355. Minutes of a National Security Council Meeting1


  • MBFR


  • The President
  • Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger
  • Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger
  • Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. George S. Brown
  • Director of Arms Control and Disarmament Agency Fred Ikle
  • Director of Central Intelligence William Colby


  • State:
    • Deputy Secretary Robert Ingersoll
    • Ambassador Stanley Resor
  • CIA:
    • Benjamin Rutherford
  • White House:
    • Mr. Donald Rumsfeld, Assistant to the President
    • Lt. Gen. Brent Scowcroft
  • NSC:
    • Jan M. Lodal

President Ford: Thank you all very much for coming. As you know, this meeting is on the topic of MBFR. I would like to be updated on where we stand. I’m familiar with our offer and the Soviets’ counteroffer, and when I was Vice President, I had an in depth briefing by Bruce Clarke. But I’ve not had anything since then, except that I talked briefly to Stan last September.2 Stan, you go back Sunday?

Ambassador Resor: Yes. Our first meeting with the other side will be on January 30.

President Ford: Bill, do you have a briefing for us?

Mr. Colby: Mr. President, MBFR focuses on Central Europe, where the largest and most critical elements of military strength on both sides are located. However, the discussions exclude substantial military [Page 1039] forces in the flank states of both sides, even though they are important to the overall military balance in Europe. Further, reinforcements from France, Britain, and the Soviet Union are close enough to Central Europe to alter the balance there if time permits. But the reductions area would be the decisive battleground. Should conflict erupt there suddenly, the forces shown on this next board—expanded, of course, by local mobilization—would be the principal combat elements immediately available to both sides. These numbers are based on our most recent intelligence. There are minor disagreements between these numbers and the agreed NATO numbers. It is in Central Europe that the Pact has the greatest preponderance of ground forces, and it is this imbalance that we are addressing in the MBFR negotiations.

The national forces of both sides in Central Europe are approximately the same size. The major disparity between NATO and the Pact strengths stems from the Soviet forces stationed in the reductions area. These constitute approximately half of the forces available to the Pact, and the major part of the Pact’s offensive power. Furthermore, Soviet forces in the reduction area have been increased by about 100,000 men in the past 8 years—and have significant strength in tanks—while NATO forces have not grown appreciably.

The withdrawal of a Soviet Army from Central Europe would reduce Soviet offensive capability significantly. Just as importantly, it would probably force the Soviets to change their plan of attack. I can illustrate this briefly. We have good evidence that the Soviet generals believe their forces in the reduction area are capable of undertaking major offensive operations against NATO’s center region without prior reinforcement from the USSR. Although they clearly expect reinforcement after a week or so, exercises as far back as 1969 consistently indicate that they intend to exploit their initial numerical superiority by a high-speed offensive once hostilities begin. I would like to add, Mr. President, that [3 lines not declassified]

President Ford: Are you still getting that stuff?

Mr. Colby: Yes. There are some very delicate operations involved.

The preferred Pact organization for operations against NATO consists of the three “fronts”—a Soviet term for an army group charged with taking the main strategic objectives of the attack. In this scenario, the Central Front would make the main Pact effort, using the bulk of the Pact forces—five Soviet and two East German armies. The objectives of this force would be to overrun central Germany and Belgium, up to the French border. The Northern Front—a Polish expeditionary force of three armies—would have the mission of seizing the Jutland Peninsula and the Danish Islands.

Secretary Kissinger: Is that just your theory, or based on some information?

[Page 1040]

Mr. Colby: They have carried out a series of exercises along these lines, although there have been some variations.

Secretary Kissinger: Mr. President, that is essentially the German Schlieffen Plan3 of 40 years ago. It’s the same theory—they swing around the sides and come through Belgium.

Mr. Colby: It’s more like a punch through the middle, and then a swing around.

Secretary Schlesinger: Von Schlieffen would never have thought of the Poles as his strong right flank. (laughter)

President Ford: It’s better than the Italians!

Mr. Colby: Part of the force would attempt to drive across the northern part of Germany into the Netherlands. The Southwest Front would operate against NATO forces in southern Germany. Two Czech armies and a Soviet army would be committed, with the goal of breaking through to the borders of France and Switzerland.

