371. Editorial Note

During the spring and summer of 1976, the issue of data on military manpower for the Warsaw Pact and North Atlantic Treaty Organization became a key point of discussion in the Mutual and Balanced Force Reduction talks in Vienna. A member of the NSC staff wrote in an undated memorandum to Secretary of State Kissinger in May 1976: “Potentially a more interesting development [in the MBFR talks] than either the Soviet response to Option III or their counterproposal is the continued strong interest by the Soviets in resolving the question of what forces should be covered by an MBFR agreement and how these forces should be divided between ground and air. Since last summer, this has been the Soviets’ primary preoccupation and they keep returning to it at every opportunity. In the process they’ve given us many indications that when these discussions reach the right stage, they will be prepared to put some specific numbers on the table. Earlier in these discussions, Pact negotiators seemed to agree with ours that MBFR should cover all active duty military manpower and should exclude reservists, para-military forces, and civilians, as well as naval forces. The principal point of contention was how to divide the active military between ground and air forces.” During the last round of negotiations, the memorandum noted, “the Soviets withdrew their ‘draft [Page 1091] definition’ and argued: that Pact units are not fully manned; that only combat and combat-related forces should be covered by MBFR; that Pact active military forces performing functions performed by civilians for NATO should be excluded; that military personnel in schools, clubs, institutes, etc., should be excluded; and that the FRG Standby Readiness Reserve is actually an active military force and should either be covered by MBFR or the Pact should be compensated by excluding a force of similar size.”

The memorandum continued: “These developments indicate that the Soviets are maneuvering to reduce or eliminate the disparity perceived by the West in the manpower of the two sides. From their remarks in Vienna and intelligence reports, we expected them to follow up at the end of the last session by tabling data, based on their new ‘counting rules,’ which would show a markedly different picture of the force relationship than does ours. However, they did not do this and in the discussions near the end of the session Pact negotiators exhibited a good deal of confusion and uncertainty about the whole process.” (Ford Library, National Security Adviser, NSC Staff for Europe, Canada and Ocean Affairs, Convenience Files, Box 52, Mutual and Balanced Force Reductions, 1976)

According to a history of the MBFR talks prepared by the Department of State, on June 10, 1976, “the Warsaw Pact tabled figures claiming that it had 987,300 troops in the [MBFR] reductions area—805,000 ground forces and 182,300 air force personnel. These figures were only a few thousand more than what the West had declared as NATO force totals in the reductions area, but some 174,700 fewer than NATO estimates of Warsaw Pact strength. The Pact military manpower in the reductions area became the central unresolved issue in the negotiations.” (Department of State, Office of the Historian, Mutual and Balanced Force Reduction (MBFR) Talks, 1973–1989, Research Project No. 1553, May 1989, page 10)

The delegation to the MBFR talks reported in telegram 351, July 3: “At the June 29 informal session of the Vienna force reductions negotiations, Soviet rep Khlestov refused to answer questions posed by Western reps concerning data tabled by the East June 10, stating that the East was unwilling to discuss these data until the West had tabled comparable figures for NATO forces in Central Europe.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files)

On September 29, Kissinger and Soviet Foreign Minister Gromyko discussed the MBFR data issue at a bilateral meeting in New York during the session of the UN General Assembly. A memorandum of their conversation reads in part: “Gromyko: We did not receive a reaction to our latest proposals [in Vienna]. Kissinger: Not to your proposals but to your giving the numbers. Gromyko: You [We?] suspect probably the [Page 1092] United States is holding it. Maybe your brotherly ministry. Kissinger: Sometimes we have problems relating to brother ministries, sometimes problems regarding allies. We have two problems. One is our [your?] figures with respect to your forces differ from our figures on your forces. We have to at some point discuss what is included. The second problem is France refuses to be included in the numbers. We are looking for a way to exclude France but still give you a meaningful number. The numbers we have aren’t significantly different from what we had in 1974, so you can use those. Your intelligence can tell you. The basic problem is the French. We can give you a figure that leaves out France but allows you to compensate for French forces so we can’t use French forces to evade the overall obligation. Gromyko: When can we get an answer? Hyland: October. It would be helpful if we could discuss theirs. Kissinger: Could we begin discussing the basis of your figures? Korniyenko: Not before your figures. Kissinger: That’s what I thought. Hyland: Our figures haven’t changed much. Sonnenfeldt: We are using different criteria to make the count. Kissinger: The problem the Foreign Minister is making is they won’t discuss their criteria until they get our figures. Korniyenko’s pithy remark [sic]. Sonnenfeldt: I understand. Kissinger: We will give you the figures during October. Gromyko: All right. All right.” (Memorandum of conversation, September 29; Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Kissinger and Scowcroft West Wing Office Files, Box 33, USSR, Gromyko File (33), 9/29/76)

