77. Memorandum From Secretary of Defense Laird to President Nixon 1


  • Report on My Trip to Europe
[Page 224]

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


In my talks with Schmidt and Carrington, it was made quite clear that neither were in any hurry to negotiate any force reductions in Europe.2 MOD Tanassi of Italy also favored a go-slow approach to MBFR. From recent talks Schmidt had with French authorities, it is clear that France continues to oppose MBFR at this time. This attitude of caution—particularly on the part of Schmidt—is a complete turn-around from a year ago when he, for one, was pressing me to take the initiative in negotiating troop reductions with the USSR. I believe their main concern today is that the US will move too fast toward troop reductions in Europe in order to placate the well-publicized views of some prominent Members of Congress like Senator Mansfield. Once troop reductions start, they believe NATO will gradually fade away and that all this will take place before Western Europe has had an opportunity to resolve its political problems. I am sure that Schmidt would like more time for Ostpolitik to succeed, and feels that troop reductions now might lessen the Soviet Union’s ardor for German political initiatives.

As far as a Conference on European Security (CES) and MBFR are concerned, Schmidt now feels that there is an advantage to combining the two. More than likely his real reason is to slow down movement toward negotiations on MBFR which he senses might bear fruit. But his expressed reason to me was that combining CES and MBFR would be the only way to get the French to participate in MBFR, since they have already said that they would attend the CES.3 Schmidt feels that it is very important to have France involved in any final MBFR decisions. On this same subject, Carrington differed with his own Foreign Office which favors combining these negotiations; he personally prefers to keep them separate.

I took the opportunity to stress the point that in considering preparations for MBFR negotiations the primary factor must be the security of Europe and that we must not look on MBFR as a tool to solve political problems. Regardless of any enticing overtures from the Soviet [Page 225] Union to reduce forces, we still had to press for force improvements and additions that were agreed to in the AD–70 study and EDIP.

In discussing the kind of organization needed to conduct the actual MBFR negotiations after the Explorer’s (Ambassador Brosio) work is finished, it was quite evident that no one had an acceptable plan. SYG Luns figured that Brosio would “fade away” after his exploring mission but offered no substitute solution. Carrington had a scheme which would, for all practical purposes, put a British officer in charge. I believe the US should move quickly to lay a workable plan before our NATO Allies. Therefore, in the next week, I plan to circulate a proposal which would include:

  • —A prospective main negotiator (Brosio is a possibility)4
  • —A limitation on participating countries
  • —The establishment of a NATO back-stopping group dominated by US and including countries whose forces would be reduced
  • —A method to keep the rest of NATO informed
  • —Emphasis on the importance of adequate Defense Department representation and participation in both preparations for and conduct of these negotiations.

I am convinced that all of NATO is waiting for the US to take the lead in MBFR and that they are most anxious to learn which of the options under consideration we prefer.5 I am also convinced that we would encounter a strong opposition to a US proposal which limits cuts to stationed forces only. Our proposals, therefore, should take these feelings into account and provide for some adjustments in indigenous forces in the long run. I recently sent Henry Kissinger a paper on MBFR which suggests approaches which would take these considerations into account.6

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

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Box 229, Agency Files, Defense, Vol. XIV. Top Secret; Sensitive. Astamped notation on the first page reads: “The President has seen.” Nixon wrote several notes to Kissinger on the memorandum, including the following with regard to MBFR: “We need a better game plan—with ball control on MBFR,” and “K—how about a ltr [letter] to Brosio from RN on MBFR—and also touching on other fears (reassure them)—which he could make public?” On an attached routing memorandum, Hyland wrote on December 17: “I understand this was seen by Pres already and no action required.”
  2. Nixon underlined “neither were in any hurry to negotiate any force reductions in Europe” and wrote in the margin, “I agree.” A memorandum of Laird’s conversation with Schmidt, October 26, is ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL GER W–US. Amemorandum of Laird’s conversation with Carrington, October 25, is in the Ford Library, Laird Papers, Box 18, Document No. 358.
  3. Nixon bracketed the entire paragraph up to this point and underlined the phrase, “combining CES and MBFR would be the only way to get the French to participate in MBFR, since they have already said that they would attend the CES.” Nixon wrote in the margin, “K—an interesting idea.”
  4. Nixon underlined this point and wrote in the margin, “Good.”
  5. Nixon underlined the sentence, beginning with the word “all,” and wrote in the margin, “I agree.”
  6. See footnote 4, Document 73.