The objectives of these operations would be to overwhelm the NATO forward defenses, disrupt mobilization, and hinder the movement of NATO reserve forces into their wartime positions. To make these objectives attainable, the Soviets would hope to carry out their attack with great speed, concentrating an overwhelming force, primarily armor and artillery, against narrow sectors of NATO’s front. Their attack would have large-scale air support from tactical aircraft and medium bombers targeted against NATO airfields and nuclear depots.

Secretary Schlesinger: Mr. President, the quality of U.S. tactical air vastly exceeds the quality of Soviet air. On the overall balance, taking quality into account, the air situation looks quite good. Looking only at the numbers would lead you to be unduly pessimistic. This same analysis does not apply to the tanks—

President Ford: The 2 to 1 aircraft advantage looks awesome.

Secretary Schlesinger: That also leaves out our reinforcement capability. We could have an additional 1,500 aircraft in Europe very quickly.

President Ford: From where?

Secretary Schlesinger: From the U.S. We can’t reinforce quickly with tanks, but we can with aircraft.

President Ford: But you say the quality of their tanks is different?

[Page 1041]

Secretary Schlesinger: Their tanks essentially match our capabilities.

President Ford: Incidentally, how are you coming with the expedited MC–60 program?

Secretary Schlesinger: Very well. We will be up to 600 in June and up to 1,000 by 1976.

President Ford: Per year?

Secretary Schlesinger: Yes sir.

Mr. Colby: They would also hope to achieve surprise to prevent NATO from concentrating its own forces against these attacks. The withdrawal of one of the Soviet armies from the central area would jeopardize Pact chances for a successful campaign.

Pact planners expect NATO defensive operations to involve tactical nuclear weapons at an early stage. They would respond, and are developing command and control capabilities to deliver either limited or massive nuclear strikes. Therefore, I will now turn to the tactical nuclear balance in the reduction area.

The aircraft figures shown on this chart represent the total number assigned to units which have nuclear missions. This comparison exaggerates the Soviet capability, however, as recent information indicates that only some 300 of the pilots in their units are—according to Soviet standards—qualified to fly nuclear strikes. All of the NATO aircraft included are manned by nuclear qualified pilots. There are additional aircraft on both sides capable of nuclear missions, but not assigned to them. The total warhead figure for the Pact is based on estimated storage capacities at known nuclear depots.

The Soviet tactical nuclear force has grown considerably since the late 1960s. The introduction of new aircraft has more than doubled the nuclear delivery capability, and they have longer ranges and improved characteristics at low altitude. The tactical missile force on the other hand, has expanded only gradually.

President Ford: Are those IRBMs?

Mr. Colby: No—Scuds and Frogs.

Secretary Schlesinger: This is only in the NATO guidelines area.

Mr. Colby: It is now less important than air delivery systems. However, it certainly cannot be ignored.

Pact forces used to rely heavily on strategic missiles from the USSR to support theater operations. These figures, however, show that their force modifications over the past several years have brought them to where they could fight to high levels of intensity with the systems located in Central Europe. This growing ability to withhold USSR-based missiles may eventually provide the Soviets a means of isolating a European conflict, and decoupling Soviet territory from it. In any case, [Page 1042] the continuing improvement in Pact nuclear capable systems will be a trend to reckon with in these negotiations.

The chart does not show chemical weapons. The Soviets, however, are probably better prepared than the West for chemical warfare in Europe. Their doctrine treats chemicals as “weapons of mass destruction,” to be used only after nuclear war has begun. They have put heavy emphasis on preparing their forces to defend against chemicals.

Some mention should be made of our Allies and their attitudes toward MBFR. Britain, West Germany, Canada, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg are directly participating in the negotiations—the other Allies are observers. The West European Allies entered into MBFR reluctantly. They did not want to see the US military presence in Europe reduced, and feared that the negotiations themselves would be divisive. Now, because of economic and political pressures, the British, Dutch, and Belgians would like to cut their own forces. The West Germans are of course not feeling the economic pinch so much; but would expect to be a part of any Western reductions.

Finally, the Soviets have an interest in some progress in MBFR, since they probably see the negotiations as contributing to their overall objectives in East-West détente. They need, at a minimum, to keep the talks going in order to help maintain movement in the Conference on European Security. But they also have real security interests in the MBFR outcome—especially their hope of at least constraining the growth of, or, ideally, reducing West German military strength. With respect to the US, they would like to see a reduction in our nuclear capability in Europe—but not at the expense of an increased West German capability. In regard to their own forces, the Soviets can be expected to drive a hard bargain. They will stress equality of reduction rather than equality of remaining forces. In particular, they will focus on US nuclear strength and the German military potential.

