80. Minutes of a National Security Council Meeting1



  • President Nixon
  • Secretary of State William Rogers
  • Martin Hillenbrand, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs
  • Philip Farley, ACDA Director
[Page 237]

Richard Helms, Director of Central Intelligence

John N. Mitchell, Attorney General

General George Lincoln, OEP Director

Melvin Laird, Secretary of Defense

David Packard, Deputy Secretary of Defense

Admiral Thomas Moorer, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff

Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for NSA

Mr. Helmut Sonnenfeldt, NSC Staff

Philip Odeen, NSC Staff

William Hyland, NSC Staff

President: We have two issues for discussion today, MBFR and the European Security Conference. Dick [Helms], will you start off?

[Director Helms gave his briefing.]2

President: Henry, will you discuss the issues?

Kissinger: I will sum up briefly the issues as they have emerged from the work of the Senior Review Group.

First, MBFR. The idea goes back to the 1950s, when it was called “disengagement.” It has been taken up in recent years for a variety of reasons, which have consequences for determining the strategy for dealing with the issues. It was initiated by the previous administration as an argument against pressures from the Congress for force reductions. Secretary General Brosio then picked it up as a means of forestalling unilateral reductions by the U.S. The Soviets, for some reason not entirely clear, became interested.

But until your administration, Mr. President, there was no systematic analysis done. There was no idea of the impact of mutual reductions on the military balance. In the interagency group we have done several studies in depth. We reviewed 15 cases of possible combinations of reductions, with such elements as limits on stationed forces, limits on indigenous forces, and various combinations.

We have studied four categories:

  • —First, small symmetrical reductions, of say 10 percent.
  • —Second, larger symmetrical reductions of 30 percent.
  • —Third, a common ceiling.
  • —Fourth, a mixed package, though in this case we have not done as much work as in the others.

The following conclusions have emerged from our analysis: Though there is considerable debate over methodology, the conclusions do not differ. A reduction on the order of 10 percent or less cannot be verified. We would not know if the other side had actually reduced. This size of reductions would minimize the deleterious military effects. [Page 238] There would still be a deleterious effect, but not a major one. Any other percentage reductions will make the situation worse; the larger the cut the worse the effects.

Dr. Kissinger asked that several charts be distributed. [See Tab A.]

These charts show how the deterioration in the time for Soviet forces would reach the Weser and then the Rhine rivers. The other charts show how the ratios of the Warsaw Pact and NATO forces before and after reductions would deteriorate. [Tab B.]

The option of a mixed package is probably not negotiable. And the common ceiling—where we would reduce by 10,000 and the other side by 100,000—is probably not negotiable. Secretary Laird submitted a paper combining the different packages, and it is being staffed.3

It is not necessary to come down on one solution. As Dick Helms said, there is no progress on the Soviets’ side. We have sent to NATO the results of our study.4 Have they received them, Bill [Rogers]?

Rogers: Yes, they have gone this morning, but six months late.

Laird: These are only examples, not conclusions.

Kissinger: The major point to stress to the Allies is to analyze what the effect is on security. If the work is driven by a desire for negotiations, there will be a consensus for a percentage reduction, but this is the most deleterious. The danger is that MBFR will become a political debate. We have done serious work in analyzing the effects, but the others want MBFR for détente, for a bargaining chip, or because of their own internal domestic opinion. It is in our interest to force the European Allies to focus on security in order to have an understanding of the military consequences; otherwise we are in a never-never land. At the NATO meetings, Secretary Rogers could say that we will follow up our studies with more presentations, including models submitted by Secretary Laird.

Let me turn now to the European Security Conference.

[Page 239]

This is a nightmare. First, it was started with the idea of including all security issues. Then Berlin was broken out; then MBFR. Now the Soviets want an agenda with three issues: (1) renunciation of force and respect for frontiers, (2) expansion of economic, cultural and other contacts, and (3) establishment of some permanent machinery. On our side we are proposing similarly vague general principles. [See Tab C] The good paper developed by State5 opens the way to addressing the security issues, to give concreteness to a conference. If we look at the enormous effort the Soviets have been making for a conference—including Gromyko’s talks with you, Mr. President,6—and compare their effort with the conceivable results, there must be some objective beyond trade and cultural relations. They will use a climate of détente to argue that NATO is unnecessary. A permanent security organ would be offered as a substitute for the alliances. Now, Brandt is already in hock to the Soviets, to show progress in Ostpolitik. The French have two motives: first to outmanuever the Germans in Moscow, and second to take the steam out of MBFR. The danger is that we will get both CES and MBFR.

The problem of the substance of a Conference is whether in addition to the general topics we can incorporate security issues. The pro is that it makes the conference more concrete; the con is that a conference is probably not the forum to deal with issues of monitoring force movements, for example.

