59. Conversation Between President Nixon and West German Chancellor Brandt1

[Omitted here is discussion of matters other than the European security conference or MBFR.]

Nixon: we’ve had the Mansfield Amendment since we talked to you. Beat that.

Brandt: Yes.

Nixon: we’ve got the restraining permit. I’d like to get your, your report on, your reactions to that, to the whole business of, you know, the MBFR [unclear] economic point.

Brandt: Yes, yes. Well, Mr. President, again as far as the Lisbon meeting2 was concerned, I think it was of great importance that we could agree on how to handle the MBFR. This meeting of the deputy ministers in September will be held. The [unclear], which you mentioned, might be asked to find out what the Russians really think. There’s one thing I would like to mention in that connection. Secretary Laird said that the United States will table their paper on MBFR in the NATO Council talks at the end of July. If it were possible before it is [Page 154] tabled formally, to have some kind of consultation with some of the main partners in Europe, this might help, because otherwise things might get rather, you know how things are, if they—

Nixon: What is the, what is the procedure?

Kissinger: Well, the formal procedure is that we table it in Brussels. But if the Chancellor wanted to send somebody over here for some informal discussions, we could certainly do that.

Brandt: This would, I would appreciate that.

Kissinger: It wouldn’t have to be announced, would it?

Brandt: No. No.

Nixon: It would be in private.

Brandt: Of course.

Nixon: Let’s set that up then. A private discussion—

Brandt: Yes.

Nixon: Where we could do it, so we could keep it under the hat. But we would like to be helpful, to do that before we [unclear].

Kissinger: [unclear]

Brandt: Especially, Mr. President, since some of these things, like I said, these middle range missiles thing, which has [unclear] would come in under the new cover of MBFR. Especially interested so that we could have private discussion for expert service.

Nixon: All right.

Kissinger: Egon3 could be in touch with me through our channel.

Nixon: All right. All right. Fine.

[Omitted here is discussion of matters unrelated to MBFR.]

Nixon: With regard to the problem of, we mentioned in passing, the problem of [unclear], we have to recognize, as I said earlier, that there is a growing disenchantment in this country with more expenditures [unclear]. There is a feeling that other parts of the world should pay more of the burden. Now, we fought this Mansfield Amendment out and won only because we gave assurances, one, that we would do our best to get others to, you know, bear their fair share of the burden; and second, that, of course, we did, we were working on MBFR, but it had to be done in an orderly way, and a neutral way. However, it has to be recognized that to the extent that you can [unclear] reassure leaders and opinion makers, Senators, etc., etc., reassure them of the [unclear] without getting into the specifics of offset and all the rest, that’s a matter to be negotiated. The main thing is the spirit. The main [Page 155] thing is the extreme criticism of those who believe that we in this government are not doing enough [unclear]. On MBFR, it seems to me there that this must be, and I emphasize again, I take into account this [unclear]we will have some private consultation, the process must be orderly.

Brandt: Yes.

Nixon: It must be orderly. And we must not rush in with some half-baked scheme that [unclear] the whole texture of the alliance. That’s really what we have in mind, [unclear]what we face here. How do you feel about MBFR? What is your procedure?

Brandt: [unclear] Plainly, we need that period of bilateral explorations, and we have to make here a decision together if and when it should move into the period of multilateral talks. I think we both agree that this could not be for a longer time a thing between the United States and the Soviet Union [unclear] it will be in practice. It must be [unclear].

Nixon: Right.

Brandt: Which does not necessarily mean that everyone has to be engaged.

Nixon: Yeah.

Brandt: [unclear] the greater negotiate on behalf of the lesser [unclear].

Kissinger: It almost has to be done that way.

Brandt: Yes.

Kissinger: Because we couldn’t have all 15.

Nixon: Oh, no way. No way. And well, actually those with the biggest stakes have to have the biggest voices. Now we can talk all we want about the United Nations. That’s why it’s ridiculous to suggest that the General Assembly, where a country of 25,000 has the same vote and the same voice as a country of 200 or 400 million. It’s interesting, it’s a nice debating society, but it isn’t going to work in terms of [unclear]. No nation of power is going to submit its interests to the decision of that.

Kissinger: I think it’s safe to tell the Chancellor that we’ve worked out various schemes in these negotiations that work, but not one of them is purely bilateral US-Soviet.

Nixon: No, sir.

Kissinger: The big problem is that if everybody negotiates it’s going to be a disaster.

Brandt: Yeah. Kissinger: We’ll have to find a group that can make contributions and still have a good negotiation. We will have some suggestions when [unclear].

[Page 156]

Brandt: For us, of course, it’s very important also, what should be the territory or territories, which will be covered by the MBFR negotiation, and two, how should one start? I saw the other day that the Secretary of State had made a remark that we’d be starting with the symbolic, which is so badly needed. And this man4 was in Moscow last year, negotiated our treaty,5 he raised the question of MBFR with Gromyko. And his first reaction was that they had not made enough progress. And [unclear] made the remark that he could believe that one could agree upon some symbolic [unclear].

Nixon: [unclear]

Brandt: When I discussed this with Helmut Schmidt, my Minister of Defense, who has worked on the problem, he said this would not be so bad because it would be something which would occur [unclear] while still apart from more serious discussions.

[Omitted here is discussion of matters unrelated to MBFR.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Recording of Conversation between Richard Nixon and Willy Brandt, Oval Office, Conversation 520–6. No classification marking. The editors transcribed the portions of the tape recording printed here specifically for this volume. Also present for the conversation were Kissinger and Bahr. For portions of the conversation dealing specifically with Germany, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, Volume XL, Germany and Berlin, 1969–1972, Document 254.
  2. See Document 57.
  3. Egon Bahr.
  4. Egon Bahr.
  5. The Treaty between the Federal Republic of Germany and the Soviet Union, signed at Moscow on August 12, 1970, is in Documents on Germany, 1944–1985, pp. 1105–1106.