48. Minutes of a Senior Review Group Meeting1


  • June NATO Ministerial Meeting


  • Chairman—Henry A. Kissinger
  • State
    • U. Alexis Johnson
    • George Springsteen
    • Ronald Spiers
  • Defense
    • Armistead I. Selden
    • Brig. Gen. Harrison Lobdell
    • Lt. Col. Edward O’Connor
  • JCS
    • Vice Adm. J.P. Weinel
    • Capt. R.A. Kamorowski
  • CIA
    • Richard Helms
    • Peter Dixon Davis
  • ACDA
    • Philip Farley
  • NSC Staff
    • Col. R.T. Kennedy
    • William Hyland
    • Wilfred Kohl
    • Helmut Sonnenfeldt
    • John Court
    • Jeanne W. Davis


It was agreed that:

the IG for Europe will prepare a paper on what strategy we want to follow with regard to a Conference on European Security, including the question of permanent machinery;
the IG will do a paper on a negotiating scenario for MBFR;
an NSC meeting on the NATO issues will not be necessary; they will be dealt with in a memorandum to the President.

[Page 119]

Mr. Kissinger: The principal purpose of this meeting is to go over the issues which will come up at the NATO meeting and to decide whether an NSC meeting is necessary.

Mr. Johnson: We have no differences on the issues.

Mr. Kissinger: I see no major issues. I originally thought we would need an NSC meeting but it now appears we can handle it in a memo to the President.

Mr. Helms: The issue is pretty thin for an NSC meeting.

Mr. Kissinger: We also have Brezhnev’s statement on MBFR.2 Are our allies reasonably content with our position that a satisfactory Berlin agreement is a precondition for a Conference on European Security? Is there any pressure to break the linkage, particularly since there has been no obvious progress on Berlin?3 When are they meeting next?

Mr. Springsteen: They are meeting in London Monday and Tuesday.4

Mr. Kissinger: And our position will be to maintain the linkage between Berlin and CES. Do we expect any challenge?

Mr. Springsteen: No. The only cloud on the horizon is the confusion over what went on with regard to CES when Schumann went to Moscow.5 We do not have a full reading on his conversations, but we do have two conflicting press versions—one saying he maintained the linkage and another indicating that he did not. It’s probable that Schumann said more to the press than he did to Gromyko. We think the linkage will prevail, however.

Mr. Kissinger: There would be a problem if an agreement were reached on Berlin and the eastern treaties should fail in the German Parliament. Barzel6 has told me he would vote against a treaty. What about the other condition—that “other on-going talks” were proceeding favorably. I’m not sure what that means.

Mr. Springsteen: Before the NATO Ministerial meeting last December the Germans said there could be no CES without a satisfactory outcome on Berlin and in the inter-German talks. Harmel added “other [Page 120] on-going talks” to the Berlin condition to head off a more specific condition from the Germans. There is a split within NATO on this. Some people want to get rid of the condition, or convert it to language on the “general atmosphere.” We think there is some merit to keeping the present wording, since removing or changing it could be interpreted as a signal of some sort. We won’t take the lead on this, though.

Mr. Johnson: Could they think it refers to SALT?

Mr. Springsteen: We have clearly indicated that it is not SALT.

Mr. Helms: Then it’s a mystery as to what it does refer to.

Mr. Kissinger: If it’s not SALT and if the internal German issue is wrapped up, who else is negotiating?

Mr. Johnson: It has no meaning.

Mr. Kissinger: It may have some advantage in keeping the Russians on their toes. Am I correct in saying that we don’t know to what it refers, but if someone proposes that we drop it, we won’t oppose it?

Gen. Lobdell: By leaving Berlin as the only precondition, are we putting pressure on the quadripartite powers to bring Berlin to a conclusion?

Mr. Kissinger: The biggest pressure on this comes from the Germans, not the allies. Would we apply this to the preliminary discussions of the Ambassadors in Helsinki—that there would be no discussion of CES before a Berlin agreement?

Mr. Springsteen: Yes.

Mr. Kissinger: Assuming Berlin is out of the way and we are moving toward a CES, do we know what we want to accomplish?7 There are two issues: (reading from Mr. Sonnenfeldt’s memo)

  • —“the principles which should govern relations between states, including renunciation of forces;
  • —the development of international relations with a view to contributing to the freer movement of people, ideas and information and to developing cooperation in the cultural, economic, technical and scientific fields as well as in the field of human environment.”
[Page 121]

Since we won’t go to a conference such as this to attack the Soviets, isn’t it a meaningless psychological exercise?8 Won’t it make it harder to make progress in NATO?