President Ford: Thank you very much Bill. Henry, would you like to bring us up to date on where we stand—

Secretary Kissinger: I would like to sum up the history of the negotiations, following on to what Bill Colby has said, and review the modifications which might be made to the Alliance position now.

MBFR originated in the 1950s with Soviet proposals for both a European security conference and for withdrawal of foreign troops from Germany. During the 1960s, the Soviets lost interest in European force reductions, lest they appear to release forces for service in Vietnam. But during the late ‘60s, their interest seemed renewed for a variety of reasons. In the end, we went along with MBFR for basically two reasons: First, as a response to Soviet CSCE initiatives and second, for Congressional reasons, as a counter to Mansfield Resolution [Page 1043] pressures. The Europeans went along for essentially the same reasons.

As the talks started, we developed an interest in seeing if we could use MBFR for rationalizing the analysis of NATO strategic issues. In NATO, a serious discussion of these issues had not taken place, and we thought MBFR might be helpful in getting one started.

So we went into MBFR with a mix of motives. It has to be seen in that context.

The US developed essentially three concepts for the reductions. The first was a common ceiling on ground force manpower to be reached in two phases—10 percent withdrawals of stationed forces followed by 10 percent cuts of indigenous forces.

The second was an equal percentage in US and Soviet forces which would lead to a common ceiling on ground force manpower.

The third was a reduction of dissimilar threatening elements, including 1,000 nuclear warheads, 36 Pershings, and 54 F–4s. This led to a discussion with George Brown where he’s been able to change the size of the squadrons to get the reduction he wants! (laughter) This is the so-called nuclear option.

The Allies agreed on an approach combining all three of these options. We would seek a common ceiling on ground force manpower to be achieved in two phases of negotiation.

There would be a first phase, in which the US and USSR would reduce equal percentages of the ground force manpower, with the Soviet cut being in the form of the tank army. We would take out manpower only, 29,000 troops, while the Soviets would take out 68,000 troops and an additional 1,700 tanks.

President Ford: 68,000 would be included in the tank army?

Secretary Kissinger: Yes—the 68,000 represents the tank army.

Secretary Schlesinger: In addition, each side would take out 15% of its manpower.

Secretary Kissinger: The percentage cut would be the same. We figured out that the tank army would be 68,000, and took the same percentage cut for the US.

We have had trouble figuring out why Stan Resor has not been able to convince the Soviets to accept this approach. It must be because he is a Yale man (laughter).

We also proposed a second phase, in which both sides would reduce further to a common ceiling of about 700,000. Again, this would require a three to one ratio of Pact to NATO cuts in the second phase.

Predictably, the Soviets did not accept our proposal. They put forth a proposal with several differences. Where we have stressed equal [Page 1044] percentage reductions, they stressed equal numbers. We said the US and Soviets should reduce first, and the Soviets were more interested in NATO and Warsaw Pact allied reductions. This is because the larger the German slice they could get, the more they were able to trade good German divisions for lousy East European divisions.

It is important to realize that the significance of cuts is two-fold: the cut itself, but also that a cut establishes a ceiling. 54 F–4 aircraft is not a large number but it does establish a ceiling on this type of aircraft. This is why the Soviets were anxious on German reductions since even a small cut would have the great advantage of establishing a ceiling on all German forces.

The Soviets have shown some flexibility in their proposal. They have proposed an initial reduction of 20,000, made up largely of US and Soviet forces. But even a reduction of 1,000 Germans would have the additional effect of putting a ceiling on the Germans. They have hinted that their nuclear reductions might be deferred to the second phase, but they have remained adamant that the size of the reductions for the two sides must be equal.

Initially, the Allies were content to let the US and the Soviets reduce only their forces. They saw putting off their reductions to the second phase as a device to keep their forces up. Leber and others stated that if the reductions were in the second phase, they could go to their parliaments and tell them that reductions were eventually coming, but after some time. But the domestic pressures have increased in Europe, and the tendency now is for the Europeans to want to be included in the first phase.

Secretary Schlesinger: Except the Germans who have tended to move in the opposite direction.

