345. Minutes of Secretary of State Kissinger’s Staff Meeting1


  • The Secretary of State, Henry A. Kissinger
  • Kenneth Rush
  • William J. Porter
  • Curtis W. Tarr
  • Fred C. Ikle
  • Seymour Weiss
  • George S. Springsteen
  • Marshall Wright
  • William H. Donaldson
  • George C. Denney, Jr.
  • Carlyle E. Maw
  • George H. Aldrich
  • Winston Lord
  • George S. Vest
  • Thomas Pickering

[Omitted here is discussion of matters other than the European security conference or MBFR.]

Secretary Kissinger: Fred, you have some issues on MBFR.

Mr. Ikle: Yes. The question here is, briefly, how fast we should be moving in MBFR, whether we should be doing anything more before the Christmas recess, now that the two proposals have been tabled.2 [Page 1006] The nuclear option will be raised by the UK and FRG and we will have bilateral discussions here.

Secretary Kissinger: Here?

Mr. Ikle: Probably here. We have our view on the nuclear option.

Secretary Kissinger: Which is what?

Mr. Ikle: Roughly 20 percent reduction in F–4’s and—

Secretary Kissinger: The one thing we are stopping is the compulsive reassuring of the Europeans. They cannot request us to reassure them three times a week on the validity of our nuclear guarantee. I mean I am serious. We simply refuse to answer that.

Mr. Weiss: That is not what this—

Secretary Kissinger: I know what this option is. But it will work around to it.

Mr. Ikle: The British question, which has been given to us, raises a particular question—the position we would take in the second stage regarding nuclear weapons.

Secretary Kissinger: I haven’t followed those cables. George,3 will you put me on the distribution list of your cables. The Press Officer gets everything.

Mr. Ikle: We have to prepare our position we will take here in this discussion, which might take place—

Secretary Kissinger: What exactly is the nuclear problem? I know what the planning paper was.

Mr. Ikle: The problem with the allies is really answering their questions.

Secretary Kissinger: What have we proposed—the common ceiling.

Mr. Ikle: In Vienna—common ceiling, yes. We have not yet mentioned in Vienna anything about the nuclear reductions on our side.

The Russians of course have raised questions about nuclear reductions.

Secretary Kissinger: So the question is whether we are now prepared to introduce—

Mr. Ikle: Introduce that in Vienna, before the recess or after; and secondly, how we want to discuss it with our allies, when they want to see us about it.

Secretary Kissinger: They were given that, weren’t they, when we discussed it at NATO.

Mr. Ikle: Right.

Secretary Kissinger: So the question is tactically when do we introduce it.

[Page 1007]

Mr. Ikle: When do we introduce it and what further we say to our allies about how to handle Soviet pressures for nuclear reductions in the second stage.

Secretary Kissinger: Beyond the twenty percent we are proposing for the first stage?

Mr. Ikle: The nuclear element that we discussed with our allies in Brussels is connected with the tank matter, which would be in the first stage in our proposal.

Secretary Kissinger: And then the question is what do we propose in the second stage.

Mr. Ikle: That is the British question—if indeed the negotiations move in the direction of this first stage and second stage.

Mr. Weiss: Can I comment briefly on this in that respect. There really is a further question here, and that is when precisely in response to what Soviet initiative, or what point in the negotiations do you want to toss this in. As you know, what we have always described as the sweetener, i.e., to presumably induce the Soviets to accept an asymmetrical numerical reduction which favored us—now, our own feeling—

Secretary Kissinger: I forget what the nuclear option is.

Mr. Weiss: A thousand warheads, fifty-four—

Secretary Kissinger: Yes.

Mr. Weiss: And our sort of feeling is that this is just very early on in the negotiations. You know, at some point it will be necessary to do that. But I think myself that if you did it this early, you would be sort of frittering away some leverage.

Secretary Kissinger: What is your view?

Mr. Ikle: The broader judgment is that by holding out to spring and summer we improve the outlook for an agreement of the kind we like.

Mr. Rush: If we in essence agree on what we will do in the second stage before we agree on the first stage—and we have only one stage—we have a timing problem.

