87. Minutes of a Senior Review Group Committee Meeting1


  • Issues in European Security Conference and MBFR


  • Chairman—Henry A. Kissinger
  • State
    • Martin Hillenbrand
    • Joseph McGuire
    • Herbert Spiro
    • Ronald Spiers
  • Defense
    • Kenneth Rush
    • Larry Eagleburger
    • Warren Nutter
    • John Morse
  • JCS
    • Lt. Gen. Richard Knowles
    • Major Gen. Willis D. Crittenberger
  • CIA
    • Richard Helms
    • James P. Hanrahan
  • ACDA
    • Philip Farley
    • John [James?] Leonard
    • Olaf Grobel
  • NSC Staff
    • Helmut Sonnenfeldt
    • Philip Odeen
    • William Hyland
    • Lt. Col. Jack Merritt
    • Lt. Michael Power
    • Mark Wandler
[Page 259]


It was agreed that:

Three questions concerning MBFR and CSCE would be put before the President for decision:

Should MBFR be linked with CSCE?
If so, what kind of linkage do we want—one which controls phasing of MBFR and CSCE, or one which controls the organizations?
Should discussion of MBFR principles and stabilizing measures be split off from the special group and be put into the CSCE forum?

Dr. Kissinger: This looks like it’s going to be another one of those talmudic topics. As I understand it, we have two major issues. The first is how much of a record do we want to create on the exploratory talks. (to Mr. Hillenbrand) Marty, am I correct in thinking that the Brosio mission is not going to get off the ground?2

Mr. Hillenbrand: That’s right.

Dr. Kissinger: The issue, then, is how much of a record do we want to make before the Summit. The second issue is how to relate MBFR to the Security Conference. There are many variations of this relationship. We also have to see if we want to move the exploratory talks into the framework of the Conference. (to Mr. Hillenbrand) What is your view, Marty?

Mr. Hillenbrand: Our view is that we should keep the Brosio exercise in a state of potential being at least until the meeting of the NATO Foreign Ministers on May 30 and 31. The Foreign Ministers may consider appointing another representative—such as Harmel, or the British Ambassador to Moscow—or they may consider transferring the exploratory talks to another body. If the latter were done, it would very likely be a special body which would work in tandem with the CSCE.

Dr. Kissinger: Do you think the Allies would want to make another formal request to the Soviets?

Mr. Hillenbrand: Some countries would want to do that. We have been stalling on this because we don’t think it is needed right now. We [Page 260] want to wait for the May meeting. Bilaterally, we—and the Allies—can tell the Soviets that Brosio is still there and still available. There are a lot of bilateral contacts between the NATO countries and the Soviet Union.

Dr. Kissinger: (to Mr. Rush) Ken, what do you think? Mr. Rush: In my view, there are two main aspects we have to take into consideration. First, for domestic reasons, I think it is important that we continue to push for MBFR. Second, given the procedural and substantive aspects of MBFR, I think we should keep the Brosio initiative alive until the Foreign Ministers’ meeting.

Dr. Kissinger: Do you think we should make another formal démarche?

Mr. Rush: No, I don’t. I do think, though, that we can make some political hay here when the President is in Moscow.

Dr. Kissinger: In what way? With an agreement, for example, to begin preparatory discussions on MBFR?

Mr. Rush: Yes. Or perhaps an agreement to receive Brosio.

Dr. Kissinger: They won’t do that [receive Brosio].3

Mr. Hillenbrand: They have already refused to receive him.

Dr. Kissinger: Perhaps they would receive Harmel.

Mr. Rush: What I am really saying is that anything in the Moscow communiqué which gives MBFR a pat on the back is in our interest.

Dr. Kissinger: How would the Allies feel if we negotiated MBFR as a bilateral issue with the Soviets?

Mr. Hillenbrand: The Allies are relying on assurances given them by the President. MBFR can come up, of course, at the Summit, but the President is not going to be negotiating on behalf of the Allies. To the degree that we can get a NATO position before the Summit, they will let the President conduct some exploratory discussions. I think it is urgent, therefore, that we feed our thinking into NATO within the next six to eight weeks—so that we can get a consensus on something for the President to say, other than just the U.S. ideas.

