41. Memorandum From Secretary of State Rogers to President Nixon 1


  • NATO Ministerial Meeting

The December 2–4 NATO Ministerial meetings2 were characterized by a new degree of Allied unity, a realistic reading of East-West détente possibilities, and a re-affirmation of the need to maintain and improve Allied conventional defense capabilities.

There was universal appreciation for your statement affirming U.S. intent to maintain forces in Europe at current levels in the absence of reciprocal reductions and given a similar approach by our Allies.3 The decision by most European members of the Alliance on a long-term burden-sharing program reflected a recognition by our European allies of their responsibility to do more. Indeed, I sensed at the meeting an enhanced degree of understanding with us, based at lea st in part on Europe’s rising confidence in itself and in NATO’s prudent policies of the past two years.

The meeting concluded with a strong communiqué which is compatible with our policies and objectives in the European area. For the immediate future there is unanimity that the touchstone of future progress toward détente is the Berlin negotiations.4 Should these reach [Page 108] a satisfactory agreement, there will be increased pressure to move towards a European Security Conference.

On mutual and balanced force reductions we are agreed to continue to seek exchanges with Eastern Europe. The NATO proposal is to discuss a balanced reduction of “stationed” forces as an integral program including indigenous forces and to do so through bilateral “exploratory talks” now. (The Warsaw Pact had talked about “foreign” forces, had not referred to any balance, and had sought to defer discussions until after a security conference.)5

Mediterranean security was discussed by both Foreign and Defense Ministers, and there was general recognition of the need to improve NATO’s presence there.

Many Ministers spoke highly of the Committee on Challenges of Modern Society. It is now solidly launched, and its action on oil-spills marks a tangible achievement widely praised in Europe.

The meeting also provided me opportunities to talk to the Greeks and the Turks. I urged the former to impress on the Prime Minister the need to move more quickly to return to constitutionalism. The Turk indicated that his Prime Minister had postponed visiting Washington until he secures legislation on controlling opium production.

My German, British and French colleagues joined me in a constructive discussion of Germany’s Eastern Policy and on Berlin. We all affirmed that it was up to the Soviets to be forthcoming if agreement on Berlin were to be achieved.

William P. Rogers
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Conference Files, 1966–1972, Entry 3051B, Box 100, CF 482, Volume II, NATO Ministerial, Dec. 2–4. Confidential.
  2. Held in Brussels.
  3. The Ministers of the North Atlantic Council stated in their final communiqué of December 4: “The Council received a statement from President Nixon which pledged that, given a similar approach by the other Allies, the United States would maintain and improve its own forces in Europe and would not reduce them except in the context of reciprocal East-West action. Ministers expressed their profound satisfaction at the reaffirmation of Alliance solidarity expressed in this statement.” See North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO Final Communiqués, 1949–1974, p. 243.
  4. The final communiqué reads in part: “They affirmed the readiness of their governments as soon as the talks on Berlin have reached a satisfactory conclusion and in so far as the other ongoing talks are proceeding favorably, to enter into multilateral contacts with all interested governments to explore when it would be possible to convene a conference, or a series of conferences, on security and cooperation in Europe. In this event, the Council would give immediate attention to this question.”
  5. In the communiqué, the NATO Ministers “reemphasized the importance” of “mutual and balanced force reductions as a means of reducing tensions and lessening the military confrontation in Europe.” They noted that the Warsaw Pact countries “did not directly respond” to the Reykjavik (1968) and Rome (1970) Declarations of the NAC; instead, the Eastern countries “mentioned the possibility of a discussion at some future time of the question of reducing foreign armed forces on the territory of European states.” The NATO Ministers “renewed their invitation to interested states to hold exploratory talks on the basis of their Rome Declaration, and also indicated their readiness within this framework to examine different possibilities in the field of force reductions in the Central Region of Europe, including the possible mutual and balanced reduction of stationed forces, as part of an integral program for the reduction of both stationed and indigenous forces.”