70. Minutes of a Verification Panel Meeting1


  • MBFR


  • Chairman—Henry A. Kissinger
  • State
    • John N. Irwin
    • Martin J. Hillenbrand
    • Ronald L. Spiers
    • Ralph J. McGuire
  • Defense
    • David Packard
    • G. Warren Nutter
    • Lawrence S. Eagleburger
    • Clayton E. McManaway
  • ACDA
    • Philip J. Farley
    • Thomas Hirschfeld
  • OST
    • Dr. Edward David
  • OMB
    • Kenneth Dam
  • Justice
    • John Mitchell
  • JCS
    • Adm. Thomas H. Moorer
    • Maj. Gen. Willis Crittenberger
  • CIA
    • Richard Helms
    • Bruce Clarke
  • NSC Staff
    • Dr. Smith
    • Mr. Hyland
    • Adm. Welander
    • Mr. Court
    • Mr. Hackett


It was agreed that:

  • —Apreferred U.S. position cannot be ready in time for the Deputy Foreign Ministers Meeting in early October, but we must present something at that meeting. We require a clear elaboration of the options open to us and a specific statement of the mandate the Explorer is to be given. The Working Group will prepare a paper along these lines.
  • —The U.S. proposal must be reasonable, realistic, attainable and must represent a serious effort.
  • —The Allies cannot be permitted to use MBFR reductions as a rationale for further cuts of their national forces or defense budgets.
  • —The Rapacki Plan Area is our first choice of area, but we could accept either the NATO Guidelines Area plus Hungary or the NATO Guidelines Area alone as fallback choices.
  • —The Explorer should not present alternatives to the Russians. His visit is intended merely to feel them out and ascertain their thinking on MBFR.2
  • —The Explorer should visit Moscow first, report back to the NATO Foreign Ministers and then go to Eastern Europe only if his Moscow visit showed signs of promise. There appears to be no compelling reason for the Explorer to visit neutral nations and this should not be encouraged.
  • —Another meeting of the Verification Panel will be held on September 30 to discuss the options to be presented to the Explorer.

Dr. Kissinger: We seem to have three matters to review today in preparation for Jack Irwin’s trip to the Deputy Foreign Ministers Meeting at which MBFR approaches to the Soviets will be discussed. The three issues are: (a) the substance of the Alliance position on MBFR that will later be provided as guidance for the MBFR Explorer, (b) the approach Jack is to take at the Deputy Foreign Ministers Meeting and (c) the future actions we should take within the U.S. Government to insure that we and the Alliance are fully prepared to deal with whatever develops.

[Page 188]

The NATO guidelines appear to be pretty unexceptionable. There is no disagreement within the Alliance that reductions are to be mutual and balanced, that they are to be substantial, that they are to be adequately verified and concerned with a specified area and specified type of forces. There is no agreement on what the area is to consist of, what types of forces and what numbers or percentages of them are to be reduced and the relative weight to be given stationed and indigenous forces. I have a personal problem with the idea of an explorer. The Communists are not bashful about letting us know what they think. However, it’s a good way to get the ball rolling. Is there anything we don’t know about this?

Mr. Irwin: Well, an important factor in these discussions is the domestic situation in this country. We have real pressures in the Congress and in the country for a reduction of forces in Europe, and since we won’t be sitting down with the Soviets for some time, this NATO approach provides an important interim step which may help to lessen some of our domestic political pressures. We get something out of it, and it’s a good idea even if we can’t get much.

Dr. Kissinger: I agree that we should do it, but, as an aside, I’m not in favor of getting into discussions with the Soviets to try to placate Congress. You can win a two week respite from Congressional criticism and end up paying the Soviets for years. When the Communists have a position they will let you know it; they hit you over the head with a baseball bat.

Mr. Packard: I agree we’re probably not likely to turn up anything. We should have a position, though. We should know what we want before getting out on a limb.

Mr. Irwin: That’s right. We have the problem, though, that our NATO Allies think we haven’t been sufficiently forthcoming. They are skeptical that we may see this as a means of unilateral withdrawal and we should be able to present a proposal as soon as possible that will allay some of their fears.

Mr. Packard: We shouldn’t get too far out in front.

Adm. Moorer: It’s just too early for us to come up with decisions on some of these questions. We need more time to consider all the ramifications and all the possibilities before deciding on the exact area and the exact items to be reduced and on the problem of verification.