Secretary Kissinger: What is the British question—what we will do with nuclear weapons in the second stage?

Mr. Ikle: That is one of the questions—how it might relate to FBS, whether it would impose a ceiling on nuclear weapons.

Secretary Kissinger: Of course it imposes a ceiling on nuclear weapons.

Mr. Ikle: Right.

Secretary Kissinger: It is an idiotic question. If you reduce your weapons by twenty percent, you obviously reduce it to a ceiling. But why do we have to commit ourselves now?

Mr. Ikle: We do not. The question is whether we should or not.

[Page 1008]

Secretary Kissinger: We have two questions. One is when to introduce the nuclear part of it. And I am clear that we shouldn’t do it before the NATO meeting. We are going to have trouble enough there as it is. The next question is what do we answer to the Europeans. And I am trying to understand the purport of their questions. Why should we be in a position to answer now what the second stage of our reductions would be on nuclear weapons before we have even formulated an overall package for the second stage. Can’t we answer that this cannot be—

Mr. Weiss: I think we are unintentionally slightly misleading you because only part of the British questions—and we have a short cable from them here4—direct themselves to the second stage. Some of them direct themselves to the present. For example, just to take one here that they raise. “The relationship of nuclear reductions in MBFR to FBS and SALT. We wonder whether the Russians will accept that for technical reasons that nuclear systems in the NATO guidelines area cannot be regarded as FBS. In any case, by indicating that they intend to raise the question of F–4s, they have already given us notice that we will have to discuss dual capable aircraft, including the F–4s whose range enables them to strike the Soviet Union on a one-way mission.” They are simply raising a complexity which we ourselves have not yet totally grappled with and thought through, and they are simply saying we ought to air this more and try to come to grips with it. So it is not all second stage from their point of view.

Secretary Kissinger: What the purpose of this question is, is to get us to put all of the nuclear discussions into the MBFR and therefore not commit ourselves not to raise it as part of the FBS.

Mr. Weiss: Whatever their motives are, ours would be not to get hit on this twice by the Russians, once in SALT under FBS

Secretary Kissinger: That is clear.

Mr. Weiss: That is why we need to have some discussion.

Mr. Ikle: First we want to have our own position that we want to take with the British.

Secretary Kissinger: Are you going to share your position with others? Are we going to get a clue of what our position is?

Mr. Ikle: We are putting it into the back-stopping committee discussions, and have other agencies come in and have a review.

A related question is whether we want to say anything about a second stage fairly soon or want to wait until January when we discuss the linkage between the first and the second stage.

Secretary Kissinger: When is the recess?

[Page 1009]

Mr. Ikle: Probably mid-December.

Mr. Weiss: Here again, we would caution that if you get into the second stage you are going to do a number of things, including deflecting attention from the first stage, which is after all the one that we are primarily interested in, because we are trying to get those forces out. Moreover, we are sort of using the second stage and holding it open in order to tell the allies whenever they raise a question that we find we don’t really want to handle now—“Well, that is something we can talk about in the second stage.” If we begin to get too specific and focus on that now, you have a real problem. For example, it brings up the question of indigenous force reduction versus U.S. force reduction. As you know, you still have a problem within the Alliance with the British saying “We prefer not to have indigenous” which is the position that we ourselves have essentially adhered to, the Germans and others saying they prefer to have some indigenous in.

Secretary Kissinger: Yes. But the Germans say in order to get a handle on the pressures in their country for unilateral—

Mr. Weiss: I understand that very well. We have of course agreed that in the second stage there would be some indigenous. But now the question comes—do you want at this time to be overly specific on the second stage, when you begin to—

Secretary Kissinger: Fred, what is your view?

Mr. Ikle: It really amounts to making a forecast when we can get the best outcome on MBFR—either early next spring or later during the coming year—as to the speed with which you want to proceed.

Secretary Kissinger: What is your view about the second stage?

Mr. Ikle: The second stage has precisely this danger that Sy mentioned. Given the Soviet pressure for German reductions,5 they will be exploited for that. And the question is can we get an agreement on U.S.-Soviet reductions alone in the first stage.