Mr. Rush: It may also be possible to do some substantive work on MBFR in Moscow. Perhaps the communiqué can give the MBFR concept a pat on the back.

Mr. Hillenbrand: There isn’t enough time to get a substantive position ready for Presidential consideration.

Dr. Kissinger: We could try to give MBFR a pat on the back and try to devise some method of advancing negotiations by an exploratory group, but we could not begin substantive discussions. Suppose we [Page 261] gave MBFR a pat on the back and reached some sort of an agreement on procedures. If so, would that go beyond the NATO framework?

Mr. Hillenbrand: No, a pat on the back would not. So far, though, we have no common view on procedures. That’s why we should get Presidential decisions and put them before NATO. Then the President can say something to the Soviets, feeling that he has Alliance support.

Dr. Kissinger: Unless the treaties are ratified,4 we may not wish to probe any deeper on a Security Conference.

Mr. Rush: Let me say a word about the treaties, if I may. Bahr called me yesterday, Henry, before he saw you, and he expressed some optimism about the outcome of the voting. I had also investigated the vote problem before I left Germany. The Bundestag votes on May 4, and if there are 249 votes for ratification the whole thing is just about over. Then, of course, the Bundesrat votes. If the Bundesrat sends the treaties back, there will probably be another vote in the Bundestag in June. In any case, we should know in early May if there is a problem in Germany. My prognosis is that the treaties will be ratified.

Dr. Kissinger: Let’s take a look at the second problem now. As I understand it, we will not make a new appeal on the Brosio mission. As the occasion arises, we will call attention to the fact that Brosio is still available. At the Summit, we will consider discussion of MBFR at the Security Conference, and we will see if we can try to push MBFR. All of our papers assume, and I suppose this seems reasonable enough, that we want MBFR. But is that really so?5 One weird aspect of this whole situation is that we seem to be sliding into a Security Conference which we don’t want. Is the same thing true about MBFR? As I understand it, the Europeans want MBFR because it won’t hurt them and because it will keep us in Europe. Do they want MBFR for its own sake?

Mr. Hillenbrand: They want it mainly as a weapon to use against Mansfield-type threats.

Dr. Kissinger: Does anybody here want MBFR on its merits? (to Mr. Farley) Phil?

[Page 262]

Mr. Farley: We are proceeding on the same basis that Ken (Mr. Rush) is—showing activity. Otherwise, the situation will be worse if we are forced to make unilateral reductions.

Dr. Kissinger: On its merits, then, nobody here—and none of the allies—comes to the conclusion that MBFR is desirable in its own right. In all the options we have studied, I have not found anything that would not worsen our situation, if only slightly.

Mr. Rush: I’m not so sure that we shouldn’t have MBFR. It can be used to prevent unilateral reductions of forces on our part. It might be possible to stretch the exercise out over ten years or so, and include various types of constraints. Perhaps we could avoid making other types of reductions which would be even less advantageous to us than MBFR. I say we should have MBFR and stretch it out over a period of eight or ten years—with minimum reductions and perhaps certain limitations.

Mr. Hillenbrand: Our view is that MBFR is a tactical necessity. Things could be even worse without it.

Mr. Helms: Anybody who attended the meetings we have had during the last year knows that it is almost impossible to work out any scenario which is remotely advantageous to us.

Dr. Kissinger: I agree. Not one of the fifteen options we studied was advantageous to the West. The best we could say was that some of them would not leave us in a much weaker position.

Gen. Knowles: That’s true if certain constraints are not negotiated.

Mr. Hillenbrand: We should not underestimate the fact that MBFR influences Congressional attitudes. This may even be the single most important consideration about MBFR.

Dr. Kissinger: The President is in a much better position that I am to judge the political necessities. It may very well be that the case for MBFR is overwhelming—if we would be forced to make unilateral cuts without it. However, the President should know that negotiations will not improve our position. At best, the negotiations will only cut our losses. In addition, if some of the assumptions in the studies—on reinforcement capabilities, for example, or the ability to react—are wrong, then our situation will be even worse. Some of these assumptions may very well be wrong.