Dr. Kissinger: The U.S. role is complicated. On the one hand, our Allies think we’re not being candid. On the other, if we press too hard, they may feel we are trying to get out of Europe and are willing to pay any price to do so. They are already suspicious of our financial activities, which they consider a subterfuge to get our troops out. Is anyone from Treasury here?

Mrs. Davis: No one from Treasury is at the meeting.

[Page 189]

Mr. Irwin: We should be prepared to discuss alternative options with our allies and to be flexible in our discussions with them.

Mr. Hillenbrand: The NATO countries have been suspicious of our intentions all along. We promised last July to have elements and options papers for their consideration prior to the Deputy Foreign Ministers Meeting, but we have not been able to get them ready in time.

Dr. Kissinger: Why not? (to Wayne Smith) Aren’t you working on these papers?

Mr. Smith: We are working on an options paper and I expect to have it ready soon.

Dr. Kissinger: In a couple of weeks?

Mr. Smith: I hope so, but it hasn’t been gamed in DOD and I suspect it’s weeks away.

Mr. Irwin: Whether or not we have it for the meeting, what I say must be agreed and accurate and we must be willing to live up to it.

Dr. Kissinger: So we have one basic choice to make: do we present them at this meeting with a preferred US position, or would it be better to go one more round, keeping our options open. We might be better off to complete our paper, review it in this group, and then give it to them—even if it hasn’t been completely gamed.

Mr. Packard: Maybe not before the Deputy Foreign Ministers’ meeting but before the December Ministerial.

Dr. Kissinger: Could we have another meeting of this group before the Deputy Foreign Ministers meeting to review options so we can give them some idea of our thinking, and then give them a detailed paper about three weeks after the meeting?

Mr. Smith: I’d be reluctant to promise the paper before mid-November.

Mr. Packard: I don’t think we should put anything out until we are on more solid ground. We might give them an idea of the range of things we are considering.

Dr. Kissinger: I think they are entitled to be told about the options. It will make them very insecure to say we’re studying things but won’t tell them what we are studying.

Mr. Nutter: They know what we have been thinking about; we have had consultations with them for some time on these questions.

Mr. Hillenbrand: Ambassador (Robert) Ellsworth promised the NATO Allies a paper by July which would contain (a) the elements of an agreement and (b) the specific MBFR options open to us with their implications. We have not delivered to date and it looks as though there will be further delays.

[Page 190]

Mr. Smith: We gave them an elements paper last April.3

Mr. Nutter: And we discussed it with them at the end of August.

Dr. Kissinger: I think it’s premature to give them our position, but we have to arm Jack (Irwin) with something more than just the comment that we are thinking about the problem. We should be able to give our Allies at least a little clue of what we have been considering and where our explorations have led us, and then follow up with a more complete paper on our position in November.

Mr. Packard: These questions of area and items are very involved.

There are some 632 permutations of the ten positions listed in the draft paper. We have to check them out carefully.

Dr. Kissinger: But dammit, we need something that can be understood by more than just six systems analysts.

Mr. Irwin: Our position must be reasonable and realistic. It is important that we present a position that will convince our Congress and the people that we are making a serious effort. I asked about a model the other day and was told our options envisaged cutting 8,000 Pact tanks and 300 NATO tanks.

Adm. Moorer: That’s the common ceiling option. It’s a good place to start.

Mr. Irwin: We can make a good case for the common ceiling, but the numbers are unrealistic even to the Congress.

Adm. Moorer: It just highlights how much more they have than we do.

Mr. Packard: But we don’t want to start with what we want to end with.

Dr. Kissinger: I agree that we must be serious.

Mr. Packard: I don’t think we are ready to set out a specific position as the preferred U.S. position. We have to study the complexities of the proposed reductions more carefully.

Dr. Kissinger: (to Irwin) Are you willing to go in without a preferred position?

Mr. Irwin: Yes, if I can say what we are studying.

Mr. Packard: We can work out a range of things.

Dr. Kissinger: (to Irwin) Can we have another session before your departure to go over the options to be discussed with the Allies. If ours is absurd or unrealistic …

Mr. Irwin: Unattainable.

