367. Telegram From the Delegation to the Mutual and Balanced Force Reduction Talks to the Department of State1

633. From US rep MBFR. Subject: MBFR negotiations: Summary report for period Dec 15–19, 1975.

Begin summary. The final week of the seventh round of the Vienna force reduction negotiations witnessed the formal introduction of the Allied nuclear reduction proposal (Option III). US rep made the offer in a Dec 16 plenary statement2 in accordance with NAC-approved guidance which NATO Ministers authorized Dec 123 for use prior to the winter recess. At the Dec 18 plenary meeting, Soviet rep Khlestov provided the first official Eastern reaction to the new Western move. Khlestov said that the East would study the proposal. Soviet rep noted that the West had emphasized the one-time nature of the proposal and that it had been preceded by extensive Western press play, involved only US tactical weapons, was conditioned on Eastern acceptance of the Western reduction program, and would not preclude increases in air forces and nuclear delivery systems by non-US Western direct participants. Eastern comments on the offer to the press and in bilateral exchanges with Western reps generally echoed Khlestov’s plenary remarks. End summary.
Following months of speculation by Eastern reps here and in the Western press, the Allies this week officially added an offer of US nuclear reduction to their negotiating position in the Vienna force reduction talks. US rep formally made the offer to the East in a special Dec 16 plenary meeting. His presentation followed the NAC-approved guidance which NATO Ministers had authorized Dec 12 for use prior to the end of the current round. US rep emphasized that the possible withdrawal of 1,000 nuclear warheads, 54 nuclear capable F–4 aircraft and 36 Pershing ballistic missile launchers from the US inventory in the reductions area was a unique offer dependent upon Eastern acceptance of previous Western proposals, all of which remained unchanged, that it was not a step toward further reductions and that [Page 1082] reduction of non-US Western equipment was not included in it, nor would limitations on such equipment be acceptable to the West. In connection with this initiative, US rep stated that the West now proposed a combined common collective ceiling on ground and air manpower which might be set at approximately 900,000 men on each side. US rep stressed that West was taking this initiative because of the need for decisive action to break the impasse in the negotiations and move them toward the successful conclusion of a first phase agreement. His statement ended with an appeal for a considered and positive Eastern response when the talks resume following the winter recess.
As agreed by the ad hoc group, US rep met Dec 15 with Soviet rep Khlestov to brief him on the contents of the Western nuclear initiative. While mainatining a noncommittal attitude on the substance of the matter, Khlestov was considerably more relaxed than had been the case during a Dec 13 session in which US rep had discussed with him arrangements for the formal introduction of the new Allied proposal.4 We would speculate that in the interim Khlestov had received some reassurance that, as he had repeatedly warned might be the case, Moscow would not instruct him to reject the offer out of hand as a Western propaganda ploy.
Soviet rep Khlestov made the only presentation at the Dec 18 concluding plenary meeting of the seventh round. A few paragraphs near the end of his statement provided the first official Eastern reaction to the Allied nuclear initiative. He stated that the East, as was customary in such cases, would examine the contents of the proposal. Khlestov observed, however, that the proposal included only US tactical nuclear weapons and that it was conditioned on acceptance of the Western reduction program to which Eastern objections were well known. He noted Western emphasis on the one-time character of the offer and that it would not limit actual increases in air forces and nuclear delivery systems. Further, Soviet rep wondered what conclusions should be reached from the prolonged, detailed and propagandist treatment accorded the move in the Western press given the practice of confidentiality in the negotiations.
The balance of Soviet rep’s statement contained a measured criticism of the Western position along standard lines and summed up developments during the latest round. Under the latter heading, Khlestov dwelt on the question of force definitions. He termed resolution of this issue essential and faulted the West for continuing to resist agreement to the principle that similar force types should be allocated to the same armed service.
After the Dec 18 plenary, the East, with Czechoslovak rep Lahoda as spokesman, held a press conference. His prepared statement consisted mainly of a low-key synopsis of Khlestov’s earlier comments on the Allied nuclear proposal, including the fact that it would receive Eastern study. The meeting quickly broke up once newsmen discovered that they could not get Czechoslovak rep to expand on the topic.
East-West bilateral exchanges during the week were similarly guarded. Eastern reps generally confined themselves to a ritual expression of disappointment with the contents of the new Western offer, particularly its US-only and one-time aspects. They also tended to play upon the press-leaks-equals-propaganda-ploy theme. By Dec 18, Eastern reps were, nevertheless, adding that the initiative would receive thorough examination.
The Vienna talks are scheduled to reconvene the week of January 26.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files. Secret. Also sent to the Department of Defense. Repeated to all MBFR Missions, Athens, Belgrade, Berlin, Lisbon, Luxembourg, Prague, Sofia, Stockholm, Warsaw, the delegation to SALT II, and Ankara.
  2. Telegram 623 from the delegation to MBFR, December 16, contained the statement. (Ibid.)
  3. Telegram Secto 24038, December 12, reported on the NATO Ministers’ authorization. (Ibid., D750432–0414)
  4. No record of this meeting has been found.