35. Paper Prepared by the National Security Council Staff1

European Security Conference

Current Situation

The Soviets have long proposed a conference designed to ratify the status quo in Europe, including the permanent division of Germany and Soviet hegemony in Eastern Europe. Until recently, however, their proposed agenda has avoided all concrete issues and dealt with such matters as economic cooperation and renunciation of force.

We and the NATO allies have taken the view that a conference at some point may have a role but that it is pointless and dangerous if it is held and results in failure. NATO in Brussels with our participation has been attempting to identify concrete issues that might be dealt with. The problem is that the real issues between East and West in Europe relate to Germany and these are being negotiated separately.2 Lately, the idea has gained ground that the question of mutual and balanced force reductions (MBFR)3 might be a subject to be discussed and the Soviets in their latest proposals suggested that a conference might set up a commission which could negotiate the reduction or withdrawal of foreign forces from Europe (an old Soviet staple). Our own studies are still in process and it is proving extremely complex to come up with options or packages that would be (1) realistic given Soviet geographic proximity and our remoteness, (2) negotiable, and (3) leave NATO with forces with which to conduct a rational strategy.4

(Note: The idea of a conference has also been advocated by Romania which believes that the mere existence of an ongoing negotiating forum would afford it additional protection against Soviet pressure or attack; the Romanians also have the idea that somehow the conference could be used to vitiate the Brezhnev Doctrine. Tito, as you recall, was rather cool to the idea [though Yugoslav diplomats have also [Page 84] advocated it strongly]5 unless there was careful preparation and a very concrete agenda.)

Gromyko may

  • —start by accusing us of dragging our feet;6
  • —note that the Soviets of course would have no objection7 if we and Canada participated;
  • —claim that the very holding of a conference would improve the atmosphere;8
  • —note that the Soviets have no objection to eventual talks about mutual reductions in foreign forces.

You may wish to say that

  • —you have no objection in principle to a conference9 and we have not made special efforts to prevent it;
  • —you do believe that conferences of this kind should not be held10 for their own sake but deal with concrete issues and have some promise of success;11
  • —simply to talk about more trade and exchanges seems unnecessary because other forums already exist for that;12
  • —each of us should take a careful look at the question of mutual force reductions and then determine whether some negotiating effort is worthwhile.13

(You may wish to refer to Tito’s comments to you.)

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, HAK Office Files, Box 71, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Gromyko 1970. Secret; Nodis; Sensitive. Kissinger sent the paper to the President as an attachment (Tab C) to an October 19 memorandum preparing the President for his upcoming meeting with Gromyko.
  2. Nixon underlined the sentence, beginning with the words “the real issues.”
  3. Nixon underlined “question of mutual and balanced force reductions (MBFR).”
  4. Nixon underlined “extremely complex to come up with” and the three points.
  5. Nixon visited Yugoslavia September 30–October 2. Tito apparently spoke with Nixon about a European security conference on the night of September 30; no record of this conversation has been found. For documentation on Nixon’s visit to Yugoslavia, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXIX, Eastern Europe; Eastern Mediterranean, 1969–1972, Documents 220221. Brackets are in the original.
  6. Nixon underlined “accusing us of dragging our feet.”
  7. Nixon underlined “Soviets of course would have no objection.”
  8. Nixon underlined “the very holding of a conference would improve the atmosphere.”
  9. Nixon underlined “objection in principle to a conference.”
  10. Nixon underlined “kind should not be held.”
  11. Nixon underlined “but deal with concrete issues and have some promise of success.”
  12. Nixon underlined “seems” and “other forums already exist.”
  13. Nixon underlined “mutual force” and “and then determine whether some negotiating effort is worthwhile.”