Because dealing with an agenda, however, we have the question of how rapidly to move. The French and Germans are committed. The Soviets are pressing for preparatory talks. Normally, preparatory talks could be used to delay, but the issues do not lend themselves to delay. Up to now we have said that a Berlin agreement is a precondition for preparatory talks. But once the inner-German talks are finished, this may be a tough position to hold. But we can say Berlin must be completed. There will be enormous pressures if we say this, because this will bring pressure on the Bundestag to ratify the treaties.

In summary, we can use Berlin to delay further preparations, and we can use the argument that we need a unified Western position and should have a Western Foreign Ministers’ meeting. Third, we can delay in the preparatory talks, but there are divided views on how to string out these talks.

[Page 240]

It is premature to debate what would be in a conference until we decide how to string out the timing.

President: How long before the Berlin talks are wrapped up?

Rogers: I talked with State Secretary Frank and he said it will take 2–3 months for the Bundestag to take up the treaty. We can figure out ways to delay. I have told the Russians that it was unrealistic to think of a conference in 1972.7 There are pressures for preparatory talks, but we can fend these off over Berlin.

Kissinger: The Soviets are playing into our hands in linking Berlin and the treaty.

Rogers: Second, MBFR is related to a conference, but no one is sure how they relate. But since the Soviets are not inviting Brosio, the blame is on them.8 Third, you will be meeting with Pompidou, Brandt and Heath, and there should be no decision before that. Fourth, you are going to Moscow. If you agree, we could show interest in holding talks, but hold a Deputy Foreign Ministers’ meeting some time after signing the Final Quadripartite protocol. We will try to be forthcoming, but dilatory.

President: We will do nothing?

Rogers: Brosio should go to Moscow.

President: But there will be no formal meetings. I have read recently somewhere that we may be setting up meetings with the Soviets.

Rogers: Well, we need to clarify the agenda. They proposed the conference, it is their proposal. But when we ask them, they talk in vague terms, but they have no items of security. I am putting emphasis on cooperation rather than security, but all the Allies favor a conference. We can probably stick, but a conference might be turned to our advantage. The Eastern Europeans want it. Romania and Yugoslavia favor it to undercut the Brezhnev doctrine. There was a statement in the BrezhnevTito communiqué that we might use.

President: But can we delay beyond, to 1973?

[Page 241]

Rogers: Yes, I have said there can be no conference in 1972. Maybe it should be at a lower level. We would not call it preparatory. We will get word out that there will be no conference in 1972, but we have to be sure we are not accused of dragging our feet.

President: Mel, have you some thoughts? I have the impression that the defense ministers are concerned about MBFR.

Laird: The U.S. can give leadership, and they will go along with our suggestions. Carrington will give me a British study. The British and Germans have an input but are willing and ready to follow our leadership. The question in their minds is our unilateral reductions. I reassured them. It is important for us to work out, and develop in the very near future, a position. My paper has two alternative approaches. We do not need a position before a ministerial meeting, but we need to develop one and give leadership. But we don’t want an approach to solve our own political problems. We can get votes to support us. But it is urgent to give leadership. I agree with Secretary Rogers that we should not get into a debate with thirty nations. That would be a mistake. Decisions need to be made on security considerations. All the departments are now addressing the issues. We are in a better position than two years ago.

Rogers: I doubt that the Soviets are really interested in MBFR; their real interest is in a conference. They are putting a great deal of diplomatic pressure on every Eastern European I talk to, to put on the pressures. The Soviet position on MBFR is ancillary. They are proposing to put it on the agenda, but to set up the machinery to handle it after the conference. This is a device for getting a conference. There is no pressure on MBFR but real pressures from our allies on the conference.

Kissinger: In my judgment, everyone is moving to anticipate everyone else. The French move to delay MBFR for a CES; the others to delay CES for MBFR. No one really wants a conference but no one wants to be in a position of turning it down.

Rogers: The Scandinavians and Italians want it, and the British came up with the idea of permanent machinery.

Kissinger: That was the Labour Government.

Rogers: Most of the allies favor the conference for reasons of internal domestic political support.

Laird: Sooner or later Brosio will be received in Moscow, but it puts the other side on the defensive.

Moorer: Some of the allies are suspicious that we will use MBFR to justify our reductions unilaterally. Also there is the problem of not allowing force improvements to fall by the wayside. We are working so closely with the allies to take a forthcoming position. The British and Germans have made studies that by and large reach our conclusion [Page 242] that reduction will not contribute to security of NATO. The Soviets object to balance; they really object to the common ceiling. In the case of MBFR and CES, the key Soviet objective is to divide the US from NATO.

