85. Editorial Note

West German Chancellor Brandt met with President Nixon in Key Biscayne, Florida, December 28–29, 1971. Among the topics they discussed were a European security conference and MBFR.

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In preparation for the meeting, President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs Kissinger wrote Nixon on December 24 that he should emphasize to Brandt that “in our dealings with the USSR, we will make no arrangements at the expense of the Allies and intend to continue the closest consultations on such matters as a European Conference and troop reductions, which will not be resolved bilaterally with the USSR.” In a section entitled “Soviet Relations and European Security,” Kissinger proposed that Nixon stress the following points in his conversations with Brandt:

  • “You are working for a genuine détente with the USSR, and the Chancellor’s policies have been in a parallel direction.
  • “—There are elements in Soviet conduct that suggest they may want a better relationship with the US (and with Germany), but there are also aspects of their policies—especially outside of Europe—that are sobering;
  • “—There is the dangerous tendency to seek marginal, tactical advantage even though this sort of policy cannot help but jeopardize any longer term relationship;
  • “—What concerns you now is that having achieved some solid results, as in the Berlin agreements, we not allow the Soviets to begin to play the Allies off against each other;
  • “—There are some tactical differences in the Alliance—on such issues as the timing of a European conference, or the precise approaches to negotiating troop reductions; these are of no great consequence unless we allow the Soviets to enlarge on our small differences and inflate them into major issues; “—On European Security, you believe a Conference with the Warsaw Pact must be deferred, while the West concentrates on its own preparations. The Conference must not become a substitute security arrangement for NATO, which is what the Soviets want;
  • “—Similarly, improved East-West trade and economic arrangements must not dilute the unity of the EEC, or our Atlantic partnership;
  • “—Germany is the primary object and potential victim of hasty or ill-conceived agreements, whether on European security or mutual troop reductions;
  • “—On the latter—negotiated troop reductions—we rule out any bilateral bargain with the USSR; any agreement must come through the Allied consensus.” The President underlined portions of the advice. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 918, VIP Visits, Brandt Visit Key Biscayne, December 1971, 1 of 3) The full text of the memorandum is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XLI, Western Europe; NATO, 1969–1972.

    Brandt met privately with Nixon at the latter’s residence in Key Biscayne on December 28 at 1:30 p.m., accompanied only by President’s [Page 253] Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs Alexander Haig and Ulrich Sahm of the West German Chancellery. A memorandum of conversation prepared by Haig reads with regard to CSCE and MBFR as follows: “President Nixon stated that he would like to discuss first the Soviet summit meeting scheduled for May. This meeting had been most carefully prepared and followed specific and concrete achievements on issues of concern to the United States and the Soviets. The President recalled that he had at the previous meeting told Chancellor Brandt at the time of that meeting that the moment was not propitious for such a meeting with the Soviet leadership, but events over the past year had now crystallized in a way which offered some promise for a constructive meeting in Moscow. The President reassured Chancellor Brandt that the discussions in Moscow would in no sense result in agreements arrived at the expense of old friends. He stated that both the summit in Peking and the summit in Moscow had been undertaken with a firm commitment to that underlying philosophy. The issue of MBFR was a topic which could only be pursued within such a philosophy. No discussions should be held with the Soviets on this issue until the most careful consultation and preparation had been completed by the Western powers and only then could the topic be discussed by them with the Soviets.”

    Haig’s account continues: “President Nixon stated that the issue of MBFR must also be approached with the greatest caution and care. He noted that Prime Minister Heath expressed this same concept as had the French. General Haig noted that no U.S. studies had come up with formulas which would not hurt Western European security, and for this reason discussion of balanced force reductions should be in terms of principles and most carefully approached. Chancellor Brandt stated that he agreed fully with this appraisal. Nevertheless, ultimately the subject will have to be looked at most carefully. President Nixon stated that it is a topic on which hope must be held out but reductions would only make sense if they did not hurt the alliance. In this regard, the increase of a billion dollars in force improvements by the Allies had been most helpful in the U.S. ability to hold the line on its own force levels. President Nixon stated that he sensed that even the Soviets are beginning to have doubts about the MBFR. Chancellor Brandt’s reply was that it is probable that the Soviets have not even really studied the subject.” For the full text of the memorandum, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XL, Germany and Berlin, 1969–1972, Document 335.

