47. Editorial Note

On April 21, 1971, Wayne Smith of the National Security Council staff wrote President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs Kissinger: “AVerification Panel meeting on mutual and balanced force reductions in Europe is scheduled for Friday, April 23, 1971, at 3:00 p.m. The meeting will focus on two broad problems:

  • “—The desirability of choosing now a basic approach to MBFR for further development and, if so, either the ‘military’ approach sponsored by DOD or the ‘political’ approach advanced by State;
  • “—The position on MBFR to be taken by the U.S. in NATO and the probable NATO consensus with the Warsaw Pact. The basic issue here is whether or not the U.S. wants to go along with a ‘political’ approach to MBFR (see below) and, if not, what steps need to be taken to protect our options.”

Smith wrote that the new evaluation report on MBFR “represents a substantial extension and refinement of our earlier work arising out of the November 23 Verification Panel meeting.” He continued: “Given these improvements in our analytical approach, I believe that this report represents a comprehensive and basically sound evaluation of the full spectrum of possible MBFR agreements including both the asymmetrical and mixed package options that you found interesting. As you would suspect, however, there are some strong bureaucratic differences on the MBFR approaches outlined and their evaluation.” He noted: “State/ACDA are wholeheartedly committed to a ‘political’ approach involving small symmetrical reductions designed for ease of negotiability. They probably will press at the meeting for a decision on an approach. DOD, particularly the JCS, are more interested in ‘military’ approaches emphasizing assistance [asymmetrical?] or mixed reduction packages.” Smith summarized: “Thus, there are very strong and well-established differences of views within the bureaucracy on MBFR that will, I believe, be surfaced at the meeting. Given the strong momentum in NATO for proceeding with a ‘political’ approach to MBFR, similar to that sponsored by State, I think that there is a real danger that we will be locked into an MBFR position in NATO that may not be consistent with the President’s wishes unless some action is taken. Your choices are:

  • “—To let State and our Allies proceed but be prepared to act forcefully if and when action becomes necessary, i.e., after a Berlin agreement or initiation of CES.
  • “—To attempt to exercise leadership over the NATO MBFR effort to maintain Alliance flexibility. Since our evaluation of the security problems involved is better than the Alliance’s, its transmission to NATO could reopen the issue along the substantive lines we support.
  • “Clearly, the first alternative—continued State leadership—should be avoided, and both Hal Sonnenfeldt and I feel it may be desirable to go further than in the past in exercising active leadership over the NATO MBFR effort while preparing a more detailed formulation of 3–5 most reasonable MBFR packages.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–008, Verification Panel Meeting, MBFR, 4/23/71)
  • The minutes of the Verification Panel meeting, April 23, include the following “summary of conclusions”:
  • “The Working Group would make a new analysis of the comparative impact of reductions, assuming a lag [less than 1 line not declassified] in NATO mobilization;
  • “The Working Group will try to answer some of the questions raised in this meeting in terms of some specific options: e.g., two types of symmetrical reductions; two types of asymmetrical reductions, including common ceilings; and one or two mixed packages. These options should include the collateral restraints that would be required to overcome disadvantages to the NATO forces. They should also include consideration of our nuclear weapons.
  • “The Working Group will prepare a sanitized version of the current IG paper for transmission to the North Atlantic Council.” (Ibid., Box H–107, Verification Panel Minutes, Originals, 1969–3/8/72) The full text of the meeting minutes is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XLI, Western Europe; NATO, 1969–1972. The IG paper or evaluation report, “Mutual and Balanced Force Reductions Between NATO and the Warsaw Pact,” April 12, was prepared by the working group constituted after the November 23, 1970, Senior Review Group meeting (See Document 39). A copy is in National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 482, President’s Trip Files, MBFR/CSCE Backup Book, Part I.