8. Editorial Note

On October 28, 1969, West German Ambassador to the United States Rolf Pauls met with President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs Kissinger to discuss issues relating to defense and European security. In preparation for the meeting, National Security Council staff member Helmut Sonnenfeldt submitted a memorandum to Kissinger on October 27. Sonnenfeldt wrote the following with regard to a European security conference:

  • “Elliot Richardson has twice talked with Pauls along the lines of the original State cable—before you talked with him and State changed the message. Since in the past you have hit Pauls rather hard on this subject, he may be confused or think there has been a major change in our policy. You may want to say that
  • “—we remain skeptical about a conference but won’t resist a groundswell if the Europeans generate it;
  • “—we are prepared to continue studying the question of mutual troop cuts in Europe but have made no decision on whether to pursue this with the Soviets;
  • “—we are prepared to participate in drafting principles of East-West relations at NATO; but the question of whether to seek to negotiate this with the Soviets is not decided. In this connection, we will be interested in how the Germans fare in their negotiations on renunciation of force.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 682, Country Files, Europe, Germany, Vol. III)

At the October 28 meeting, Pauls brought up both a European security conference and balanced force reductions in his discussion with Kissinger. According to the memorandum of conversation, prepared by Sonnenfeldt on October 28:

  • “[Pauls] then asked what we expected from the forthcoming Deputy Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Brussels. Mr. Kissinger said that [Page 19] we would not take any initiatives in the European security field, but if the Europeans wanted to move in that area, and in particular if they were interested in a European Security Conference, we would go along. Mr. Kissinger noted that items had been suggested for possible exploration with the East and had been under discussion among the Allies. But he stressed again that the US would not take the initiative and that the whole subject was not a major point in the foreign policy of the United States. The Ambassador pointed out that German issues were central to the question of European security and should be explored before proceeding to any conference. Moreover, Germany probably should not be on the agenda of any large European conference. Mr. Kissinger noted that the Germans had not made these views known officially and that perhaps they should do so.
  • “The Ambassador finally raised the question of balanced force reductions in Europe. Mr. Kissinger, noting that there had been discussion of this subject in Brussels, said that we had begun to take a look at this problem here and probably would be less pressing from now on. Mr. Kissinger acknowledged that there was an argument that it might be possible to meet pressures for unilateral force reductions by proposing mutual cuts with the Russians. The Ambassador asserted that ‘the worst mutual reduction is better than the best unilateral reduction.’ Mr. Kissinger noted that this might not necessarily be the case. What was needed was an agreed strategic concept among the Allies.” (Ibid.)