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


  • European Security and Forthcoming NATO Meetings—The Bureaucratic Steamroller Pushes Irresistibly Forward

The Brussels machinery with heavy US prodding has been grinding out huge quantities of paper on European Security issues. Based on Ministerial decisions at Reykjavik the year before,2 a vastly elaborate study of mutual force cuts in Europe has also been proceeding.

With the Deputy Foreign Ministers’ meeting scheduled for November (Elliot Richardson is going from here) and the full Ministerial the month after, State is now moving to take the lead in pushing into the next phase of crystallizing issues and a public Western position favoring an eventual conference.

For some reason, the view at State seems to be that we must either take the lead (as we also did on the Berlin “probe”)3 or end up being isolated. I find it hard to believe that our diplomacy cannot be skillful enough to operate in the middle ground between these extremes.

I have tried at various times to urge a little less activism and to impress on State the Presidential interest in this whole range of effort. But the flood-tide continues to roll.

In the attached Tabs, I have tried to give you a feel for what has been happening and for what State is planning to do next. I urge you to plow through these materials, at your earliest convenience.

Then I would strongly urge that we get together with Richardson and Hillenbrand to go over this entire subject matter so that we can decide on a US posture consistent with other things in play. Certainly, you and Elliot should have a meeting of minds4 before he goes off to [Page 9] the NATO Deputy Foreign Ministers and the immediately following European Chiefs of Mission meeting early in November.


That you promptly look over the attached materials.
That your office set up an early meeting including Richardson, Hillenbrand, plus one other State officer of their choosing, you and me.


LCDR Howe set up meeting



Tab A


State has initiated an exchange with Bob Ellsworth outlining a position it proposes to take in the forthcoming NATO meetings. (Summary and cables attached).6

The essence of the proposed position is that the Deputy Foreign Ministers would recommend a large step forward on European Security: we would endorse the idea of a Conference, and single out two issues for further study and eventually for a formal proposal to the USSR. The two issues are:

Balanced force reductions in Central Europe, and
a declaration of principles underlying European security.

By June 1970 the Ministers would approve a negotiating position.

Balanced force reduction is an old, old issue, which has been reworked by a study group. The result is a guidelines paper establishing the basis for further study of negotiating positions (outline at Tab B).

There are several other items on the extensive list of European Security issues (Tab C). Though they are not very inspiring, they should be given further consideration, especially if there is a disposition among the Europeans to put them forward for possible negotiations.

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It is worth recalling that the basic position stated in the April communiqué was that a list should be compiled of issues that “lend themselves to fruitful and early resolution.”7 It is difficult to see how balanced force reductions would qualify as an issue for “early” resolution.

The declaration of principles also raises some problems. On the one hand, it is relatively harmless and might serve to test the Soviet interest in negotiating. On the other hand, it is not very meaningful, even if the Soviets signed immediately. They would interpret it as a ratification of their actions in Czechoslovakia. Or, they would attach their own “principles”—recognition of existing boundaries, the two Germanys etc.

The European Security issues are complicated by efforts currently launched: the three-power approach to the Soviets on Berlin, and the Soviet-FRG bilateral on renunciation of force. Apparently both initiatives would proceed. Since they were regarded as somewhat of a test of Soviet attitudes, the results some months hence might not justify forward movement on either balanced force reductions or a general declaration.

Finally, we will have to face possible French resistance to a bloc-to-bloc approach on European Security, which our proposed position implies if adopted by the Ministers.

Tactical Considerations

  • —Most Ministers will want the Alliance to stake out a forthcoming approach on European Security;
  • —if we are the only hold-out, we could be isolated;
  • —we prefer to proceed with multilateral and bilateral discussion with Eastern states to test the negotiating climate, to offer prospects of reduced tensions, and to improve the atmosphere for a European Security Conference;
  • —we could: participate in negotiations on individual items drawn from the agreed list; continue Berlin contacts; and examine economic, scientific and technological cooperation in bilateral East-West contacts;
  • —encouraging this general approach should avoid intra-alliance strains and maintain cohesion during an active period of East-West diplomacy;
  • —West European opinion will welcome a more forthcoming attitude, we will have solid tactical position, and if the Soviets refuse to bargain they will bear the onus for failure to make progress.
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December Ministerial Communiqué

The Ministers would:

Publicly endorse the principle of a well-prepared security conference with US and Canadian participation.
Indicate belief that progress in negotiations on some concrete issues can move East and West closer to an eventual conference.
Publicly indicate those specific areas which are being developed for initial exploration with the East:
  • —Balanced force reductions; and
  • —joint declaration of principles underlying European Security.

Balanced Force Reductions

Presented as opening step toward future negotiation on fundamental questions, such as issues related to Germany/Berlin:

  • —Would have domestic political advantages;
  • —studies are sufficiently advanced for formulating one or two illustrative proposals;
  • —Deputy Foreign Ministers in November would recommend studies of, say, 10, 20, and 30 percent staged reductions.

