348. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Meeting Between SecDef and US MBFR Ambassador Resor


  • Visitors
    • US MBFR Representative—Stanley R. Resor
    • US MBFR Deputy Representative—Jonathan Dean
  • Department of Defense
    • Secretary of Defense—James R. Schlesinger
    • Assistant Secretary of Defense (ISA)—Robert Ellsworth
    • SecDef MBFR Representative—Bruce C. Clarke, Jr.
    • Assistant to the Secretary of Defense (Atomic Energy)—Donald R. Cotter
    • Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (ISA)—Amos A. Jordan
    • Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (ISA), European Region—
    • Harry E. Bergold, Jr.
    • Military Assistant to the Secretary of Defense—MGEN John Wickham
    • Director, DOD MBFR Task Force—Col. Louis G. Michael
[Page 1015]

1. (C) US MBFR Objective

SecDef stated that the major US objective should be to acquire symmetry between Pact and NATO forces in Central Europe. Since the Soviets have asymmetrical deployments, they should take asymmetrical cuts. Asymmetrical reductions are needed not because of diplomatic pressure, but to redress the aggressive deployment of Soviet forces. The outcome of reductions must be equitable, and we want to obtain balanced Pact/NATO ground force dispositions in the end.

2. (S) Overview/Comparison of US and Soviet Positions

SecDef stated that the Soviets always argue from the same position. He said the Soviets historically build up a preponderance of force and then offer to scale down by taking out elements one for one which leaves a “correlation of forces” in their favor. SecDef observed that currently there are 500,000 Soviet troops deployed in Eastern Europe and that the Soviets have built up their total armed forces from 3 million to 4 million men and improved their ICBM and submarine launched ballistic missile position. He stated that the Soviets are in fact seeking a shift in the overall correlation of forces. SecDef further stated that we should not accept the Soviet MBFR argument which is to maintain the correlation of forces; we can interpret the correlation of forces as we wish. SecDef suggested that when the Soviets raise the issue of correlation of forces we throw back at them the SALT issue. They have increased their military force levels, and they are the ones who have been attempting to alter the correlation of forces in their favor. We do not want the force relationship to change to our disadvantage. The only time the Soviets object is in some specific context, but correlation of forces cannot be looked at in any specific area. He suggested the Soviets be told that the correlation of forces cannot be looked at in isolated areas but must be viewed in an overall context. SecDef observed further that the Soviets have built up their conventional forces as a compensatory measure for strategic inferiority. He stated that the US has not increased its strategic force, and thus as strategic forces come into balance, we should expect reductions in their conventional forces.

SecDef challenged any characterization of our proposal for 15% US/Soviet Phase 1 reductions (including 68,000 Soviet men and 1700 tanks)2 as being “lopsided” in our favor. He did not rule out a reduction of 15% stationed forces on each side, and PDASD Jordan theoretically discussed a 13.5% reduction of Soviet, Canadian, UK, and US forces which would net the tank army while giving up 34,000 on the Western side.

[Page 1016]

3. (S) Next Steps

Ambassador Resor outlined his proposals for moving forward in MBFR. He reviewed the requirements for obtaining concrete results in MBFR by the spring of 1975, pointing out the parliamentary demands both within the US and Western Europe and the advantages of our taking the initiative in the negotiations. He expressed the view that the West could not stand on its current position when negotiations resumed this fall, and that we must be prepared to modify our position if we are to take the initiative. He outlined two alternative courses of action that the US could propose to our Allies. The first was to indicate to the East our willingness to include nuclear capability in US Phase 1 withdrawals. The second course of action would be to scale back our objectives and propose an abbreviated Phase 1 focussed on only manpower reductions on both sides (no Soviet tank army) and smaller reductions than envisaged in our current Phase I proposal. Ambassador Resor stated that we need to test the Soviet bona fides by offsetting their perception of our current proposals as being inequitable. He further stated that we need to get them to address equal packages by our offering to include nuclear capability if the Soviets are willing to accept the principle of asymmetrical ground force reductions.

SecDef said he assumed Ambassador Resor wanted to move on the nuclear point because negotiations were “frozen.” He accepted a less pessimistic characterization of the state of play elaborated by Ambassador Resor. With reference to Ambassador Resor’s explanation why Congressional pressures and Allied imperatives indicated a need to show movement by next spring, SecDef asked why it was counterproductive to delay with respect to the Allies. Ambassador Resor responded by an assessment of the implications on Dutch and UK planning for unilateral cuts.

