductions agreement. They would, in particular, oppose measures which could effectively restrict their ability to move forces into or within Eastern Europe. They are sure to contend that the requirements of verification should be met to the fullest extent possible by “national technical means.”

Although the Soviets believe that they are in a strong bargaining position in MBFR, they will want to appear reasonable and to keep the negotiations progressing. How much or how little “give” there will be in their negotiating position will depend partly on their assessment of the urgency of the US need to achieve early agreement. The USSR is likely to recognize, at the same time, that the US and its European allies will regard its position in negotiations as a test of the genuineness of its interest in détente. And as negotiations proceed, the Soviet position will probably be influenced by “linkages” which will be set up between MBFR and other matters, such as SALT and East-West trade.

The outcome of the first phase of negotiations will, of course, be conditioned by the interaction of the positions of the two sides in the negotiating process. In the end, however, the Soviets would probably be prepared to accept an agreement based on the following ingredients:

  • —reductions limited to US and Soviet forces in Central Europe
  • —an order of magnitude of 10 to 15 percent applying to reductions of ground forces
  • —some asymmetry in terms of larger numerical Soviet troop reductions than US troop reductions, with compensating US withdrawal of some tactical nuclear elements
  • —a minimum of collateral restraints and verification provisions.

They would also see advantages in agreeing to follow-on negotiations, especially because of their desire to secure reductions in West German forces. But they would not agree to having the goals of a further phase (e.g., a common ceiling) laid out in advance.

[Omitted here is the body of the estimate.]

  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, NIC Files, Job 79–R01012A. Secret. The Central Intelligence Agency and the intelligence organizations of the Departments of State and Defense, the NSA, the AEC, and the Department of the Treasury participated in the preparation of this estimate. The Director of Central Intelligence submitted this estimate with the concurrence of all members of the U.S. Intelligence Board, with the exception of the representatives of the FBI who abstained on the grounds that it was outside their jurisdiction. The estimate superseded NIE 11/20–73, which was not found.