349. Minutes of a Verification Panel Meeting1


  • MBFR


  • Chairman—Henry A. Kissinger
  • State
    • Joseph Sisco
    • Helmut Sonnenfeldt
    • George Vest
    • Amb. Stanley Resor
    • Jonathan Dean
  • Defense
    • Robert Ellsworth
    • Bruce Clarke
    • Col. Louis Michael
  • JCS
    • Gen. George S. Brown
    • M/Gen. W. D. Crittenberger
  • CIA
    • LTG Vernon A. Walters
    • Benjamin Rutherford
  • ACDA
    • Dr. Fred Ikle
    • David Linebaugh
  • NSC
    • M/Gen. Brent Scowcroft
    • Jan Lodal
    • Michael Higgins
    • James Barnum


It was agreed that:

  • —the Verification Panel Working Group would put together a negotiation package that would link SALT, MBFR and CSCE.
  • —the Verification Panel Working Group would refine the “nuclear option.”

Secretary Kissinger: (to Gen. Walters) You look poised for a briefing, but you also look like you don’t have anything to brief about.

Gen. Walters: You’re right. Unless you ask me to, I’ll forget the briefing. I’ll be happy to be silent for a change. The only significant thing I have to report is some recent military developments.

Secretary Kissinger: Does anybody want to hear from Walters? We can wait and read it in the Post tomorrow. Go ahead.

Gen. Walters briefed from the attached text.2

[Page 1020]

Secretary Kissinger: Perhaps the best way to proceed would be to get an assessment of the last round of talks from Stan (Amb. Resor), what decisions he thinks we need to discuss, and then go from there.

Amb. Resor: Thank you. As you know, we have been at it for the last nine months, and to be truthful, we have made little progress. There has been some movement, but not much.

Secretary Kissinger: I don’t know why not. Maybe we need a better negotiator.

Amb. Resor: If we stick with our present position you’ll need one.

Secretary Kissinger: I don’t know why you weren’t able to sell them on that—what was it, 29,000 “cooks” for all those tanks? I can’t understand why they didn’t snap it up, especially if we throw in REFORGER (laughter).

Amb. Resor: I think REFORGER was scaled down to 25,000 troops.

Anyway, we do have indications that the Soviets are interested in making some progress.

Secretary Kissinger: What progress?

Amb. Resor: Well, there are indications that they will go for two separate successive phases which would lead to two separate agreements. That is, the Soviets would take the largest share of reductions in the first phase. And possibly, agreement to the deferral of non-stationed forces to the second agreement if U.K. and Canadian reductions are included in Phase I.

Secretary Kissinger: Do any other countries have stationed forces other than the Soviets?

Amb. Resor: No. What they argue is that they want equal treatment for all. They have made it clear that what they want in the first phase is reductions in equal numbers. There are indications that they may be willing to give in the asymmetrical area. During this round, we have tried to keep the talks focused on phasing and not on reductions. It is hard to talk reductions with the numbers we have used. So, the first thing I think we need a decision on—what we should consider here—is an overall time frame—that we should get the talks moving. I spent 11/2 hours with McClellan yesterday. Our feeling, based on my appearances on the Hill and talking with others, is that we should show some movement in the talks, at least by Spring.

Secretary Kissinger: Yes, I was up there with him (McClellan) the day before, and I sensed the same thing.

Amb. Resor: He was patient, but he wants to know when he will see some movement, if only to forestall congressional reductions. Moreover, I also think that if the talks are still deadlocked by next Spring, after 11/2 years of talks, it could become counterproductive. The Western European governments are also under pressure to reduce unilaterally, [Page 1021] as you know. The Dutch are thinking of making their own cuts. The plan is now deferred for MBFR, but that won’t last forever. If the Dutch reduce, the Belgians will follow. The United Kingdom has its defense review going. They will probably want their share of the Phase II reductions, maybe even Phase I.

Secretary Kissinger: Didn’t I see a cable today about German willingness to take cuts in the first phase?3

Amb. Resor: There are some indications of that. They have made it clear that they are under no pressure, and their defense budget has already passed. We are thinking of a program that we could introduce by next Spring that would have two courses: (1) add the nuclear capability to the negotiating position, or (2) cut back on our objective of asymmetrical reductions. Regarding number one, we suggest that in the Fall we add….

Secretary Kissinger: Option III?

Amb. Resor: No, what we want to give them is a nuclear signal. Not present the whole package at first. The Soviets have shown no sign of departing from the concept of equality of reductions. Our object has been to reduce the asymmetries of ground forces. We want to achieve a balance by adding something to our side. We want to test their willingness to reduce. We think the nuclear signal would be the only thing that would do it. We think this would lay the groundwork for movement on their side. CSCE will probably prevent them from doing anything right away.