President Ford: To keep their forces up?

Secretary Schlesinger: Schmidt has moved in the opposite direction as opposed to Brandt, who wanted to reduce.

Secretary Kissinger: They also don’t want to give up a tremendous bargaining chip, namely a ceiling on their forces.

President Ford: Does their changed attitude follow through to US reductions?

Secretary Schlesinger: No, they are prepared to see us reduce.

Secretary Kissinger: They view our reductions largely as a reaction to Mansfield. The Europeans believe that reductions we take in MBFR would be less than what we would take unilaterally.

NATO and the Pact still disagree on three fundamental issues. First, whose forces should be reduced and when. We believe that the US and the USSR should reduce first, but the Pact insists that all participants reduce from the outset.

[Page 1045]

Second, what should be the reduction ratio? Our position is that reductions should be asymmetrical and lead to a common ceiling. Our position is equal percentages, but they believe the reduction should be equal numbers, a position not supported by our figures.

Finally, what forces should be reduced. Our position calls for reductions in ground forces only, but we have proposed a freeze on air manpower, and possible US reductions of air manpower. The Pact has insisted from the outset that all types of forces—ground, air, and nuclear—should be reduced in units with their armaments.

These disagreements are why we need to take another look at our objectives in MBFR and in developments that might cause us to reconsider them.

The SALT negotiations at Vladivostok established the principal of equality and gave us a good argument for equality in MBFR. Vladivostok also adds urgency, since the movement to a balance in strategic forces adds urgency on the conventional front. Once strategic equality is accepted around the world as a fact of life, conventional imbalances will be even more important. So, as Bill Colby said, we have taken an approach which attempts to enhance the defense and reduce the offensive capability.

So far, the Soviets have shown no major interest in MBFR. Nothing they have said to you, Mr. President, or to me in our negotiations shows any great interest. They simply repeat to you or to me what they say to Stan in Vienna. This means the Politburo has not yet engaged the issue. We will have to see whether or not in the next six months the Soviets will put this on the front burner. If they have a desire to keep détente going, they will do so.

Secretary Schlesinger: There is an embassy cable in indicating that there might be some growth in their interest in MBFR.4

Secretary Kissinger: Yes. If that is true, some change in our position is imperative if we are to make progress. No Soviet leader can go to the Politburo and say he has traded 29,000 Americans for a tank army including 68,000 Soviets.

President Ford: The tank army withdrawal would reduce tanks by how many?

Secretary Schlesinger: 1,700.

Secretary Kissinger: Intellectually, we have several ways of going:

  • —We could change what’s asked from the other side. We could bring the numbers closer together. This might make the first phase more salable, but in the second phase, we will have to get even greater [Page 1046] asymmetries in the Pact cuts. This could push the common ceiling indefinitely into the future.
  • —Secondly, we could add elements to the current Alliance position. For example, we could move up indigenous reductions, something of great interest to the Soviets because of their concerns for Germany, or we could add nuclear elements—a thousand warheads, 54 F–4s, and 36 Pershing launchers. And finally, we could combine these approaches with a slight reduction in the Pact withdrawals we propose and introduce some nuclear forces.

I believe there was a consensus within the Verification Panel that we should go no further at this time than to introduce the nuclear package—a thousand warheads, 54 F–4s, and 36 Pershing launchers.

Secretary Schlesinger: We would like to increase that to 2,000 warheads.

Secretary Kissinger: The nuclear package our Allies know about is a thousand warheads, 54 aircraft, and 36 Pershings. Perhaps in June, after telling them we have been restudying this, we could go to 2,000.

President Ford: Out of 9,000?

Secretary Kissinger: Seven thousand.

Secretary Schlesinger: Out of 5,000 in the NATO guidelines area.

Director Ikle: Forty percent of those in the area.

Secretary Kissinger: In addition, we have to look at the tactical question. The only thing the Allies know about is 1,000 warheads. We could either stick with the present package, or give up the 1,000 additional immediately. The worst thing would be to tell the Allies we want to reduce 2,000, but only put forth a reduction of 1,000. The Russians will know we have something else to offer and wait for it. If we want to hold back, we don’t want to brief the Allies on the additional 1,000.

I believe there is a consensus that it is time to introduce the nuclear package. Some modifications may be necessary as time goes on, but I believe it would be premature to handle these now. We need to get the Soviet reaction to the introduction of the nuclear package first.

