61. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the Soviet Union 1

107924. Subj: Secretary–Dobrynin Conversation, June 16: MBFR.2

Secretary called in Dobrynin June 16 to sound out Soviet position regarding force reductions in Europe. After pointing out that NATO is prepared to have negotiations as soon as practical, he posed series of specific questions:
In what time frame do Soviets place MBFR negotiations?
Do Soviets agree that MBFR negotiations can be conducted without connection with CES?
Do Soviets agree that both stationed and indigenous forces will be included in negotiations?
Are Soviets prepared to discuss not only numbers of personnel but also weapons systems?
Dobrynin replied (A) Soviet Government wishes to negotiate force reductions as soon as possible;
In regard to CES, Soviets are prepared to discuss force reduction either in committee established by CES, or in entirely separate forum, without convening CES in advance;
Soviet Government prepared to discuss both stationed and indigenous forces; and
He assumed that negotiations would cover both personnel and weapons systems, but has no specific instructions on this point.
Dobrynin professed to believe that NATO Lisbon Communiqué linked negotiations on force reduction with Berlin settlement, and said that his government would consider that an unacceptable precondition. [Page 166]Secretary replied that our position is that CES should not be convened until after Berlin settlement reached, but that MBFR negotiations are not linked to Berlin settlement. Dobrynin also expressed concern that holding up negotiations for exploratory talks and meeting of NATO Deputy Foreign Ministers could delay negotiations until 1972. Secretary assured him that this is not the case and that if exploratory talks satisfactory, negotiations might be possible as early as October or November.
Discussion turned to the Rome principles, with Dobrynin observing that Soviets had taken cautious approach because they not sure of definition of some of terms used. He asked specifically about the meaning of “balanced” force reduction. Secretary explained that “balanced” reduction simply recognizes the fact that symmetrical reduction could in many instances be disadvantageous to one side or the other. The term is not meant to be deceptive, but merely to signal that reductions must be scaled and timed so as not to operate to the military disadvantage of either side. In any case, Secretary stressed, Rome principles should not be considered preconditions to negotiation, but rather indication of an approach which we consider most likely to be fruitful. We would welcome Soviet counter-proposals. Dobrynin observed that Soviets could not accept Rome principles without further definition, but have no objection to their being presented for discussion in negotiations.
After Dobrynin asked why a person could not be appointed to begin serious talks, Secretary asked whether Soviets had in mind one person negotiating for each side. Dobrynin said that he would have to refer this question to his government, and requested suggestions from us. Secretary said that one possibility would be for each side (i.e. NATO and Warsaw Pact) to appoint a representative or a small group to conduct preliminary talks. Dobrynin asked when such a representative or representatives could be named and Secretary replied that it would be easier to do so following the meeting of the NATO Deputy Foreign Ministers, but that it possible to do so sooner. Dobrynin also inquired whether representatives could come from U.S. and USSR. Secretary said we open minded about identity of representatives: U.S. and Soviet nationals could presumably participate in team of representatives if so designated. Important point is that negotiations be on behalf of Alliance and not bilateral between U.S. and Soviets. Dobrynin also asked whether we preferred one representative or a small group. Secretary said that we have some preference for single representative from each side, whereupon Dobrynin observed that NATO, with SecGen and Secretariat, is in better position to appoint representative than Warsaw Pact. Secretary stressed again that appointment of representatives is merely idea, and that we would welcome Soviet suggestions on the subject.
Dobrynin was unable to provide any details regarding Soviet thoughts on how force reduction would operate. He also was unable [Page 167]to confirm that Soviet Government prepared accept principle of negotiations between Warsaw Pact and NATO. He indicated, however, that he expected prompt reply from Soviet Government and appeared eager to pursue subject further in near future.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–224, National Security Decision Memorada, NSDM 116. Secret; Exdis. Drafted by Matlock and approved by Davies. Repeated to the U.S. Mission to NATO, Ottawa, Athens, Ankara, and all European diplomatic posts. Sonnenfeldt forwarded a copy to Kissinger on June 18 with an attached summary. (Ibid.)
  2. In a conversation in the Oval Office with Nixon, Haig, and Ziegler on the afternoon of June 14, Rogers announced his intention to see Dobrynin to discuss MBFR: “We told, with NATO we said we’re going to consult with them bilaterally. And [Jonathan] Dean is not back there so I thought I’d get Dobrynin in and talk to him about it, and see what he has in mind. I think I’ll have to say that we’re, just what I said before we went to NATO, and that is, ‘Obviously we’re in such negotiations. we’ve been in since 1968.’ And as, we’ve so indicated. And now they’re finally indicating that they’re interested. Fine, we’ll talk to them about it. See what they have in mind.” (Ibid., White House Tapes, Oval Office, Conversation 519–7) The editors transcribed the portions of the tape recording printed here specifically for this volume.