ASD Ellsworth asked Ambassador Resor if he would move to include nuclear capability in reductions this fall regardless of the overall situation at the time with respect to détente and other factors. Ambassador Resor responded affirmatively; however, he said he would not lay down the content of a nuclear package—rather only a signal that we were willing to include nuclear capability in reductions if the East would agree to the principle of asymmetrical ground force reductions.

4. (S) Use of Nuclear Elements in MBFR

SecDef stated that he had no hesitation about including the Option III nuclear package.3 He directed that the NSC staff chief be informed that we are agreeable to this. He indicated willingness to include elements [Page 1017] necessary to obtain our objectives and emphasized the need to move ahead.

ASD Ellsworth said our plan of action for proceeding should include high level exchanges in NATO capitals and in Washington to make clear our intent, our plan, and our purpose.

5. (S) Quid Pro Quo for US Nuclear Elements

SecDef expressed the view that we should not push too far in urging an exchange of nuclear elements for the principle of asymmetrical ground force reductions. Nuclears should be applied against the gross preponderance of Soviet tank forces in the area; tactically, the focus should be on the tank army. But there are ultimate limitations to a trade. We should keep driving toward obtaining balanced Pact/NATO ground dispositions in the end.

6. (S) Content of the US Nuclear Package

SecDef said he would be inclined to beef-up our negotiating package with air force reductions rather than ground force reductions. He suggested Ambassador Resor ask General Brown what the Services’ preferences were. He observed that we can move our air forces back to Central Europe within 48 hours while moving Army forces back is more difficult. SecDef expressed some reservations about Pershing reductions in the first instance. However, he indicated that in going forward to the Allies we can include Pershings. SecDef said we should implore the Russians to keep asking for nuclears. Throwing in Option III permits us to remove an albatross from our necks—and gets the tank army. SecDef posed no objection to ATSD(AE) Cotter’s proposal that we denuclearize Nike in the area as part of our proposal.

SecDef approved going to Allies in the first instance with the current Option III.

7. (S) Approach to Soviets

Ambassador Resor expressed the view that we should not degrade our nuclear capability by taking actions to reduce unilaterally. SecDef agreed forcefully that we should not make public our plans to remove nuclear elements from the NGA for efficiency purposes. SecDef stated that we should tell the Soviets in the presence of their allies (so there would be no ambiguity) that we are not going to move a single weapon in the NGA. We are retaining plenty of weapons to use against forces in Czechoslovakia, Poland, and the GDR. Privately, we should tell them we are planning to upgrade through modernization. We are taking some weapons out but we are replacing them with better weapons with longer range. Soviet obstinacy in negotiations is the best incentive for us to make these adjustments. We can meet with them privately and ask how they would like another 1,000 Lance in the NGA and Pershing II.

[Page 1018]

SecDef stated that we could send the Soviets a personal message from him to the effect that if they delay for a year they will regret it. Unless they get on with it we are going to move a division into the NGA. The Nunn amendment4 gives us license to increase combat strength, and we are in fact in the process of doing it. Soviet obstinacy is the best incentive the US can have for getting on with the job, that is, making improvements in the US conventional force posture.

8. (S) Other Specific Decisions

In response to questions from Ambassador Resor, SecDef agreed to including air manpower in MBFR so that the common ceiling would cover both air and ground forces. SecDef most unambiguously stated that we are prepared to announce US and Soviet forces are to be included in Phase II reductions. SecDef had no objection to saying that the US reduction package will include units.

9. (U) Congressional Factors

There was a general discussion of the various factors bearing on Congressional decisions with respect to force deployments in Europe.

SecDef said that we should stress with Senator McClellan and others that: the Europeans are making a substantial contribution; the Europeans are not all bad; the French are moving back into the defense picture; 1.2 million FRG troops in the field is a substantial contribution.

  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, OSD Files: FRC 330–78–0011, NATO 091.112. Secret. Drafted by Michael and approved by Ellsworth on August 8. The meeting took place in the office of the Secretary of Defense.
  2. See footnote 2, Document 345.
  3. See footnote 4, Document 135.
  4. The Nunn Amendment to Public Law 93–365, proposed by Senator Sam Nunn (D–GA), provided that “the total number of United States tactical nuclear warheads located in Europe” would not be “increased until after June 30, 1975, except in the event of imminent hostilities in Europe” and called on the Secretary of Defense to study “reductions in the number and type of nuclear warheads which are not essential for the defense structure for Western Europe.” (88 Stat. 402)