On December 15, the U.S. representative to the MBFR talks, Stanley Resor, tabled Western data in Vienna and, on December 16, he made a statement on behalf of the Western participants at the plenary session of the talks: “The Western figures are as follows: (a) The total number of uniformed active duty military ground force personnel of Western direct participants in the area of reductions was 731,000 as of January 1, 1976. This represents an increase of approximately 14,000 in the total figure for these participants owing to more precise compilation since the negotiations began. (b) The combined total number of uniformed active duty military ground and air force personnel of the Western direct participants in the area of reductions was 921,000 men as of January 1, 1976. I would now like to make clear the basis on which these figures have been computed. All active duty military personnel in the ground and air forces of the Western direct participants in the area of reductions have been counted. Only active duty military personnel are included. Naval personnel, as well as reservists, civilians, and the personnel of other uniformed organizations equipped with weapons are excluded from these figures.

  • “As regards Warsaw Pact forces, Eastern participants will recollect that, in November 1973, the West tabled its figure of 925,000 men for [Page 1093] Warsaw Pact ground forces. The West now confirms that, on the basis of revised computations, the Western estimate of Warsaw Pact ground force manpower in the area shows an increase. This increase is somewhat larger than the 14,000 man increase in Western manpower of which I have just referred. The current Western estimate to the disparity between Western and Eastern ground force manpower is more than 150,000 men in favor of the East. The West has also told the East that the total of Warsaw Pact air force manpower was somewhat larger than the total of Western air manpower.
  • “As noted, on June 10, the Soviet Representative presented a different set of figures on Eastern military personnel in the area, based on counting rules whose details the East has not yet elaborated. The fact that there is a large discrepancy between the totals which the East has tabled and Western estimates of Warsaw Pact military manpower in the area leads the West to believe that the two sets of figures now on the table—the figures presented by the East and those presented by the West—were not formulated according to the same counting rules. Western participants believe that there is some rational explanation for this discrepancy and that it is in the interest of both sides to enter on a cooperative effort to identify the sources of this discrepancy. I have just made clear the counting rules the West used in compiling its data. Western participants now need to be fully clear about what counting rules the East has used for compiling Eastern data.” (Department of State, Office of the Historian, Mutual and Balanced Force Reduction (MBFR) Talks, 1973–1989, Research Project No. 1553, May 1989, pages 40–43)

After Resor tabled the data, Khlestov raised the issue of the exclusion of French forces in Germany from the Western manpower figures. He told Resor that “Eastern representatives were not prepared to discuss data and counting rules until after they had had an opportunity to analyze this data. But at first sight, this data on Western forces did not conform to Eastern estimates of these forces. Soviet rep said that when the West had previously tabled its figures on ground force manpower, it had not limited these figures only to the forces of the Western direct participants. He asked why US rep had emphasized that Western data was for the forces of Western direct participants only. US rep confirmed that data consisted only of the forces in the reduction area of the Western direct participants in the Vienna negotiations.” (Telegram 621 from the delegation to MBFR, December 15; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files) The discussion of data on manpower, including how to organize it, continued at the MBFR talks well into the summer of 1977. (Department of State, Office of the Historian, Mutual and Balanced Force Reduction (MBFR) Talks, 1973–1989, Research Project No. 1553, May 1989, pages 10, 44–48)