Secretary Kissinger: We have not explicitly linked the two, have we? I think we should do more of that. We must get a sensible European position on Basket III. If we want to push this thing, we have to have some leverage. Right now we have none. The trouble is that the Allies don’t want CSCE and they don’t want MBFR. They want peace and détente and reductions and everything else, but they don’t want to take the responsibility. It’s the heroic period of Western leadership. Don’t misunderstand me, I understand what you are saying. I do think we made a mistake by not linking CSCE and MBFR more explicitly in the first place, however.

Amb. Resor: The Russians may be sensitive to that, but what would we give them?

Secretary Kissinger: We could promise them progress in CSCE, which they want, for progress in MBFR.

Amb. Resor: A big problem is the lead time we have to give the Allies. I think that we ought to get a U.S. decision on the nuclear [Page 1022] package first and then do the consulting with the Allies. I think we ought to get it started, because that forces the Soviets to face up to the problem. One of our big problems over there is that we don’t know what the Soviets are thinking. We have no test of their true emotions on MBFR. If we get something on the table, they will have to bear the responsibility for lack of movement. We test them. They have been sitting back enjoying the atmosphere in Vienna—no pressure.

Secretary Kissinger: Is that all, Stan, what about the 2nd alternative?

Amb. Resor: Regarding the second option, we would cut back on our objectives to, say, a 71/2 percent cut in Soviet and US groundpower. No equipment would be included, just troops. We would defer reductions in tanks and equipment until Phase II. Our view is that it is illogical to cut back on manpower objectives before we have even tried out our full position.

Secretary Kissinger: Who is, “our”?

Amb. Resor: The delegation; also the Issue Paper.4 We also think that it would be hard to get a 2 to 1 asymmetrical cutback in Phase II unless we start it in Phase I. The Europeans insist on the common ceiling; if we defer the concept, that makes it difficult to get them to agree to Phase I. Also, tanks are relatively easy to verify, manpower less so. Also, we do not want to defer treatment of the level of tactical nuclear weapons in Europe. They are a wasting asset. Defense would like to restructure tactical nuclear weapons in Europe; Warnke,5 Enthoven6 and Sam Nunn and others are testifying that we should cut back. The Delegation recommends that we reach a Washington decision on the nuclear signal soon and then approach the Allies with it.

Secretary Kissinger: What is your definition of soon?

Amb. Resor: Well, so that we could get a trilateral meeting scheduled by early September.

Secretary Kissinger: We can take a week or two on the nuclear package. We don’t need a decision right away. I would like to have the President focus on several issues at the same time. I’ll tell you about them later. Your schedule is to have the Trilaterals in early September and to the Soviets by what, November? Of course, that means the Soviets will already know about it because once it’s introduced into NATO, the Soviets will know.

[Page 1023]

Amb. Resor: That is a consideration.

Secretary Kissinger: One of my considerations is this: It is inescapable that the Soviets are convinced that Forward Based Systems (FBS) can reach the Soviet Union, and there is something in the Soviet claim. We have to recognize this belief, although we know it will be a problem with NATO. As we develop our SALT positions, we can’t simply say we cannot consider it. We must recognize that an agreement is impossible without inclusion of FBS. The question is the relationship of the nuclear option to SALT. We should think in terms of linking FBS with MBFR. I think this is tolerable to the Allies and to the Soviets as well. Ideally, I would like to see an agreement that would link MBFR, SALT, and CSCE in order to give the Soviets something comprehensive. Otherwise, we will just be diddled to death. I would like for the Verification Panel to put together a total package linking SALT, MBFR and CSCE. I accept the nuclear package as a concept, but it does leave me a bit worried. Without linkage; giving the Soviets a say over NATO nuclear systems. If we can link MBFR to SALT, the whole thing might work.

Amb. Resor: The problem is that it would weaken its use in MBFR.

Secretary Kissinger: No, we would just tell them that we will handle FBS in MBFR. We cannot justify the fact that there is no accounting for FBS in SALT.

Amb. Resor: Would we tell them right off about the F–4s and the Pershings?

Secretary Kissinger: We don’t have to make that decision now, but I wanted you to consider this item. Are you finished?

Amb. Resor: There is one other thing—have we decided to confirm Option III as it presently is? It’s simpler with the Allies if we stick with it.

Secretary Kissinger: Is anyone questioning it?