There has also been consideration given to introducing the nuclear package piecemeal—

President Ford: Pershings, and then F–4s?—

Secretary Kissinger: Right. There is a consensus that we should introduce it all at once. On the question of whether we should add a thousand warheads, we have not had a full discussion. Jim just worked out the agreement that we could get up to 2,000.

Stan will need approval of some kind of approach, Mr. President, before he leaves on Sunday.

President Ford: Jim, do you have anything to add?

[Page 1047]

Secretary Schlesinger: Mr. President, I have two comments. I recommend that we stick with our objective of getting the tank army because our ability to verify manpower reductions is minimal. The intelligence community has increased the estimates by 70,000 in the last year. Verifying the movement of manpower is difficult without a series of collateral constraints which will be almost impossible to negotiate. We have to have something that we can verify.

Second, the Chiefs have recommended reduction of 1,600 warheads as part of the readjustment of US tactical nuclear forces. In addition, we have to give Congress a report on the Nunn Amendment. Personally, I believe it is more likely that Congress will move on warhead reductions than on the Mansfield approach.

President Ford: More likely than on manpower?

Secretary Schlesinger: Yes. Also, we can move warheads back in rapidly in an emergency. Therefore, I would recommend the package the Chiefs recommend, but add to the package enough to bring it up to 2,000 warheads.

Henry referred to deficiencies in NATO’s strategic discussions. But in the last year, I think there has been much increased understanding in NATO. They’ve accepted our flexible response strategy based on three legs of the Triad. They are coming to understand the importance of conventional defense. That is why it is important for us to emphasize our agreement with the importance of conventional defense.

The Soviets moved in 100,000 men during the Czechoslovakian coup. But the US had made many improvements. For example, the Seventh Army was in poor shape during the Vietnam War, but is now back in good condition.

President Ford: Our Seventh Army?

Secretary Schlesinger: Yes. And we have added two brigades by converting support forces to combat forces. The Germans can field 1.2 million men in 48 hours. So the balance has probably improved slightly to the advantage of the West in the last year. Over the last six or seven years NATO has been retreating, but last year, it improved.

Our objectives on MBFR have been two. First, to improve security in Western Europe. This had led us to concentrate on getting out the tank army. And we have agreed not to be stampeded into movement that does not serve our ultimate objective of improved security.

Second, we want to get the Allies to do more. If we place limits on Western forces, we cannot get them to increase their manpower and budgetary support.

It is important not to undermine these basic objectives by accepting some short term possible deal held out by the Soviets.

[Page 1048]

The Soviet objectives are first to thwart movement toward European unity.

Second, their other objective is to get control of the Bundeswehr—the German Army. This, of course, conflicts directly with our own objective of getting the Germans to do more.

We should keep in mind these two objectives. I think so far that the negotiations have gone well.

Finally, I think the Congressional situation on the Mansfield resolution has improved.

President Ford: Even with the new Congress?

Secretary Schlesinger: Yes—I have sat down with some of the new Democrats. They are not Bella Abzugs;5 they want to make a serious appraisal of defense needs, and not only react to Vietnam. I believe we can hold the House, and the climate in the Senate is better than it was a few months ago.

President Ford: I hope you are right, but my visceral reaction leads me to the opposite conclusion.

Secretary Kissinger: I can’t judge votes, but in meetings with them, the new members seem somewhat less ideological, but I don’t know how they will vote.

Secretary Schlesinger: Brock Adams6 just gave a long speech on security to the New York Delegation which was well received. Getting their ideological mindset out of Vietnam is very important.

President Ford: My analysis is predicated on two events. First, Eddie Hebert7 was the leader of the anti-Mansfield forces. His being thrown out will lead to less anti-Mansfield sentiment. Second, Phil Burton8 has become to a considerable extent a force. His voting record, I suspect, has been consistently in favor of Mansfield. I believe the Speaker is on our side, although O’Neill9 is on the other side. Mel Price10 has consistently supported Hebert’s view, but he’s not the hard tough speaker and debater that Hebert has been. He will stand up—he’s a good man, but he’s not the tough leader Hebert was.

Secretary Schlesinger: Hebert’s ouster had more to do with personality than policy—

President Ford: I hope You’re right.