Let’s assume, however, that we want to push for MBFR. The State paper gives five options.6 Within those five, there are, I think, three fundamental options. The first is to maintain total separation of MBFR and CSCE. This is our present position. The second is to establish some [Page 263] sort of linkage between MBFR and the Conference. This could be done in two ways: (1) by maintaining procedural separation but trying to move both issues by conditioning progress in preparing the Conference with progress toward MBFR and (2) by creating a special MBFR group to deal with MBFR in tandem with preparations for the Conference. The third fundamental option is to discuss MBFR in the Conference. We could discuss “stabilizing” measures—that is, collateral constraints—in the preparatory phase of the Conference, or we could put MBFR on the agenda.

These are the key concepts, I think, although I realize there are some variations to them. (to Mr. Hillenbrand) Do you agree, Marty?

Mr. Hillenbrand: Yes. You outlined the basic options, but there are some nuances you didn’t mention.

Dr. Kissinger: As I recall, we first separated MBFR and CSCE because the Soviets wanted them separated and because we didn’t think the CSCE was a good forum in which to discuss MBFR. We thought the Conference would have too many non-NATO countries which would not have a great interest in strict constraints.

Mr. Rush: I think we should still keep the two completely separate. MBFR might drag on for eight or ten years, with perhaps a little step here and a little step there during that time. If we tie MBFR in with the CES, its timing will become that of CES, and we will lose the freedom of movement we now have with MBFR. If the two are linked together, the thirty countries involved in CES, even if some are loosely allied, will insist on participating in the MBFR discussions—and they will give an overall push to the negotiations. We will start bargaining on topics which are not advantageous to us. And this will suit the Russians, whose primary purpose in the Conference is to bring about division within the Alliance. They can do this better on MBFR than on any other issue.

Dr. Kissinger: But that will also be true even if the two issues are kept on separate tracks.

Mr. Rush: Only those countries which are actually concerned should participate in MBFR. I feel that the substantive issues of MBFR are so complex and so important that we should not allow thirty nations to get involved in the negotiations.

Dr. Kissinger: Exactly how many nations will be there?

Mr. Hillenbrand: There will be 34 participants—countries and organizations. The Common Market, for example, will take part in the discussions on economic cooperation. Some people also say the Vatican may participate in some discussions. At most, there will be 34 participants.

Dr. Kissinger: Will Malta be there?

Mr. Hillenbrand: Yes.

Dr. Kissinger: Then we can throw Mintoff at them.

[Page 264]

Mr. Hillenbrand: He can be the negotiator.

Mr. Rush: Let me repeat again that I don’t think such things as troop limitations or area limitations are proper subjects for the CES to get involved in.

Dr. Kissinger: (to Mr. Rush) I want to see if I understand your position. Suppose we set up a special group of the Conference to undertake preparatory discussions of MBFR. When the Conference convenes, it gives its blessing to this special group, and then the group conducts autonomous negotiations, using the CSCE blessing as a trigger. Do you still have objections to that?

Mr. Rush: Yes. Once the two are linked, the 34 nations in the CES will try to assert control of the MBFR talks. The MBFR talks are likely to go slow, while the CES will go much faster. If there is success in CES, there will be pressure to achieve something in MBFR. There may also very well be an attempt to introduce the subject of arms limitations at MBFR. The net result will be timing, subject and party participant links which we don’t want.

Dr. Kissinger: Is it correct to say that you don’t even want a tenuous linkage? What if the Conference is merely used to trigger MBFR, much the same way we linked CES to the German treaties?

Mr. Rush: That kind of linkage has its pluses and minuses, like the other options. We have had so many linkages, though, that I think it’s rather late to bring in another one now.

Dr. Kissinger: (to Mr. Hillenbrand) Marty?