Kissinger: There is also the allied fear of unilateral withdrawals on the one hand, and a bilateral Soviet-American reduction on the other. We should do what we can to reassure them.

Laird: The Soviets are planting stories around Europe that they will make a unilateral cut in their own forces just before the summit. This would be tough politically.

Rogers: Mel, could you say something about burden-sharing? This is a tough one. Until recently we meant force improvements, but now …

Laird: There are four ways of burden-sharing. The President’s statement in Ireland9 and in Naples10 is what we should stay with: The allies should be taking over more of our functions in NATO. They should be modernizing their forces. It is not just a question of paying dollars to the U.S. I am for being tough on things like offset, but it should not be made the primary effort.

Rogers: The offset deal can be worked out. But when we talk, our allies are convinced we are talking about direct contributions. But the President said they did not need to pay for us, but to help improve the forces.

Laird: We cannot let the allies back away from their five-year commitment to the AD–70 program. In the next 6–7 years, we will see that this is to our advantage.

Rogers: How are the allies doing on improving their forces?

Moorer: They are building some aircraft shelters. The Germans are improving their logistics. The UK is building some new ships.

Laird: It is not as much as we want them to do. The Germans have increased their budget by 13 percent. There is also some increase in the UK, but the others’ share is decreasing. Both the Germans and the British should be encouraged. Norway and Belgium are not doing their share. We must try to get the burden shared, not get dollars. Of course, we should get as much for our forces, like rents and barracks, but not only in the dollar context. We should keep going in the Naples context.

President: What about the readiness of the Warsaw Pact forces?

[Page 243]

Helms: You will recall I briefed on this last June. There has been no change since then. It’s the same number of divisions. There are rumors of Soviet reductions in Germany, but I think these are to soften us up on the MBFR thing.

Laird: Our forces in Europe are in the best shape than any time since the Vietnam war began. We will have problems with the Congressional amendment on reducing 50,000 man-years. We have to do it in two quarters. We will be about 10,000 short in Europe in March, but we can bring it up by early in the fiscal year. This is not bad. When we took office we were short about 30,000 spaces.

President: So we delay without getting caught.

[The meeting ended.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–110, NSC Minutes Originals 1971 through 6–20–74. Secret; Sensitive. Tabs A–C are attached but not printed. All brackets are in the original. According to the President’s Daily Diary, the meeting took place from 10:10 to 11 a.m. in the Cabinet Room. (Ibid., White House Central Files, President’s Daily Diary)
  2. The text of Helms’s briefing is ibid.
  3. Not further identified.
  4. On November 19, the Verification Panel met and discussed how to handle giving NATO the results of the Verification Panel’s completed MBFR analysis. According to a memorandum for the record, November 26, “Dr. Kissinger said that continuing Allied uncertainty about our MBFR proposals is doing more harm than any conclusions drawn from the analysis conceivably could. Their knowledge of the subject is ‘abysmal’; if we don’t get something to them soon, it is likely they will end up ‘doing the wrong things’ out of ignorance.” The memorandum continued: “Mr. Irwin said that we should proceed immediately to sanitize the Evaluation Report and try to get it to NATO by Monday, November 29. Dr. Kissinger said that it seemed to be the consensus that we should go ahead on Mr. Irwin’s schedule, caveating the report as necessary.” (Memorandum I–29441/71; Ford Library, Laird Papers, Box 5, NATO, Vol. X) No minutes from the meeting have been found.
  5. Apparent reference to the undated response to NSSM 138, prepared by the Interdepartmental Working Group on Europe (IG/EUR), which is in National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–063, SRG Meeting European Security Conference 11/23/71. For an analytical summary of the paper prepared by the NSC staff, see Document 76.
  6. See Document 71.
  7. Telegram 214288 to Moscow, November 26, reported on Rogers’s conversation with Dobrynin the same day: “As to timing of a security conference, the Secretary pointed out that it was unrealistic to expect the U.S. to participate next year. However, a date in 1973—it would take that long to prepare properly for such a meeting—might be a real possibility if some progress could be made in other areas and in the planning phase. They agreed to talk about this issue when Dobrynin returned to Washington at the end of December.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL USUSSR)
  8. At the December NATO Ministerial meeting in Brussels, the Ministers “noted with regret” the Soviet refusal to receive Brosio. (North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO Final Communiqués, 1949–1974, p. 269)
  9. President Nixon’s remarks to reporters, October 4, 1970, in County Clare, Ireland, are in Public Papers: Nixon, 1970, pp. 804–809.
  10. President Nixon’s remarks upon his arrival at NATO Southern Command in Naples, September 30, 1970, are ibid., pp. 786–787.