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


  • Verification Panel Meeting on MBFR: Tactical Issues

In your discussion at the Verification Panel meeting you should not be diverted to the tactical issues of the relations of MBFR to CES and Berlin, [Page 115] though State is actively interested in this issue. We will handle these questions in the study of issues arising at the June NATO Meeting; NSSM 1212 is scheduled for the SRG on May 13.

To clarify the state of play, the following is where we stand on MBFR and CES:

  • —Our position, previously supported in the Alliance, is that MBFR is a separate issue, worthy of being pursued independently of a CES and Berlin. This has been the Alliance position.
  • —However, there is growing feeling in the Alliance that MBFR should also be included on CES agenda, in order to give a conference some real substance. This is the German position, and they have gathered near unanimous support in NATO.
  • —We have not fallen in with this position, though State feels that we will probably have to at some point.3
  • —All of this, however, has so far not weakened NATO’s precondition of a “Berlin settlement” prior to CES. (The definition of a “Berlin settlement” may erode.)
  • —The danger may be that if Berlin is hopelessly deadlocked or drags on, or is only marginally improved, the Soviets will use Alliance interest in MBFR to overcome the Berlin precondition to a CES.4 Recent Soviet statements point in this direction.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–008, Verification Panel Meeting, MBFR, 4/23/71. Secret. Sent for information.
  2. Document 45.
  3. In a letter to Laird, April 12, Rogers wrote that at the Lisbon NATO Ministerial meeting, June 3–4, “we should agree with the current FRG suggestion that the Allies propose that MBFR be included on any CES agenda. As you know, the Allies have maintained MBFR on a track separate but parallel to CES, in anticipation of the possibility that MBFR might be discussed before a CES was convened. So far the Warsaw Pact has not responded to our willingness to explore MBFR. With a satisfactory resolution in the Berlin talks we are likely to be under strong pressure to proceed to early multilateral East-West exploratory talks, looking toward CES. At that time the two tracks of CES and MBFR will cross. We believe most Allies would wish to address MBFR in general terms at CES, looking toward negotiations later in a more suitable forum.” (Ford Library, Laird Papers, Box 4, NATO, Vol. VII)
  4. On April 21, Laird replied to Rogers’s letter of April 12: “I have serious reservations about whether a United States proposal to link MBFR and CES in the manner suggested is necessary to accomplish these ends. It is not clear to me that the CES and MBFR tracks will inevitably cross with the conclusion of a Berlin agreement. It is conceivable that we could discuss MBFR before we reach agreement on Berlin. Even after a Berlin agreement, it is still not clear that the tracks will cross, and I think it is desirable to work to keep discussion of these issues in separate forums.” Laird suggested that “given the Alliance position on the Berlin precondition to CES, it seems to me that a CESMBFR nexus could make it more difficult for us to resist pressures for undesirable concessions on a Berlin agreement from those Allies favoring MBFR. If we did stand firm in such a case, we would then be seen to be resisting progress on MBFR as well as on CES.” (Ibid.)