Mr. Hillenbrand: Our view is somewhat different. If our primary motivation for MBFR is to counter Mansfield-type threats, keeping it on a separate track means that no progress will be made and that our ability to use it will eventually disappear. However, if we link MBFR with the Conference, which will get a lot of publicity and be a major East-West event, MBFR will also get some of this publicity and appeal. We think we can safeguard the MBFR talks by detaching them from the main Conference body and by getting an advance agreement that only those nations concerned with MBFR—either by troops or territory—will take part in the negotiations. The Soviets have already said they would discuss MBFR in a body created by the CSCE or in another suitable forum. This suitable forum could be a special body working in tandem with CSCE.

Another factor is that there is pressure in NATO for linking MBFR and the Conference. The pressure is coming from Germany, and from a few other countries, too. I doubt that we can hold out indefinitely for complete separation. Incidentally, this pressure for linkage will be reflected here. The line may be that the U.S. is killing MBFR by keeping it separate from the CSCE.

[Page 265]

Dr. Kissinger: If we push MBFR, the Europeans may push the CSCE because they really want to kill MBFR.

Mr. Hillenbrand: That is one element of their reasoning. Each course has its advantages and disadvantages. We support Option 3: linking MBFR to CSCE via a special MBFR group to discuss MBFR in tandem with a preparation for CSCE. [See attached paper]

Mr. Rush: I think the consensus is that we are not anxious to push MBFR or the CES. If that is so, we should keep the two on separate tracks. Then, if there are pressures, we can yield a bit on MBFR, perhaps after a year or so. In any case, we will have postponed both MBFR and CES. Right now, though, I’m reluctant to give up on MBFR.

Dr. Kissinger: We may be better able to achieve delay if we link them.

Mr. Rush: I think linkage will cause an acceleration. The Russians want a CES, and they see linkage as a good way of bringing it about.

Mr. Hillenbrand: The Russian view is in many ways similar to our own. We both say that the Conference is not a suitable forum in which to negotiate MBFR. We both say a suitable forum would be a special group consisting of those nations directly concerned with MBFR. We would propose, therefore, to take them at their word and create a special group to work in tandem with the group preparing CSCE.

Dr. Kissinger: Would this be a group of the CSCE?

Mr. Hillenbrand: It would be set up prior to CSCE. We would tell the Soviets it would be a six or seven-nation body working in tandem with the Conference. At the most, the Conference would give the group a general blessing, and it would let the group’s work continue after the Conference.

Dr. Kissinger: (to Mr. Farley) Phil, what do you think?

Mr. Farley: In general, I am sympathetic to Marty’s view. We can exercise better control of the talks if they are conducted within a small group. Marty’s device takes advantage of the preparatory phase of the CSCE to make a breakthrough on MBFR. If we want to use the Conference to bless MBFR, this should be decided in NATO, and preparations should get underway so that we will have a position ready for the meeting in Helsinki [preparatory meeting for CSCE].

Dr. Kissinger: We have been hurt on this linkage issue. For the first three years, we were told that linkage would thwart the CSCE. Now we’re told that failure to link will thwart it.

Mr. Rush: As I see it, we have two courses of action. The first is to have two separate bodies discussing MBFR and CSCE. The second is to create some kind of a link between the two bodies.

Dr. Kissinger: It’s also possible to have the two bodies linked conceptually. For example, we could say that unless there is progress in A, we will not go forward with B.

[Page 266]

Mr. Rush: Yes. That’s possible. However, I think 1 and 3 are the preferred options.

Dr. Kissinger: Do you object to the Conference monitoring the MBFR talks?

Mr. Rush: Yes.

Dr. Kissinger: What if the MBFR group is linked to the Conference in terms of progress, not organization?

Mr. Hillenbrand: It was never the intention to have the larger group monitor the smaller. Whether we want to make setting up of the MBFR group dependent on progress in the CSCE is another matter. I doubt that it could be done now. The momentum of the Conference being linked to the ratification of the German treaties can’t be turned around. NATO, in general, would prefer to see no link between MBFR and CSCE, although some countries would like to see some aspects of MBFR discussed in the Conference. We don’t think that is a good idea.

Dr. Kissinger: I agree. It would be the lousiest way of proceeding—and we would have all the disadvantages of the huge forum.

Mr. Farley: You are right. I think I am less doctrinaire, though, than others about insisting that the CSCE not discuss matters relating to MBFR.