Amb. Resor: Defense wants a battalion vice a specific number. They want to reorganize and would prefer that the reduction of Pershings be 27 instead of 36.

Secretary Kissinger: What do they want, three launchers per battalion? We haven’t formally put that forward, have we?

Amb. Resor: Yes, four instead of three.

Secretary Kissinger: That’s what I thought. Increase to four, then withdraw one, we still have three. What’s the game, they want more battalions?

Amb. Resor: No. The figures are confusing. Abattalion has always been unwieldy.

Secretary Kissinger: Well, that’s a question of negotiating strategy. If we put forward a nuclear package, it ought to be one that has a chance.

[Page 1024]

Dr. Ikle: It should be about the same percentage as manpower.

Amb. Resor: There are 108 Pershing Launchers. A cut to [of] 27 would be a 25% reduction. We got at the number initially to match up with the tank reductions.

Secretary Kissinger: Well, I’m not going to fret the numbers. That can be worked out. We don’t need a decision on that now.

Amb. Ellsworth: Except that this option needs to be refined. We wanted a decision in principle at this meeting in order to ready ourselves for the Allies. Can we get agreement to study it seriously?

Secretary Kissinger: That, certainly, so long as it does not require consulting with the Allies.

Amb. Ellsworth: Our view is that we should agree to use the contents of Option III. We should not scale down until we have tried it. There has been no history of nuclear elements in MBFR talks, and we need to show some concrete movement. We need to refine the outline of the nuclear component. Then consult with our Allies in full. We need the nuclear package.

Secretary Kissinger: Well, I have one suggestion, from someone with a long history of dealing with the Soviets. It has been my experience that the worst way to deal with the Soviets is to show a sense of urgency, and the absolute worst way is to show that you are under domestic pressure. In my experience all they will do is outlast you. You cannot show a sense of urgency. In this regard, I suggest we keep our public relations people in firm check on this, that we not talk about these things. Also, I would suggest we not brief Congress that much. I’m trying to do that. In my appearances up there, I’ve taken a hard line. I am telling them no troop reductions. I understand what you all are saying, and I agree, but you’ll never get an agreement if you show a sense of urgency. An eagerness to conclude an agreement does not help. I’ve had a lot of experience at this. It is important to keep our briefings under firm control. Now, I favor refining the nuclear package for our own purposes but not for use outside. Then link the two (MBFR and SALT) together. I agree that we need a refined nuclear package. But it shouldn’t go too far away from what the Allies have already seen.

Amb. Resor: Secretary Schlesinger sees no need to move quickly.

Secretary Kissinger: I think we should. I agree that there is some urgency, but you all should sense it, don’t show it.

Amb. Resor: Our point is that we don’t want to be under the gun in the Spring. We don’t want to have to push it in a matter of a few weeks. We do have this problem with the Allies. They tell us in Vienna that MBFR is not on the front burner in the US yet. We keep pushing them to get some kind of movement.

[Page 1025]

Secretary Kissinger: They are not getting that out of State!

Amb. Resor: Well, in one instance they were.

Secretary Kissinger: Did you screw up again, Joe (Sisco)?

Mr. Sisco: On some things I am very modest. I know nothing. I’m very modest on MBFR.

Secretary Kissinger: As far as the State Department is concerned, once we have a strategy….

Amb. Resor: It would help if at your level you could talk to the Germans and others.

Secretary Kissinger: Good idea.

Amb. Resor: I’m worried about the Allies not understanding.

Amb. Ellsworth: Then you think the July 1973 option7 should be shown to them?

Amb. Resor: Yes.

Secretary Kissinger: Then we’ll refine the package and meet again in two weeks. We should be able to get a decision then.

(to Mr. Ellsworth) You are in favor of alternative 18 and a refinement of the nuclear package?

Amb. Ellsworth: Yes.

Secretary Kissinger: (to Dr. Ikle) And you?

Dr. Ikle: Yes, we agree to the first Alternative. And I think we do buy something in SALT with Option III.

Secretary Kissinger: I’ve talked enough to Brezhnev to know that we cannot have a SALT agreement without something done about FBS. This is not just a bargaining position on their part. They have a military concept of what FBS would do. They have charts and so forth on which they have calculated what US weapons will hit the Soviet Union. I, too, can think of a thousand ploys to keep FBS out, but it won’t work. I’m content to have the nuclear option in MBFR. And, when you are refining the package you must address several other questions. I would like you to consider ceilings and how do you define ceilings. If [Page 1026] only F–4s are to be reduced, then the capability of evasion would be enormous. I’d like recommendations of how to define the ceilings if we withdraw F–4s.