    At a second private meeting on December 29 at 9:30 a.m., Nixon and Brandt discussed a European security conference and mutual and balanced force reductions. Again, Haig prepared a record of the meeting, which reads in part:

  • “At this point, President Nixon, Chancellor Brandt, General Haig, and Mr. Sahm were joined by Secretary of State Rogers and Foreign [Page 254] Minister Scheel. Secretary Rogers stated that concerning the European Security Conference, there should be no firm schedule on such a meeting, and it should not be considered until after the Protocol in May or June, and also until after the Ministerial Meeting on May 30–31. He stated that the initial meetings could occur as early as perhaps September or October, with further discussions in the Spring of 1973. Foreign Minister Scheel agreed that it would be difficult to fix a schedule for the actual convening of a European Security Conference at this point.
  • “President Nixon stated that the best he could assess at this point was that the Conference would focus on political and economic issues.
  • “Chancellor Brandt stated that there would have to be some improvement in political coordination and organization before a Conference could be convened. Foreign Minister Scheel stated that it was essential that a summit be held with the new European Economic Community and that the role of the United States be defined with respect to the European Community on economic matters. Secretary Rogers stated that maybe this could occur in August or September. Chancellor Brandt stated that that was too soon, since the Olympic Games would be hosted in Munich in August.
  • “President Nixon stated that he would like to see the Games, but that in any event, it is essential that the European Security Conference be kept in clear focus. It is obvious that the Soviets want such a Conference, but within the United States—especially within the Congress—there is a great tendency to assume that the Conference itself would be tantamount for justification for mutual balanced force reductions, noting that many seek to give this impression. It also tends to build expectations for unilateral U.S. reductions. For this reason, it is essential that the planning prior to the Security Conference be complete and detailed, and that no hopes be raised that it can be a substitute for continued essential defense sacrifices. In essence, the European Security Conference is a misnomer. The United States does not believe that hardware can be given for software. Therefore, all of the allies must move in the most deliberate fashion, express a willingness to discuss the issue with the Soviets, but, above all, achieve complete alignment of views among the Western allies before entering into any kind of a Conference.
  • “Secretary Rogers stated that the Soviets now do not seem particularly interested in mutual balanced force reductions. German Foreign Minister Scheel agreed, but stated that perhaps Soviet intentions to link force reductions with the European Security Conference and to have such a Conference serve as a substitute vehicle for achieving their end.
  • “Chancellor Brandt said that all the governments must have a forum to express their concerns and their hopes. The European countries wish to raise the Brezhnev Doctrine, the issues of sovereignty, etc.
  • “The Romanian said he would feel safer if such a Conference were held. Thus, many of the eastern European states hope to achieve additional security from it by obtaining a principle for the renunciation of force or some other type of reassurance not in terms of pure military security but rather in terms of political assurances which would lead to additional security for the eastern states.
  • “President Nixon stated that it is obvious that the Romanians would wish to see a European Security Conference.
  • “Secretary Rogers added that the Scandinavians, Belgium and Netherlands are also interested.
  • “Foreign Minister Scheel stated that even France was somewhat interested since they wished to ease the independence movement in eastern Europe.
  • “Secretary Rogers stated that this is what the United States would seek out of such a Conference.
  • “Chancellor Brandt stated that the mutual balanced force reduction issue in his view is a matter which the Soviets are interested in but haven’t had sufficient time to study. The Soviets are also aware that the French are strongly opposed to balanced force reductions but he wondered about the status of the Brosio visit to Moscow.
  • “Foreign Minister Scheel stated that the Soviets have not replied to the Brosio initiative. He knows that when he asked about it in Moscow the Soviets had stated that this was not a problem, especially with respect to Brosio’s known views, but rather the Soviets were delaying because they were not sure themselves what their own views would be on MBFR. Secretary Rogers stated that the U.S. had been unable to get a commitment from the Soviets on the issue. Foreign Minister Scheel stated that Soviet Foreign Minister Gromyko had raised the issue of MBFR with him over a year ago and even referred to asymmetrical reductions. At that time, Gromyko was interested in getting MBFR discussions started if only in a symbolic sense. Secretary Rogers replied that since that time, however, the Soviets had said nothing. Secretary Rogers stated, in any event, it is not a problem that has to be faced for a while. Foreign Minister Scheel stated that MBFR is a long-time political problem which will continue after his retirement.” For the full text of the memorandum, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XL, Germany and Berlin, 1969–1972, Document 336.

    Rogers and Scheel also discussed MBFR and a conference on European security in a separate meeting on December 28. A memorandum of the portion of their conversation dealing with MBFR is in National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, DEF 6 NATO. A memorandum of the portion of their conversation dealing with a European security conference is ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 686, Country Files, Europe, Germany (Bonn), Vol. X.