[Page 1049]

Secretary Schlesinger: Even in the press, the New York Times and the Christian Science Monitor and other publications are now coming out in favor of NATO.

Secretary Kissinger: They all wanted out of Vietnam, and now they will work on getting out of NATO.

Secretary Schlesinger: I believe they are changing on NATO.

President Ford: This Congressional situation argues for two things—first, a stronger positive public support for national defense. Second, a more realistic appraisal of our MBFR position.

George, do you have any comments?

General Brown: The Chiefs recommended 1,600 warheads. But with some arm twisting. I got them to agree to accept 2,000. They had recently reviewed our deployment plans and concluded that we could take out a total in NATO of 2,200. If we took all these out of the NATO guidelines area, this would bring the total to 2,800. But I have been working for some time to get our number down to a more defensible level. The basis on which our requirements have been stated have been indefensible. For example, a lot of it is based on target lists which include things like each command post. Some of these are mobile, and we don’t have the intelligence to know where they are to hit them.

Secretary Kissinger: I think we should avoid loading the nuclear reduction up too much. First, the Allies will think you made some secret agreement in Vladivostok. Second, we have to look at this not only in terms of the inherent capability of the forces, but from broader political considerations. Third, I remember when Secretary McNamara11 would present detailed analyses telling them how they should change their forces. While he might have been right, although I disagreed with him on many issues of substance, the issue with the Allies was the volatility of the American position.

For example, withdrawal of nuclear [less than 1 line not declassified] would have an effect quite apart from the direct military implications. There would be significant foreign policy consequences.

I don’t mind these withdrawals in the context of MBFR, but I’m worried about any unilateral reductions. The timing would have to be very careful.

I would lean toward presenting only what the Allies heard before Vladivostok, and saving the 600 to 1,000 additional warheads for later.

President Ford: These negotiations as I understand them [less than 1 line not declassified] are totally related to the Western front.

Ambassador Resor: That is correct.

[Page 1050]

Secretary Kissinger: It’s somewhat the reverse of what I said in the Verification Panel when I argued against bleeding out elements one at a time, but I am worried that if we throw in the additional thousand warheads, given the mentality of the Europeans, they will say “what the hell has happened?” So I recommend presenting the existing package first, and then do some missionary work on them before adding the others.

President Ford: The thousand warheads, 36 Pershings, and 54 F–4’s—

Secretary Kissinger: Yes, which they have heard before Vladivostok and cannot say you made up only because of Vladivostok.

Ambassador Resor: This is the package Don presented to them in July of 1973.

Secretary Kissinger: This is not an insignificant package, especially when you consider that the Soviets also get ceilings on nuclear forces, F–4’s and Pershings. They cannot slough this off. If we have an additional thousand warheads, we can throw them in later.

Secretary Schlesinger: To some extent I believe I disagree with you. Not with respect to diplomatic tactics, and this [less than 1 line not declassified]. But in the NATO guidelines area, the British support substantial US reductions. In Germany, the SPD supports reductions and the CDU has said in its conference that it is prepared to see a reduction from 7,000 warheads to 5,000 warheads, although this is throughout Europe as a whole. With this kind of change, even in the CDU, we can move forward, so long as the US improves its nuclear capabilities.

President Ford: You mean our tactical nuclear capabilities?

Secretary Schlesinger: Yes. And we would not touch the weapons given to Germany [less than 1 line not declassified] and others under our program of cooperation. Also, I am not sure we can hold onto these warheads with Congress. I would leave the tactics to Henry, but I believe the Allies are ready for the introductions.

Dr. Ikle: I think we can gain a great deal by adding 600 or a 1,000 warheads. This will make the Russians see that we are really in business. On the other hand, it will be sensitive with the Allies. But if we sit on these nuclear reductions, we may get blamed for holding up change for reasons of MBFR.

President Ford: Stan, have you gotten any reaction on these nuclear forces from the Soviets—have you talked to them about these, or have they negotiated only with our NATO Allies?

Ambassador Resor: Not even that really. In July of 1973, Don told the Allies of our recommendation to put in Option III. NATO then got General Goodpaster as SACEUR to do an estimate of the military [Page 1051] implications,12 and SACEUR found it reasonable. We had trilateral discussions with the UK and FRG last spring,13 and the UK gave us a paper this fall that had been coordinated with the Germans on the nuclear package.14 It took the line that we couldn’t move in MBFR without using it, that we would have to put it in. But we have not had active discussions with the Allies since last spring, and that was purely academic.

