42. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1


  • Soviet Reaction Against December NATO Meeting

As reported in the attached memorandum from Secretary Rogers (Tab A),2 Ambassador Dobrynin handed us a Soviet aide-mémoire on December 28, criticizing NATO, and especially the US, for impeding détente in Europe. Specifically, the Soviets are complaining about measures taken at the recent Ministerial meeting to strengthen NATO militarily. More important, they come down hard against NATO’s linking progress toward a European security conference with a Berlin agreement, and other ongoing East-West talks. In familiar fashion, the Soviets present their anti-linkage position, terming insistence on “preconditions” as “unsound method of conducting international affairs.” They contend they are ready to proceed now, on both a bilateral and multilateral basis, with preparations for a European conference, citing again the Finnish proposal for preliminary consultations in Helsinki. Finally, Moscow tries to single out the US from other NATO allies and implies that, contrary to the spirit of your recent conversation with Foreign Minister Gromyko,3 we are preventing progress on European security.

Undoubtedly meant to express general Soviet displeasure with what they see as a US brake on Ostpolitik and pressure on them to be forthcoming in SALT and in the Berlin negotiations, the Soviet paper seems mainly directed at influencing the policies of our European allies. As the Secretary observes, the Soviets want to establish a case against us. During the past week, Soviet ambassadors have delivered similar representation—either orally or in writing—in five other NATO capitals. The North Atlantic Council has already taken note of the various Soviet approaches and will be coordinating allied responses. The British have already replied in terms close to our own. We expect our other allies will do likewise, adhering to the terms of the NATO communiqué.

The Secretary gave an oral response to Dobrynin when he delivered the Soviet note, reaffirming our interest in a Berlin agreement and [Page 110] arguing that the Soviets have not been very forthcoming in the negotiations. He also took exception to the Soviet portrayal of our attitude toward a European conference, and your interest in making progress on European security.4 In a subsequent talk with Dobrynin, Assistant Secretary Hillenbrand also took a firm line.5 State is planning to draft a formal written reply to the Soviet démarche.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 714, Country Files, USSR, Vol. XII. Confidential. Sent for information. Anotation on the memorandum reads: “The President has seen.”
  2. Rogers’s January 5 memorandum is attached but not printed.
  3. See Document 36.
  4. In telegram 211169 to Moscow, December 30, the Department summarized the meeting between Rogers and Dobrynin on December 28: “Secretary took exception to statement’s portrayal of U.S. attitude toward a CES. Secretary noted we and our allies place great emphasis on satisfactory negotiation of talks on Berlin and progress in ongoing negotiations in evaluating prospects for productive East-West contacts. USG’s interest in promoting European security found full expression in President’s special message to NATO Council meeting. Among other things, President noted that there must be reciprocal East-West action in measures taken to advance mutual security. Secretary also emphasized our continued interest in mutual and balanced force reductions as a means of lessening military confrontation in Europe.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 261, Agency Files, NATO, Vol. X, Part 3)
  5. In telegram 3105 to Moscow, January 8, the Department reported that Hillenbrand told Dobrynin that the “decision taken at Brussels NATO ministerial meeting on East-West relations was unanimous” and that “draft language setting forth linkage between a possible CES and progress on Berlin and other ongoing negotiations was basically formulated by two NATO countries known for their independent policies. U.S. accepted proposed draft and did not participate in any arm-twisting exercise, literally or figuratively.” Dobrynin then “queried Hillenbrand on U.S. reaction to Finnish proposal calling for multilateralization of contacts in Helsinki. Hillenbrand said that Finnish proposal was only one variant of a formula for proceeding with multilateral contacts. When and if time comes to proceed into this phase, Finnish formula may prove to be best available, but no decision has been taken on this matter as yet.” (Ibid.) Regarding the Finnish proposal, see footnote 5, Document 38.