[Page 191]

Dr. Kissinger: Or unattainable, we can drop it. As I understand it the consensus of this group is not to come down on one preferred position but to put before our Allies the content of our thinking and give them an opportunity to participate in the elaboration of that thinking, within a time schedule. Is that fair?

Mr. Hillenbrand: Our allies are looking for leadership.

Dr. Kissinger: (to Irwin) When are you leaving?

Mr. Irwin: A week from Sunday.

Dr. Kissinger: We’ll have another meeting next Thursday.

Now I would like to discuss some of the specific points under consideration. On the question of reduction of stationed versus indigenous forces, as I understand it State views a ratio of two stationed to one indigenous as desirable.

Mr. Irwin: The Allies will insist on indigenous cuts, but I think there should be as wide disparity as possible between those and the cuts in stationed forces. I would rather see U.S. and Soviet forces cut than those of the other countries. It would help our balance of payments and get Soviet troops out of Eastern Europe.

Dr. Kissinger: This makes sense for two reasons, first the most effective Pact forces are the Soviet forces, and second, it pulls the teeth of the burden-sharing argument.

Mr. Irwin: We will probably have to agree to a 10% reduction in indigenous forces but we would try to hold down anything over 10% as much as possible.

Dr. Kissinger: (to Irwin) But you are not going to discuss specific percentages except in terms of options. These are preliminary discussions and we can get into specifics later. The Allies must understand two things: 1) we’re not using MBFR as a way to bug out of Europe; and 2) they can help us by letting us use MBFR to show our critics that they are willing to assume a slightly larger burden with slightly increased defense budgets.

Mr. Irwin: That’s exactly right.

Dr. Kissinger: They have to understand that a percentage cut cannot be used as a rationale for further cuts in their national forces or budgets. They can’t keep playing domestic politics in their countries with NATO force reductions. Our Congress will start cutting our forces.

Mr. Packard: They also have to put a little more emphasis on force improvements. We have to convince them that force improvements would be helpful in this regard.

Mr. Irwin: We should make them maintain the force improvements they’ve already agreed to.

Mr. Packard: It’s not necessary to be quite that restrictive.

[Page 192]

Dr. Kissinger: The President has approved the conclusions of the DPRC meeting last August.4 We are going to issue a directive which will state that force improvements will be a high priority objective, and that they have been made more necessary by the MBFR discussions.

Adm. Moorer: I’m not sure all of NATO will be included in the 10% cut. We have substantial NATO forces in Turkey, which will be outside the scope of the cut.

Dr. Kissinger: They would be excluded anyway.

Mr. Irwin: We plan to concentrate on Central Europe, although we will not exclude other areas or non-ground forces.

Dr. Kissinger: Without tying it to a particular percentage, we should make a strong point that force improvement packages will be given great weight. Some disparity between cuts in indigenous and stationed forces is essential, and it would seem best to do it on substantive grounds. Would this be a good occasion?

Mr. Irwin: Yes.

Adm. Moorer: We should do as little as possible that might encourage our allies to cut their forces. They will still use improvements as an argument to cut the size of their forces; they do it every time.

Dr. Kissinger: I agree; by logic, they should increase their forces. To use the US cut or force improvements as an excuse to cut their own forces is insanity. It is their defense we are talking about.

Mr. Irwin: I agree, but we’re locked in. Our allies feel strongly that if we cut our forces, they have to cut theirs for internal political reasons.

Adm. Moorer: Most of them cut their forces six or seven years ago.

Dr. Kissinger: I’ve seen an intelligence report recently which said that the Germans are planning more cuts.

Adm. Moorer: The Germans are having manpower problems.

Dr. Kissinger: The next question is that of area. It does not have to be settled now, but I would say that the NATO Guidelines plus Hungary would be the best area from our point of view. It contains the largest number of Soviets forces, therefore would mean the largest cut if it were on a percentage basis. Do the Europeans have any views on this?

Mr. Irwin: My preference would be the Rapacki Plan Area (East and West Germany, Poland and Czechoslovakia). We could then drop back to the NATO Guidelines (East and West Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Benelux) plus Hungary, or NATO Guidelines without Belgium. The Belgian position is that we should either add Hungary or drop Belgium.

[Page 193]

Dr. Kissinger: Do we have a position on this question? Do we have to take one?

Mr. Irwin: It would be helpful to take a position. If we go to the NATO Guidelines, it would be better to add Hungary.