Joint Declaration of Principles

  • —For exploratory purposes, a declaration might contain the following elements:
    non-intervention in internal affairs;
    abstention from the use of threat of force;
    respect for independence and territorial integrity;
    agreement to settle differences through peaceful means.
  • —The declaration would:
    test willingness of the Soviets to improve the East-West climate;
    help increase flexibility of East European states in their dealings with West;
    put Soviets on defensive;
    appeal to Eastern and Western public opinion.

Other Issues

  • —Depending on the state of the tripartite soundings already launched, Ministers express continued support for improved intra-German relations;
  • —should leave it to Germans to determine the rate of progress on Germany and Berlin issues.
Confidence-Building Measures
  • —Not sufficiently important or tactically advantageous to warrant inclusion in basic Western position.
Economic, Technological and Cultural
  • —Best left to bilateral effort or other multilateral approaches and not included as specific elements of NATO response.


  • —September/October Political Advisors and disarmament experts in NATO will shape East-West issue study to spotlight the proposals outlined above;
  • —October 15 Permament Representatives receive final report and begin to prepare package for Ministers;
  • —November 5–6 Foreign Ministers consider report and prepare recommendations to take action on balanced force reductions and joint declaration of principles;
  • —December Ministerial Meeting, adopt communiqué to
    “prepare a possible negotiating position on balanced force reductions which the Ministers could consider at their next meeting in June 1970 and might thereafter serve as a realistic basis for active exploration of means of achieving mutual and balanced force reductions;”
    “in their contacts with the Soviet Union and other countries of Eastern Europe to examine the possibility of a joint declaration of those principles which should form the foundation of a meaningful and lasting security in Europe” (followed by list of principles, nonintervention, etc.).

Tab B


(Draft Council Report Accepted ad referendum, September 25)

The main points in the guidelines are:

  • —to apply to indigenous and stationed forces in Central Europe, Germany, Benelux, E. Germany, Poland and Czechoslovakia;
  • —to exclude study of buffer or demilitarized zones;
  • —to include all conventional, nuclear and dual capable forces but not naval forces;
  • —ground forces to be considered primary element;
  • —to measure reductions primarily in terms of manpower;
  • —to vary timing of reduction in relation to size of cut; e.g. a ten percent reduction in one period, a 30 percent over several defined periods;
  • —personnel to be demobilized or placed in reserves, equipment could be reused to bring units up to strength;
  • —minimum extent of reduction about 10 percent, maximum 30 percent;
  • —as a matter for negotiation there could be asymmetrical reductions i.e., trading nuclear forces for conventional, balancing different types of conventional, etc.;
  • —need to be adequate verification, (further study needed).

Tab C


Without trying to duplicate the entire list, the following gives the flavor of the exercise.

There are three different categories of issues:

Issues which warrant consideration for early negotiation.
Issues which appear to require further examination prior to consideration for further negotiation.
Issues already under negotiation.

Early in the proceedings, the Berlin-Germany issue was referred to the Bonn group.

Some, but not all, of the items hashed over (some for the Nth time in recent years) include:

  • Renunciation of the use of force
  • A code of good conduct (sic)
  • Military observation at maneuvers
  • Observation posts
  • Elimination of restrictions on Allied Military Missions
  • East-West study on techniques and methods of disarmament inspection
  • Study of measures to prevent outbreak of a nuclear attack through surprise or error
  • Mutual freeze of nuclear weapons
  • Nuclear-free zones
  • Cut-off of production of fissionable materials
  • Ban on biological and chemical warfare
  • Strengthening East-West cooperation (technological, health, environment)
  • Expansion of tourism

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 257, Agency Files, NATO, Vol. VI. Secret. Sent for action.
  2. The text of the communiqué of the June 25, 1968, North Atlantic Council Ministerial meeting in Reykjavik, along with a Declaration on Mutual Force Reductions adopted by the countries participating in the NATO Defense Program, are in the Department of State Bulletin, July 15, 1968, pp. 75–78.
  3. Regarding the tripartite “sounding” on Berlin, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XL, Germany and Berlin, 1969–1972, Document 21.
  4. In an October 10 memorandum, Sonnenfeldt recommended that Kissinger raise with Richardson “your interest in the preparations for the NATO deputy foreign ministers and foreign ministers meetings. You are particularly interested in the preparations dealing with East-West issues and a European Security Conference. Suggest an early briefing and discussion session with Richardson and Hillenbrand.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 337, Subject Files, HAK/Richardson Meetings, May–December 1969)
  5. Kissinger initialed his approval on October 6. No record of Kissinger’s meeting with Richardson has been found.
  6. For the summary, see Tab B below. The cables are not attached.
  7. The final NAC communiqué also stated “that any negotiations must be well prepared in advance, and that all Governments whose participation would be necessary to achieve a political settlement in Europe should take part,” and that “the Allies will also pursue their efforts and studies in the field of disarmament and practical arms control, including balanced force reductions and the initiatives already undertaken for the renunciation of the use of force.” (Department of State Bulletin, April 28, 1969, pp. 354–356)