364. Memorandum of Conversation1


Meeting in Hal Sonnenfeldt’s office on October 31, 1975, to discuss constraints on Soviet nuclear systems and US tanks in MBFR (reciprocity). Sonnenfeldt called the meeting.

Attendees: Sonnenfeldt, Hyland, Goodby, Shinn and Baraz from State; Lehman from ACDA; Wade from Defense; and Higgins from NSC.

Summary of Discussion

Sonnenfeldt stated that someone had told the British that we were going to change our position on Option III and that he had a call from the Ambassador. He asked who had spoken to the British2 and what was he to tell them. No one answered.

After some discussion of the issue of whether and how we should address Soviet nuke systems in MBFR, the discussion boiled down to Bartholomew and Lehman arguing that we should say nothing about Soviet nuke systems or US tanks in MBFR, and Wade arguing that Defense could not foreswear all discussion of Soviet nuclear systems but was willing to defer it. He agreed with Bartholomew that we should drop all references to our willingness to accept limits on US tanks.

Hyland and Shinn pointed out that at the end of the day we had to say something about Soviet nuclear systems in the NGA if ours are to have hard and fast ceilings, and we had better not indicate to our allies that we oppose such discussions only to bring it up later. Higgins reminded the group that John Thomson had made it clear that UK [Page 1071] willingness to go along on no reciprocity was conditioned on our committing ourselves to not bringing up constraints for alliance systems later in another context,3 and that the Defense position of calling for a general discussion on nuclear systems in the area later was just what the UK feared. All agreed that we had to make our intentions clear to the allies.

Sonnenfeldt pointed out that we could not “sell the same horse twice”; that is, give the Soviets Option III in exchange for tanks and then try to sell ceilings on Option III elements for something else; Option III reductions imply ceilings on reduced elements. Higgins pointed out that the willingness to accept limits on US tanks was the price for Soviet nuclear restraint and that we probably couldn’t have it both ways as Defense was now asking, i.e., eventual limits on Soviet nukes but no limits on US tanks.

Lehman suggested that we might be able to devise an internal allied understanding that we would address Soviet nukes later but say nothing to the Soviets in our Option III ceilings presentation about Soviet nukes or our tanks. Hyland pointed out that we would still have to have something to say when asked.

There was agreement that the problem is not yet resolved and all parties except Lehman and Sonnenfeldt seemed to think a VP would probably be the best way to resolve it. Sonnenfeldt thought that we needed a VP soon to discuss broader MBFR issues but that the reciprocity question was still not ready for addressal by principals. He asked the group to try again to resolve the issue before the VP meeting. If the solution involved a policy change, we could circulate a cable to principals. He said that the problem would probably come up during the NSC on NATO nuclear issues anyway.

After the meeting I asked him if he thought we should continue to try to arrange a meeting for Saturday, November 8. He said we should take another shot at solving reciprocity4 and if we can get something settled, then put off the meeting until a little later.

  1. Source: Ford Library, NSC Program Analysis Staff, Steve Hadley MBFR Files, Box 61. Secret. Presumably drafted by Higgins.
  2. Not further identified, but possibly a reference to Lehman’s talks in Europe; see footnote 2, Document 363.
  3. See Document 363.
  4. On November 13, Ikle wrote Resor in telegram 268683 to the delegation to the MBFR talks: “I want to make sure that you are accurately apprised of the situation in Washington with respect to the reciprocal limits issue. The situation is as follows: Three weeks ago, we obtained complete agreement at senior levels in Washington regarding the change to the US position on this issue. Subsequently, State raised an objection regarding one point in the draft cable. State offered several alternative formulations, any one of which is acceptable to ACDA. In subsequent discussions between State and Defense, Defense has refused to compromise on one sentence in the cable. The process is now stalled on this point. I would hope in your conversations with Defense representatives in Vienna that you could have them urge OSD to try harder to reach a common position with State and get on to the NPC with this issue. Because of recent developments the prospect of a VP meeting in the near future is remote.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files)