Mr. Packard: Your position is fine.

Mr. Hillenbrand: Brosio wants as much specific guidance as he can get—he will be pleading for specificity on various points. We can trot out the two possible positions.

Adm. Moorer: There’s another—including three districts in the Soviet Union.

Mr. Hillenbrand: NATO isn’t thinking in that area now. Why not take a position in favor of the Rapacki Plan area, but indicate we could accept the NATO Guidelines area?

Dr. Kissinger: Why do we like the Rapacki Area?

Mr. Hillenbrand: Mainly because it includes Eastern European countries and only one Western European country.

Dr. Kissinger: This is all assuming symmetrical reductions. We mustn’t give the impression that we are limiting our thinking to symmetrical reductions.

Mr. Packard: What about some collateral restraints.

Mr. Irwin: If you include nuclear devices, you would have to add part of the Western USSR.

Adm. Moorer: We can’t go one by one; they are all interrelated. We could give Brosio several “for instances” for the Russians, and have the Russians give him some “for instances.”

Dr. Kissinger: The trouble with that is that they will pick the wrong one as they did in SALT.

Adm. Moorer: Why not give them one we don’t want.

Mr. Hillenbrand: Brosio won’t buy an obvious fake.

Dr. Kissinger: When is Brosio starting his tour—in November? The Soviet leaders will all be travelling until then.

Mr. Hillenbrand: Soon after the meeting of the Deputy Foreign Ministers (October 5–6).

Attorney General: Does he want to start negotiations then?

Mr. Hillenbrand: He wants to get an idea of how the Soviets react to the Allied alternatives.

Dr. Kissinger: If you give the Soviets the alternatives, they will pick the wrong one and we may not be able to deliver.

Mr. Hillenbrand: Having the Explorer in motion will be a good counter-thrust to a new Mansfield proposal in the fall. If it’s a phony operation that falls flat, we won’t have much to argue with.

[Page 194]

Dr. Kissinger: Our experience indicates that when you do something to make your life easier in the Senate for four weeks, you pay for it later. You’re better off to take the Senate on head on.

Mr. Irwin: I think what Marty (Hillenbrand) is saying is that whatever we do should be seen as being on a serious and rational basis.

Dr. Kissinger: We haven’t done our homework on the options. On what basis could Brosio talk options? Why not have him talk principles for negotiation? The Soviets used to like that.

Mr. Packard: Brosio doesn’t have to have specifics in his pocket.

Mr. Hillenbrand: Brosio can’t make the trip if we give him only the original guidelines and tell him to try to re-sell them.

Dr. Kissinger: What should he have? Could we have a “for instance” as to what he should talk about?

Mr. Hillenbrand: We have ten or so points still at issue. He could talk about as many as we can settle before he goes.

Dr. Kissinger: Such as the area to be considered?

Mr. Hillenbrand: That’s right.

Dr. Kissinger: He had better tell them what we want rather than ask them what they want.

Mr. Hillenbrand: To the extent we know what we want.

Dr. Kissinger: If we don’t know what we want, why ask them?

Mr. Hillenbrand: The purpose of the Explorer is not to freeze positions but to get an idea of their thinking. He would report back to the December Ministerial meeting on the outcome of his discussions.

Dr. Kissinger: What if the outcome of his discussions proves to be unacceptable?

Mr. Hillenbrand: NATO could reject them. Brandt has already explored Soviet thinking. If we don’t do it through Brosio, the countries will start to do it bilaterally.

Dr. Kissinger: they’ll do it anyhow. If we can get agreement within the Alliance on the area, I have no objection to his raising it. If the Allies disagree and we ask the Russians for a proposal, we are inviting them to play one country off against another. Brosio’s explorations should start only where the Allies agree. Why make the Russians a participant in our internal debates?

Mr. Irwin: He can talk principles or a specific area.

Dr. Kissinger: Can we decide at our meeting next week which countries we want to include in our position? If we can live with any area, I don’t mind his putting forth options.

Mr. Packard: We should have some flexibility to permit our allies to participate in the decision.

[Page 195]

Dr. Kissinger: Yes. Do I understand correctly that we prefer the Rapacki Plan Area but can live with any of the three possibilities we have discussed?