Amb. Ellsworth: And would you like us to speculate on Soviet attitudes as to what effect the ceilings would have on the tanks?

Secretary Kissinger: Yes, that brings me to my next question. I consider the nuclear package a swap for tanks and a common ceiling. Obviously one has to speculate on ceilings on Soviet tanks and reciprocal ceilings on the other side. My feeling is we should probably not have reciprocal ceilings, but I’m open on this. I have no fixedviews. This raises the question of warheads. But I don’t want to give the answers. Those are the questions, the principal questions that need answers.

Does the second Alternative9 need further work?

Amb. Resor: No, I don’t think so.

Secretary Kissinger: You feel that if the President wanted to go to a 71/2% option this panel does not need to address it further? Do we know how it would be worked out with the Allies?

Amb. Resor: The Canadians and the British would just take out token numbers.

Secretary Kissinger: (to Mr. Lodal) Could we get a working group together on that?

Mr. Lodal: Yes.

Secretary Kissinger: Okay. Any other actions we need to take today?

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: Should we add in a percentage of air manpower?

Secretary Kissinger: Do it as a separate piece?

Amb. Resor: They are pushing for air manpower reductions. It would be an element of either alternative. We could consider it separately.

Gen. Walters: Verification of manpower poses some real problems.

Secretary Kissinger: If our intelligence estimates are correct, air manpower may be roughly equal. They shouldn’t be too excited about it. I see no particular reason not to include it except for the impact of ceilings on air forces. But since the nuclear option leads to that anyway, then it’s no problem.

[Page 1027]

Amb. Resor: Air manpower will be covered anyway, either explicity or through non-circumvention measures. We have to prevent things like the Herman Goering Division.10

Secretary Kissinger: That is guaranteed here by interservice rivalry. The Working Group will look into it. From a foreign policy standpoint I see no reason not to include it.

Amb. Resor: One last thing. If we decided to go with the nuclear package, we’ll need to establish a target. Rumsfeld wants to play it for the whole Allied objectives package. I suggest as the target, the tank army for Phase I. I don’t want to overload at the start. I think the best way to get a common ceiling is on the basis of a tank army.

Amb. Ellsworth: As long as we don’t lose sight of the common ceiling.

Amb. Resor: No, we won’t. The Allies won’t allow it!

Secretary Kissinger: (to Mr. Sonnenfeldt) I need to have a paper on where we stand on CSCE. The Dutch Ambassador told me…. (to Lodal) Include air manpower in the Working Group report. We’ll meet again in a couple of weeks; that will still give us time to get to the Allies in September.

  1. Source: Ford Library, NSC Program Analysis Staff, Verification Panel Meeting Subseries, Box 6, VP (MBFR), August 1, 1974 (1). Top Secret; Sensitive. The meeting took place in the White House Situation Room.
  2. Not found.
  3. Not found.
  4. Not found.
  5. Paul C. Warnke, Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, 1967–1969.
  6. Alain C. Enthoven, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Systems Analysis, 1965–1969.
  7. Apparent reference to Option III; see footnote 4, Document 135.
  8. The Verification Panel Working Group prepared a paper, not found, on options for the next round of MBFR. Lodal and Sonnenfeldt summarized Alternative 1 in an unsigned memorandum to Kissinger, July 27: “Alternative 1: Introduce the ‘Option III’ Air and Nuclear Elements—The Option III package consists of 1,000 nuclear warheads, 36 Pershing missiles and 54 nuclear capable F–4 aircraft. It comprises approximately 20 percent of the nuclear elements in the NATO Guidelines area (NGA). It would be offered as an offset to our demand that the Soviets remove 20 percent of their tanks from the NGA. The main issue raised by this alternative is the potential damage done by the ceilings on nuclear forces and aircraft which would result from withdrawal of these elements.” (Ford Library, NSC Program Analysis Staff, Verification Panel Meeting Subseries, Box 7, VP (MBFR), August 1, 1974, [1])
  9. Lodal and Sonnenfeldt summarized Alternative 2 in their July 27 memorandum: “Alternative 2: Drop the demand for a tank army and reduce the number of US and Soviet forces to be withdrawn in Phase I—This would lead to a position quite similar to the 5 percent (10,000/20,000) US/Soviet reduction Brezhnev has raised and you discussed in Moscow.” Athird alternative was also put forward: “Alternative 3: Stonewall—Make no major moves in Vienna at this time.”
  10. Reference is to the elite tank division created and placed under the German Air Force by Reichsmarshall Hermann Goering during World War II.