Secretary Kissinger: As I understood it, unless there have been some refinements since I last addressed this issue—as I understood it, [Page 1010] we were proposing a common ceiling to be achieved in effect in two stages—a first stage reduction of more or less equal percentage of U.S. and Soviet forces, into which we were willing to throw in the nuclear package, as a sweetener, because our proposal was too one-sided, in terms of numbers, and also probably in terms of—and certainly in terms of equipment. Therefore, the second stage is inherent in our proposal already.

Now, the second issue is that as I understand Leber, the reason he wants some specificity about the second stage is not in order to accelerate reduction of German forces, but precisely to prevent a reduction of German forces, by creating an obligation for a reduction that would enable him to say that since it is internationally agreed that this can only happen by consensus, a unilateral German reduction would be a violation of their agreements. This is as Leber has explained it to me—and he is one of the few German cabinet ministers I trust. And that is not a trivial argument. And it is an argument that actually might carry weight in Germany.

Well—they are going to adjourn about the middle of December?

Mr. Ikle: Yes.

Secretary Kissinger: My instinct is that we not introduce any of these ideas, but that we have a verification panel meeting soon, and that we form a position, and that very early after that reassemble, and we make our position clear.

My own preference for negotiating styles is to take a position very close to where you want to come out and stick with it rather than get into an endless haggle, which confuses everybody.

Aldrich was with the negotiation when neither side moved for months.

Mr. Aldrich: Years.

Secretary Kissinger: It only seemed like years.

[Omitted here is discussion of matters other than the European security conference or MBFR.]

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Transcripts of Secretary of State Kissinger’s Staff Meetings, 1973–1977, Entry 5177, Box 6, Secretary’s Staff Meetings. Secret. Kissinger chaired the meeting, which was attended by all the principal officers of the Department or their designated alternatives. An attached summary of decisions from the meeting, prepared by Pickering, reads in part: “That in discussing MBFR we are stopping the compulsory reassuring of the Europeans on a nuclear guarantee. More specifically, with regard to the questions raised by Dr. Ikle regarding the ceiling on nuclear weapons and the handling of the second stage of discussions, his instinct is that we not introduce any of these ideas but that we have a verification panel meeting soon and that we form a position and very early after that reassemble.”
  2. Telegram 5612 from USNATO, November 21, transmitted the text of the agreed Allied framework proposal to be tabled at the MBFR talks in Vienna on November 22. The Allied proposal stated that with regard to Soviet reductions: “The USSR would withdraw from the area of reductions a tank army consisting of five divisions, including about 68,000 Soviet soldiers and 1,700 main battle tanks. This would be about 15 percent of the total Soviet ground forces of 460,000 soldiers in the area of reductions.” It stated with regard to U.S. reductions that “the United States would also withdraw from the area of reductions about 15 per cent of its total ground force manpower of 193,000 soldiers in the area of reductions, i.e., about 29,000 soldiers.” (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 248, Agency Files, CSCE and MBFR) Telegram 5414 from the USNATO, November 10, transmitted the text of a draft Soviet agreement on the reduction of armed forces, tabled at Geneva on November 8. (Ibid.)
  3. George C. Denney, Jr.
  4. Not further identified.
  5. Telegram 5414 from USNATO, November 10, transmitted the Soviet proposal of November 8. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 248, Agency Files, CSCE and MBFR) In a memorandum to Schlesinger dated November 20, Hill wrote that the Soviet proposal “would result in numerically asymmetric cuts through equal percentage reductions.” Two features, he wrote, stood out in the Soviet proposal. “It hits hard at the Bundeswehr not only numerically, but also because for that force (which contains nearly half of all of NATO’s manpower and tanks in the NGA), ‘reduction’ means disbanding units and destroying equipment,” and “more than that, twothirds of all reduced allied forces (about 100,000) would be disbanded.” Hill continue D: “Taken by itself, the effects of the Soviet proposal would be (1) to withdraw (but not disband) a large amount of Soviet stationed forces in Eastern Europe, and (2) disband a large amount (75,000) of the FRG armed forces strength.” (Washington National Records Center, OSD Files: FRC 330–78–0001, Box 74, NATO 320.2)