43. Memorandum From Helmut Sonnenfeldt of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

SUBJECT

  • Memorandum from Secretary Rogers to the President Reporting USSR Démarche on European Security
[Page 111]

Secretary Rogers has sent the President a memorandum reporting on Dobrynin’s oral statement of March 17 on a European Security Conference.2

  • —The statement called for immediate preparatory steps: agreement on an agenda and a date.3
  • —It argues strongly against linkage, and accuses us of blocking a European conference.4

The State memorandum notes that this is the most specific Soviet proposal we have had for beginning preparations for the conference. The aim is to keep the notion of a conference alive to demonstrate Soviet initiative at the Party Congress, and to play on continuing European interest in a conference.

This current note, however, does not seem to be much more than a pro forma exercise, which the Soviets are more or less obliged to engage in as a follow up to the Warsaw Pact meeting of mid-February.5

If the Soviets were really interested in a conference, their most effective tactic would be to respond on MBFR, which would have a great appeal in NATO. The fact that they have not even alluded to it since last June,6 suggests that despite their protestations they in fact accept the Berlin linkage as the precondition to the conference. Indeed, they may prefer to see Berlin settled and the German treaties on the way to ratification in order to keep German issues entirely separate from an atmospheric conference.

In any case, with the NATO Ministerial two months away, discussion in NATO of a conference is picking up again. I have just cleared [Page 112]a long State instruction for Ellsworth’s use,7 which gives him something to say on how we might go about the exploratory and preparatory processes for a conference after there is a Berlin settlement. (As you recall, Berlin was put up as a pre-condition for a conference at last December’s Rome [Brussels] NATO Ministerial Meeting.) This is all rather academic as of now but the allies all want to be busy and we can only exercise control over the internal NATO studies by saying something ourselves. At the Lisbon Ministerial in June the communiqué will stand essentially on the same formula, even though some of the smaller countries would like to dilute the pre-condition from “satisfactory solution” to “progress.” Our paper outlines extended careful exploratory and preparatory phases, with enough flexibility to back away should the project look distinctly to our disadvantage. I will send you a copy of the State instruction as soon as we get a clean copy of it.

Recommendation

That you forward the attached memorandum to the President at Tab A.8

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 714, Country Files, USSR, Vol. XII. Confidential. Sent for action.
  2. Attached to Rogers’s March 23 memorandum is an oral statement on a European security conference that Dobrynin gave to Hillenbrand on March 17; both attached but not printed.
  3. Rogers wrote in his attached memorandum to the President: “The Soviet statement proposes movement forthwith to meetings leading to the convening of CES. The Soviets claim that several matters are not disputed (relaxation of tension as the aim of CES, Helsinki as the site, the attendance of all European states plus the US and Canada) and could be agreed on immediately; then agreement on an agenda and on a date could be negotiated. Or, they say, all of these questions could be decided simultaneously.”
  4. Rogers wrote in his attached memorandum to the President: “On the polemical side, the statement’s main thrust is against the West’s linkage of CES with an agreement in the Berlin talks. All sorts of linkages are possible, the Soviets say—for example, ratification of the FRG-Soviet and FRG-Polish Treaties would help the Berlin talks—but making linkages merely hinders progress towards détente.” Rogers stated: “We find the Soviet statement a logical but heavy-handed development of their argument for a Conference and their attempt to portray the US as blocking movement in that direction.”
  5. The Warsaw Pact’s Foreign Ministers met from February 18 to 19 in Bucharest. A brief summary and analysis of the communiqué from their meeting is in telegram 30094 to USNATO, February 22, in National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, DEF 4 WARSAW PACT.
  6. See Document 30.
  7. Telegram 49306 to USNATO, March 24. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 261, Agency Files, NATO, Vol. X)
  8. Document 44.