57. Editorial Note

In telegram 1859 from Lisbon, June 4, 1971, Secretary of State Rogers reported to President Nixon on the outcome of the NATO Ministerial meeting in Lisbon, including the discussions on a European security conference and mutual and balanced force reductions. Rogers wrote: “This was the most constructive and least contentious NATO meeting I have yet attended. When we finished our work today, we did so in complete agreement on the procedural steps NATO should take towards force reduction talks and on the necessity of a satisfactory conclusion of the Berlin negotiations before multilateral consultations on a European Security Conference are undertaken. I also had several good bilateral talks. Your active leadership in defeating the Mansfield amendment made a deep impression on our allies and contributed to a sense of confidence in us which helped pull the Alliance together in spite of diverse opinions on details of the force reduction issue.”

Turning to the European security conference, Rogers wrote: “Based on statements from Gromyko that the Soviet Union recognized in fact that a European Security Conference could not precede a Berlin settlement, Schumann tried at some length to alter the communiqué language so that it no longer would clearly state that a satisfactory conclusion was a precondition. With the support of Scheel and Sir Alec I insisted that the language must be as clear as last year, though its tone could be more positive. Schumann finally conceded. The communiqué expressed the hope that before our next meeting negotiations ‘will have reached a successful conclusion’ and that multilateral conversations intended to lead to a conference on security and cooperation ‘may then be undertaken.’”

With regard to MBFR, Rogers wrote: “Real opinion on MBFR ranges from the French, who again refrained from participation; to the British, who have some doubts that reductions can be brought about without some security disadvantage; to the Germans, who favor the idea but do not want it to get ahead of Berlin; to the Scandinavians, Canada and Belgium, who want to push forward promptly, mainly for [Page 150]domestic public opinion reasons. But in the light of Brezhnev’s recent remarks and of our own political battle over unilateral reductions everyone agreed NATO needed to maintain the initiative. Our proposals for (a) bilateral contacts to probe Soviet intentions more fully over the next few months, accompanied by the preparation of NATO negotiating position, (b) a deputy foreign minister or comparable level meeting in the fall to assess results and to take necessary further decisions hit just the right balance between prompt action and prudence. Several other countries suggested that we might appoint a single representative to consult for us now. I added this to our suggestion as a step that might ensue from the deputy meeting. This produced full agreement. The course of MBFR talks as now agreed will be:

  • “(a) Transmission of the communiqué to the Soviet Union and others by Moro.
  • “(b) Bilateral explorations with the Soviet Union and preparation of our negotiating views.
  • “(c) A deputy foreign minister or ‘high official’ level meeting at an early date (in the fall) to consult on ‘substantive and procedural approaches to MBFR.’
  • “(d) Willingness to appoint ‘at the appropriate time,’ a representative or representatives responsible to the Council for conducting further exploratory talks, and a willingness eventually to work out the time, place, arrangements and agenda for negotiations.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 284, Agency Files, Department of State, Vol. XII)

Kissinger forwarded Rogers’s telegram to Nixon on June 10 as an attachment to a summary memorandum. Kissinger wrote with regard to a European security conference: “A satisfactory Berlin solution as a condition to movement toward the Soviet-proposed European Security Conference was maintained, despite French efforts to weaken the linkage.” With regard to MBFR, he wrote: “The outcome of the discussion struck a balance between some forward movement toward negotiations and a pace that will allow us to take soundings of the Soviets and complete internal NATO preparations. After exploratory contacts this summer, NATO will convene in the early fall at a Deputy Foreign Ministers level to review the bidding. As for actual negotiations the decision was left open whether the Alliance might appoint a single representative.” (Ibid.)

During a meeting with Senator John Sherman Cooper (R–KY) in the Oval Office on June 11, Nixon summarized the outcome of the NATO meeting. Also present were President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs Kissinger and Counsel to the President on Congressional Relations Clark MacGregor. Nixon, citing Rogers’s report on the NATO meeting, said with regard to MBFR: “The Europeans want to move just like we do here. They don’t want to move too fast. You see, if we move too fast, and you ought to tell your colleagues down there, and it may surprise you—I think it surprised Bill as a matter of fact—[Page 151]but it was very comforting to me. The Europeans realize that they have an awful lot.” Nixon continued: “I can tell you that we’ve been working on the mutual balanced force reduction thing for over a year. As a matter, we started 20 months ago as far as our own position is concerned. We’ve been working with the Allies since that time. we’re in the position now to make movement. Now, this does not mean that You’re going to have something. Doesn’t mean You’re going to have something two months from now, three months from now, five months from now, six months from now. You will note that the Europeans, however, not with regard to MBFR but with regard to the Security Conference, everybody thought, ‘Well, the United States ought to be the [unclear].’ They conditioned it on Berlin.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Oval Office, Conversation 517–6) The editors transcribed the portions of the tape recording printed here specifically for this volume.