Mr. Springsteen: There is a risk that it might create a state of euphoria which would make holding the allies together that much more difficult.

Mr. Kissinger: There are a number of things we could do. We could make it a damage limiting operation; we could try for a series of conferences on specific items; or we could take it more seriously and wrap it up with MBFR, which is the only real issue.9

Mr. Johnson: The Soviet concept is that the Ministers get together, say nice nothings and appoint sub-groups to do any work.

Mr. Springsteen: That’s the French position on procedure. The Soviet desires are clear. They want a renunciation of force agreement, recognition of the status quo in Europe, an opening wedge for increasing economic and cultural contacts with the West, and creation of a sense of euphoria for what divisive effect it can have.

Mr. Kissinger: I don’t see this as a major issue now, but we need to know what strategy we want to pursue on CES. Let’s ask the IG to do a paper taking another look at CES in the light of the Soviet Party Congress.

[Page 122]

Mr. Johnson: Okay.

Mr. Kissinger: How about MBFR?

Mr. Johnson: We will have to take account of the Brezhnev statement. It will obviously be a subject of discussion at Lisbon. How do we handle it? We should do some probing—send our Ambassador in to find out what the statement means.

Mr. Springsteen: A possible scenario would be to discuss it with the allies in Brussels, while we probe bilaterally with the Russians to see what the statement means. Then we can develop a position that the Ministers can agree on as to how to handle the issue in the post-Lisbon period. The Russians are no more prepared than we are to negotiate on MBFR. Whatever emerges from Lisbon, we should probably intensify our efforts to find out what the Russians have in mind.

Mr. Kissinger: (to Mr. Farley) Weren’t we going to brief NATO on MBFR?

Mr. Farley: The paper is being sanitized now for that purpose.

Mr. Kissinger: I think this is essential. We are light-years ahead of the Europeans in our thinking on this. How quickly can we do this?

Mr. Court: In about two weeks.

Mr. Kissinger: Let’s push our own discussions so when the Soviets start pressing we’ll be ready. Let’s get a paper on what strategy we want to follow. Should that be done by the IG or by ACDA? Who would handle the negotiations? Let’s ask the IG to do a paper on a negotiating scenario. We can’t have all of Europe in the room. Who will do the negotiating. Would we negotiate simultaneously with SALT? What would the first meeting look like—would it be a meeting of principals?

Mr. Farley: We might consider a phased approach. Brezhnev is out ahead of us on this. He was much more pointed as to negotiations.

Mr. Kissinger: There would be no condition to an MBFR agreement?

Mr. Johnson: No.

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: There might be a problem with the GDR.

Mr. Springsteen: That would not be unmanageable. NATO will probably try to avoid the term “negotiations” and use “exploratory discussions.”

Mr. Johnson: We have to get ourselves in position for this.

Mr. Kissinger: We need a position next week in connection with the Mansfield resolution. We have to answer those Senators—tell them we are ready to negotiate.

Mr. Helms: Damn right!!

Mr. Johnson: We can’t appear any less ready than the Soviets.

[Page 123]

Mr. Kissinger: How about the question of permanent East-West machinery?10

Mr. Johnson: We can make this part of the CES study.

Mr. Springsteen: The question has already come up. The British proposed permanent machinery as a substitute for CES. The Russians are talking in the context of CES. This could be one of the alternatives we might consider.

Mr. Kissinger: On the defense issues, these won’t be coming up at this NATO meeting, will they? Are we agreed that we don’t need an NSC meeting? If so, we will produce a memorandum for the President.

Gen. Lobdell: Could we consider this matter of “on-going talks” a little more?

Mr. Springsteen: That is not our phrase.

Mr. Kissinger: How can you give up something you can’t define?

Capt. Kamorowski: That’s the basis of many a love story.

Mr. Kissinger: What Department are you from?

Capt. Kamorowski: Department of Defense.

Mr. Johnson: That sounds like “make love, not war”!

