350. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • President Ford
  • Stanley Resor, Chief of US Delegation to MBFR Negotiations in Vienna
  • Dr. Henry A Kissinger, Secretary of State and Assistant to the President
  • Lt. General Brent Scowcroft, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
[Page 1028]

President: It’s nice to see you. How do you like the job?

Resor: I enjoy it, except that I am unable to be with my family. The work is significant; if we can get agreement it would be important. It would give us a rational basis for NATO forces.

The Soviets seem businesslike in their approach. We can’t really get into the ratio problem—to the common ceiling—until we offer the nuclear package. We told the Allies a year ago we would raise it at the appropriate time. Secretary Kissinger properly wants to use it in SALT first.

Kissinger: Would it really unlock the door to offer it?

Resor: We can’t be sure, but it would help on their two basic points: that reductions must be equitable and that the overall balance must be maintained. Whether this will do it is hard to say, but we think there is a chance. The non-circumvention clause would give the Soviet Union a handle on West German forces.

Kissinger: But not French forces.

The reductions would result in a ceiling, which is really the significant aspect. That does matter to them.

President: How would we verify manpower reductions?

Resor: We are requesting that there be inspectors at some entry points. They may grant this because they wouldn’t be in the Soviet Union. But we have photography which shows the units.

Kissinger: [less than 1 line not declassified] photography [less than 1 line not declassified] we can tell about units, not individuals.

President: Do we have a preference on where they would withdraw them?

Resor: We have recommended that they withdraw a tank army. They said that would leave a hole, but we have said they could take the forces from anywhere.

Kissinger: Our first proposal was absurd, and Stan needs this package.

President: If things go ahead, when would we get equivalency?

Resor: In the US-Soviet Union phase, we would hope for agreement in principle by spring. It would take six months to implement. They would want the second phase right away to get at the German forces.

President: What is the West German attitude?

Resor: They aren’t right now under pressure to reduce. Their restructuring comes in several years.

Kissinger: But I think it will be a problem in the second phase, because the Soviet Union wants to match the West German against satellite forces.

President: Do the East Germans have rapport with the West Germans?

[Page 1029]

Kissinger: Yes, in a way. There is this attraction and rapport. I have a friend who says when he wants to go to the “old Germany” of the Twenties, he goes to East Germany. Then, German history is composed of periods of anarchy and discipline. German history is anarchy, and the discipline comes from East Germany. What I fear is a reunified Germany under nationalism. Brandt was too lazy, but that was what Bahr was after. The Soviet Union fears that—and France.

President: Is there that much nationalism left?

Kissinger: The Germans are romantic, and given to excesses. Brandt was lazy but he could have started down that path. The spark would have to come from East Germany, but West Germany would respond.

President: I think MBFR is politically important here, but substantively SALT is more important. If we can combine the two, we could get the best of both worlds.

Kissinger: We haven’t pushed MBFR in the Presidential channel. If the President wanted to move directly with Brezhnev, how would the Allies react?

Resor: It depends on what kind of movement it is. We talk regularly with the British and Germans. The others know that but we keep it quiet. If you told them at a high level, it would probably be okay. The Europeans fear an agreement which would give the Soviet Union the right to meddle in their defense structures.

President: Where would the common ceiling be?

Resor: The end result would be at 700,000.

Kissinger: The tricky part is that any reductions must be accompanied by a ceiling to avoid circumvention.

Resor: The Soviet Union wants ceilings by country.

Kissinger: I predict that if there are reductions, the result one way or another will be a ceiling on German forces. If that is so, together with the nuclear package, the Soviet Union would be getting something.

President: I haven’t gotten into this yet, so I need time.

Kissinger: Stan has enough to talk about for a while. We prefer to wait to tell the Germans and British on the nuclear package until we get the SALT package ready.

President: Yes. Just keep it in the family until we get to you.

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Memoranda of Conversation, Box 5. Secret. The conversation took place in the Oval Office.