Mr. Irwin: I think some people may prefer the NATO Guidelines area, or NATO plus Hungary. Tom (Moorer), what are your reasons for wanting to include the Western USSR. Could you give us your rationalization for that next week?

Adm. Moorer: If you can get more Soviet forces out of the Pact countries, they will have a better chance to attain greater independence. Also, the further eastward we can get Soviet forces to move, the better off we are. They want us to move 3,000 miles.

Dr. Kissinger: How about the relative weight to give to cuts in stationed vs. indigenous forces. What Brosio is to explore should emerge as the concensus from the Deputy Foreign Ministers.

Mr. Irwin: We start from the proposition that any reduction is not helpful to the military situation. We are primarily responding to political pressures.

Dr. Kissinger: For the next meeting, I think we need a clearer elaboration of the options and the issues on which we are prepared to arm the Explorer with a mandate or range of mandates we would be willing to accept.

Mr. Farley: Before we let Brosio talk about stationed and indigenous forces, it might be good to know how he feels about the issue.

Dr. Kissinger: The secret dream of the Europeans is to reverse the proportion.

Mr. Farley: We are giving him pretty thin stuff to go on.

Dr. Kissinger: Is Brosio going to a lot of capitals or just to Moscow?

Mr. Irwin: We need our own ideas on this. Possibly just to Moscow; possibly to the countries where there would be reductions; possibly plus the flank countries; possibly plus some neutrals.

Dr. Kissinger: What neutrals? Like Yugoslavia?

Mr. Irwin: Sweden has been mentioned. Dr. Kissinger: Why do we give a damn what Sweden thinks about MBFR? Why are we interested in whether the Swedes reduce their forces? Why go there? they’re not very friendly to us anyway. I’m worried that we are going to run around and generate so much activity it will be counter-productive. What can the neutrals contribute—Sweden, Switzerland, Yugoslavia?

Mr. Irwin: I don’t see the purpose of going to the neutrals. Attorney General: We should remember the old adage that you shouldn’t ask for advice unless you are willing to take it.

Dr. Kissinger: Brosio may have some views, and the negotiator may become the determining force.

[Page 196]

Attorney General: The best way to avoid that is to give Brosio as clear instructions as possible.

Dr. Kissinger: He should first consult the Allies at the DFM meeting; then go to the countries on the other side.

Mr. Irwin: If the Soviets wish to, they might designate one person to meet with Brosio for a bilateral discussion.

Dr. Kissinger: We should consider whether we want to validate the Brezhnev doctrine that the Soviets can speak for all of Eastern Europe.

Mr. Irwin: It would be better for Brosio to go to all the countries.

Mr. Nutter: Including East Germany?

Mr. Irwin: He would have to.

Mr. Hillenbrand: We can live with that if he goes to Moscow first.

Then he can come back to the Council and receive his instructions on approaches to the other countries. If the Moscow visit is a bust, there’s no point in going anywhere else.

Dr. Kissinger: We can live with that.

Mr. Nutter: We have been talking as though Brosio is to be the Explorer. He doesn’t have to be the Explorer, we are just assuming that. We want an Explorer who will follow instructions; if Brosio won’t, we should get someone else.

Mr. Hillenbrand: Brosio is an excellent choice, he knows the situation thoroughly.

Dr. Kissinger: We should try to settle these issues at our meeting next week. Can we have an input from State and Defense on what we should consider for decision at the next meeting and what we can hold in suspense. We will meet on Thursday morning, September 30.

Attorney General: We should have a paper on guidelines for Brosio.

Mr. Irwin: We will. No Explorer wants to be used as a ploy. Brosio will do anything we ask if it is reasonably based.

Dr. Kissinger: His attitude is very constructive. He’s not eager to give anything away. He’s a good friend of ours—we couldn’t get a better man.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–107, Verification Panel Minutes Originals, 1969–3/8/72. Top Secret. The meeting took place in the White House Situation Room. Davis forwarded the minutes to Kissinger, Smith, Sonnenfeldt, and Kennedy on October 2 under a covering memorandum. A notation on the covering memorandum dated November 6 reads, “HAK has seen.”
  2. The NATO Council appointed Brosio as NATO’s “explorer” for talks with the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact states on MBFR.
  3. See Document 47.
  4. The minutes of the Defense Program Review Committee’s meeting of August 4 are scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, Volume XLI, Western Europe; NATO, 1969–1972.