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–112, SRG Minutes, Originals, 1971. Secret. The meeting was held in the White House Situation Room. In a briefing memorandum of May 10, Sonnenfeldt informed Kissinger: “The main issues are: (1) Can we continue to hold the position that a ‘satisfactory’ Berlin settlement is the precondition to a Conference on European Security? (2) Assuming our conditions are met, what are our objectives in a CES, or in any other East-West negotiations such as MBFR. (3) What steps are needed now and after the Lisbon meeting to move toward the kind of negotiations that would be most in our interest. (4) In light of the preceding considerations how do we handle current tactical issues, of which the main ones are (a) how specific a signal to give on MBFR negotiations, (b) the linkage, if any, between negotiations on MBFR and multilateral exploratory talks leading to CES; (c) whether to press the concept of establishing East-West machinery as one result of a CES; and (d) how to handle issues on the current putative CES agenda.” (Ibid., Box H–057, SRG Meeting on NSSM 121, NATO, 5/14/71)
  2. See Document 49.
  3. In his memorandum to Kissinger, Sonnenfeldt stated: “NATO’s position is that a ‘satisfactory conclusion’ of the Berlin talks is a precondition to moving into multilateral exploratory talks on CES. All of the Allies are currently content with this linkage, but there is some restiveness over the possibility of prolonged Berlin negotiations or failure.” Sonnenfeldt added: “It would seem to be clearly in our interest to strengthen or at least hold the line, since we gain some leverage in the Berlin talks from the apparent Soviet desire for a CES.”
  4. May 17–18.
  5. Schumann visited Moscow on May 7.
  6. Rainer Barzel, chairman of the opposition CDU/CSU faction in the West German Parliament, the Bundestag.
  7. Sonnenfeldt wrote in his May 10 memorandum: “There is widespread Allied acceptance of a ‘hortatory’ CES that will be largely devoid of substance. If we wish to shift to a more substantive concept and approach, we probably have to begin to do so at the Lisbon meeting and continue hereafter. Otherwise, we will continue drifting to a Conference that will yield high dividends to the Soviets and produce almost meaningless atmospherics for us. —The Allied attitude is that a conference is ‘inevitable,’ depends only on a Berlin settlement, would serve a useful purpose in domestic terms, would be useful in reducing tensions, and consequently, the range of issues will necessarily be narrow.”
  8. In his May 10 memorandum, Sonnenfeldt wrote to Kissinger regarding the two potential issues at a CES: “As you can see this approach would probably be a disaster. Principles governing state relations can either be an affirmation of the political/territorial status quo, or, as currently viewed in some NATO quarters, as means of belaboring the Soviets for Czechoslovakia. Almost certainly the Allies will not go to a conference to assault the Soviets, so we will end up with the slightly disguised non-aggression type declaration. As for the other issues—economic, cultural, environment, freer movement—they are only marginally related to European Security. We, of course, cannot oppose them; indeed, we are the leaders in promoting the ‘freer movement’ idea. But these questions simply conceal the fact that there is no substance to a CES.”
  9. Sonnenfeldt listed three “broad choices” for CES in his May 10 memorandum. The first choice, he wrote, was “A damage limiting operation: Largely proceeding on the present path, recognizing the vapid content of a CES, and trying to avoid further meetings or concessions to the Soviets. It may be that this is all that we can reasonably expect or hope for, given the European mood. An attempt to add more hard substance could cause major problems, if interpreted in the Alliance as a US effort to block the actual conference.” He continued: “2. Alternatively, we could try to narrow any conference or series of conferences to specific items such as cultural exchanges, or a conference solely on economic relations, or a conference only to launch MBFR, etc.” As a third option, he wrote: “Finally, we could take the affair of the conference more seriously, and try to build into the Allied preparations some more substance related to security.” Sonnenfeldt suggested that “we could take the position that in any such conference it had to deal with the issues of military security. This would mean linking the MBFR issue to CES, perhaps as the initial order of business (more on this below). It would also mean that the declaration of ‘principles,’ etc., should include some concrete measures, perhaps in the field of constraints on troop movements, maneuvers, observers—in this way using the declaration as part of the move to MBFR.”
  10. Sonnenfeldt wrote in his May 10 memorandum the establishment of some permanent machinery “is an idea worth some US consideration (State has been opposed) to understand more thoroughly whether there is some advantage to it. Our main interest might be in using some organ to inhibit Soviet actions in East Europe. Admittedly, it would be a weak reed, but added to some arms control, collateral measures or MBFR, it could add some substance to the atmospherics of European security. In short, should the US link into it more thoroughly? If not, we can probably scuttle it either at Lisbon or later. If we are interested, however, we could push it slightly at this meeting, and take it up inside our government and NATO in the next six months.”