Mr. Rumsfeld: Although, it leaked into the newspapers so the Warsaw Pact countries are not unaware of the proposal.

Ambassador Resor: Yes. The Pact must be wondering why we haven’t used it yet. Their recent tactic has been to propose a very small initial step.

President Ford: A small number of ground force reductions?

Ambassador Resor: Yes, or a freeze on manpower.

Dr. Ikle: Given their knowledge of Option III, perhaps adding the extra thousand warheads would be something new.

Secretary Kissinger: They haven’t seen the package yet, so that must indicate to them that there has been some problem with it. we’ve never had any reaction from them on it. To sweeten it right away might give them the wrong idea, particularly since they are in a state of flux themselves.

President Ford: How long will it take them to react to a proposal such as this?

Ambassador Resor: It is hard to say. It will probably be March 15 before we can get something through the Alliance and therefore March 27 before we can have it on the table. They will have to send it to Moscow, and Henry has a better feel than I on how long it would take to react, but it would be several weeks.

[Page 1052]

Secretary Kissinger: I believe it depends, Mr. President, on how they want to gear it to Brezhnev’s meeting with you. If they want to gear it to the meeting, you will hear in your channels about it. That is why I would hold the additional warheads until we get a response. It would probably be a month at least.

This will be the first approach to FBS reductions we will have ever made. In that sense it should be seen as a major breakthrough. I don’t think they will accept the proposal but they can’t ignore it.

President Ford: Anyone else? Before you go back Sunday, Stan, we will give you some guidelines. I do think we ought to find some solution. I think your analysis in DOD has been very helpful. But I would tend toward the lower figure. This is no final answer now, but I believe it would be a better strategic approach. I will let you know by Sunday morning.15

Ambassador Resor: One final point—I have seen several Congressmen recently, and they always ask if we have a realistic position which may initially succeed. I believe that if we can get this down, we will be in a better position to convince them that we do.

President Ford: Thank you all once again.

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, NSC Meetings Files, Box 1. Top Secret; Sensitive. Drafted by Lodal. The meeting took place in the Cabinet Room at the White House. Attached but not printed are a series of charts that Colby used in making his presentation.
  2. See Document 350.
  3. Reference is to the plan drawn up by German Army Chief of Staff, Alfred von Schlieffen, in 1905. It proposed that in a future war against France and Russia, Germany should concentrate 90 percent of its force on the French front and, before Russia could mobilize, knock France out of the war by means of a massive flanking maneuver through neutral Belgium, Holland, and Luxembourg.
  4. Not further identified.
  5. Representative Bella Abzug (D–NY).
  6. Representative Brock Adams (D–WA).
  7. Representative Eddie Hebert (D–LA).
  8. Representative Philip Burton (D–CA).
  9. Representative Thomas P. O’Neill (D–MA).
  10. Representative Charles Melvin Price (D–IL).
  11. Robert McNamara, Secretary of Defense in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, 1961–1968.
  12. Not found.
  13. Ikle wrote to Kissinger in a memorandum on March 21, 1974: “Day-long trilaterals with the British and Germans on the MBFR nuclear package took place on March 18. I outline below my assessment of the talks: While neither the British nor the FRG representatives said they could speak for their Governments, they appeared by the conclusion of the meeting to accept the principle of an offer of selected nuclear elements in MBFR. At the conclusion of the talks, the British and Germans made a procedural proposal: another trilateral meeting and then the US should table a proposal in the NAC in the form of draft guidance to the ad hoc group in Vienna.” Ikle also noted the existence of “two major unresolved issues”: “the role of aircraft in the package” and “the question of limitations on Soviet nuclear arms.” (Ford Library, NSC Institutional Files, Box 15, MBFR Issues) Kissinger also discussed the trilateral talks in a meeting with NSC Deputies on March 19, 1974; a memorandum of the conversation is in the Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 272, Chronological File.
  14. The text of the British proposed language for introducing Option III in Vienna, attached to an undated letter from Thomson to Sonnenfeldt, is in the National Archives, RG 59, Records of the Office of the Counselor, Entry 5339, Box 11, POL 3 MBFR # 2.
  15. January 26.