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


  • Your Meeting with Elliot Richardson, Thursday, October 23, 4:30 p.m.2NATO Issues

This meeting is for the purpose of getting you briefed on the state of play on the issues associated with the European Security Conference and of assuring that our policy is coherent and has Presidential approval.


Last April you issued an instruction in the President’s name to the effect that we could approve a European Security conference (ESC) in principle but that we should concentrate on making progress on concrete issues (Tab A).3 The NATO Ministerial communiqué at that time was in general conformity with this approach, although several Ministers wanted a more positive endorsement of the ESC (Tab B).4

In the period since then, NATO has been busy compiling a list of issues for possible negotiation. These have been grouped under three categories: (1) issues which warrant consideration for early negotiation; (2) issues for further examination; and (3) issues already under negotiation. The items on this list (Tab C) would be pursued by allies in bilateral or multilateral negotiations with the East, with a full-scale Conference occurring when concrete results on fundamental issues dividing East and West might be expected.

In preparation for the December ministerial meeting, State wants to work up a draft communiqué which endorses an eventual Security Conference and narrows down the subjects for negotiations with the East in the period leading up to such a conference to (1) balanced force reductions and (2) a joint declaration on principles underlying European security. (Other negotiations, such as SALT, Berlin, non-use of force, would be pursued in various forums by the allies concerned.) The two negotiating items cited above would be given further study after the December [Page 15] meeting so that they could then be formally offered as topics to the East after the June 1970 ministerial meeting (Tabs D5 and E).

As you know, I have held up an instruction to Ellsworth pending your review of these matters with Elliot Richardson.6

You may wish to take up the following issues:

European Security Conference. Why should we take the lead in endorsing it, even in the presently contemplated cautious formulation (“eventual … properly prepared … including US and Canadian participation.”)?

Balanced Force Reductions. There has been an extensive study underway since the NATO Ministerial Meeting in Reykjavik in the spring of 1968.

The last Administration took the view that a forthcoming position on negotiations with the Soviets for mutual force cuts was needed to meet Senator Mansfield’s pressure for unilateral cuts. It is still widely argued that if we are going to cut anyway, why not get something from the Soviets in return. These propositions are open to question and in any case they have never been put to the President. We are now beginning a NSSM on alternate strategies and force postures in Europe. Until we are well along in that we will have no criteria, comparable to those we have for SALT, for evaluating possible arrangements with the Soviets.

Moreover, even under the best of circumstances it is hard to see how this problem can qualify as one susceptible of early resolution. There is indeed a question whether it is advisable to deal with military questions in Europe without progress on political ones.

The question therefore is whether we should be in a position to promote this as the first item for concrete negotiation with the East, as State’s instructions propose.

Declaration of Principles. The question is whether this qualifies as a concrete issue and whether we should promote early negotiations on it. A good deal of work has been done on possible language and [Page 16] State favors inclusion of such elements as (1) non-intervention in internal affairs, including among members of an alliance, (2) abstention from threat or use of force, (3) respect for the independence and territorial integrity of states, and (4) agreement to settle differences through peaceful means.

Offhand it would seem that if the Russians accept something like this it will be branded as hollow from the outset since they would obviously assert that what they did in Czechoslovakia was compatible with it. If the Russians do not accept it, there will be endless wrangling with no benefit to East-West relations.7

Perhaps the alliance should consider issuing such a statement unilaterally as the basis on which it conducts itself and invite adherence by the East.

But as a negotiating issue this would hardly seem to be suited.8

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 337, Subject Files, HAK/Richardson Meetings, May–December 1969. Secret. Sent for information. Tabs A–E are attached but not printed.
  2. No record of Kissinger’s meeting with Richardson has been found.
  3. See footnote 4, Document 3.
  4. See footnote 7, Document 5.
  5. Tab D is telegram 165553 to USNATO, September 30. For a summary, see Tab A, Document 5.
  6. Hillenbrand reported to Richardson in an October 21 memorandum: “The NSC Staff is unable to clear on our instructions to Ambassador Ellsworth with regard to European security.” Hillenbrand stated: “The Staff contends that ‘a generally forthcoming attitude’ is not consistent with the President’s policy on an ESC and that we should revise the language to more fully indicate the President’s skepticism and say that ‘we plan to impose no objection to an eventual ESC.’” With regard to the Department’s principal suggestions, balanced force reductions and a Joint Declaration on Principles, Hillenbrand reported that “the Staff feels that we should confine our efforts on BFR to ‘further studies’ and merely reiterate language along the lines of the Reykjavik and Washington Communiqués with regard to BFR.” (National Archives, RG 59, S/SNSC Files: Lot 80 D 212, NSSM 44, 4/19/69, US Positions for NATO Nuclear Planning Group)
  7. In his October 21 memorandum, Hillenbrand wrote that “the NSC Staff appears to feel that the White House believes that such declarations [Joint Declaration on Principles] have little credibility. They recognize, however, that the ‘principles’ idea may have support amongst the Europeans. Therefore, they feel that the current language in the earlier instruction [telegram 165553 to USNATO] is not clear as to whether or not the Allies are to prepare a joint declaration for ‘negotiating’ with the East or merely a document to which the East could adhere if it so wished but which the Allies would use as a basic guide in their day-to-day conduct of relations with the East. (This we can clarify.) The problem, according to the Staff, is that they feel that the White House does not believe that anything we did in this field would preclude the Soviets from pulling another Czechoslovakia or regarding it in any way as impeding their freedom.”
  8. Hillenbrand explained to Richardson in his October 21 memorandum: “While a certain amount of tinkering with language is possible on these various issues, the fact remains that we are far apart on substance. Where we feel that BFR and the Joint Declaration are examples of ‘concrete issues which might lend themselves to fruitful negotiation’ and would, therefore, be something the Allies could, after proper preparation, discuss with the East, the NSC Staff feels that the White House does not wish to move beyond, regarding them as potential concrete issues which require further detailed study. In short, there is a fundamental difference of view.”