Gen. Knowles: The trick of handling MBFR in the Conference is to control the discussion of the principles and to use these discussions as an educational tool. The JCS favors a modification of Option 3A. The Conference would discuss MBFR in a broad context, and the real work would be done by a special group.

Dr. Kissinger: (to Mr. Helms) Dick?

Mr. Helms: We can fiddle around with Option 3. Judging from the paper, this option gives us the most flexibility. I think we can start with it.

Dr. Kissinger: If the President made his decisions within the next two weeks, should we take them up with NATO before the Summit?

Mr. Hillenbrand: That depends on what the President decides. If he chooses Option 3, it would be good to take it up with NATO before the Summit. That way we would have a NATO consensus for the President to use in Moscow.

Dr. Kissinger: Let me try to sum up the NATO position, as I understand it. If we drop MBFR, they will be unhappy because they think we will make unilateral withdrawals. If we set up a special body to conduct MBFR negotiations, they won’t like that either—although I really don’t know why.

Mr. Hillenbrand: They won’t like it if we say we want MBFR, but in a separate track from CSCE.

Dr. Kissinger: Would NATO object to the view Ken [Rush]expressed?

[Page 267]

Mr. Hillenbrand: Yes, if it means Option 1.

Dr. Kissinger: If MBFR and CSCE are separate, then, NATO will be unhappy.

Mr. Hillenbrand: Yes, and there will be pressure to go the CSCE route.

Dr. Kissinger: If MBFR and CSCE are separate—but linked—bodies, we will still get objections because some of the countries in the Conference will want more of a voice in the MBFR negotiations.

Mr. Hillenbrand: I think most of the countries would accept Option 3 as the middle ground.

Dr. Kissinger: Will the countries that want the Conference to assert control over MBFR be satisfied with just a formal role for the Conference and separate institutions? What is the difference between Options 1 and 3, unless the Conference exercises control over MBFR?

Mr. Hillenbrand: Option 1 implies no linkage at all. Option 3 implies linkage, but not CSCE control over the linkage.

Mr. Helms: CSCE would in effect be sprinkling holy water over MBFR.

Mr. Hillenbrand: That’s right. The Conference would simply give its blessing.

Dr. Kissinger: Would most countries settle for that?

Mr. Hillenbrand: If the U.S. goes for Option 3, I think most countries would support it.

Dr. Kissinger: Would the same thing be true if we go for Option 1?

Mr. Hillenbrand: No. There are already pressures in NATO for Option 3A.

Dr. Kissinger: Is anybody in favor of discussing principles of MBFR and stabilizing measures in the Conference, while conducting the actual negotiations in a special body?

Gen. Knowles: The Germans feel military security must be considered at the Conference.

Mr. Rush: I think they can be brought around. I have talked to Brandt and Scheel about this.

Dr. Kissinger: (to Mr. Hillenbrand) You need decisions in the next two weeks, don’t you, so that we can have discussions within the Alliance?

Mr. Hillenbrand: Yes.

Mr. Rush: The Germans are basically afraid that we will use MBFR as a cover for troop withdrawals. As you know, they are floundering around.

Dr. Kissinger: The President has to decide whether or not to establish a link between MBFR and CSCE. If he decides on linkage, he [Page 268] can choose one which controls the phasing or one which controls the organizations. Finally, the President has to decide if he wants to split off discussion of principles and stabilizing measures from the separate forum and put it into the CSCE. I will try to get the answers to these questions within two weeks.

Mr. Hillenbrand: Good. There are two other ancillary points I would like to bring up, however. The first is the need for agreement on the Presidential decisions in NATO. Our approach to this is pragmatic. If we see dangers developing in NATO, for example, we can review our approach. This will be an on-going process. The second is the Brosio mission. There is pressure in NATO for issuing a statement telling the Soviets and the world that Brosio is still alive. I don’t see any great objection to such a statement.

Dr. Kissinger: (to Mr. Sonnenfeldt) Hal, what do you think?

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: It might create a problem if the statement is so worded that it generates a categorical Soviet rejection.

Dr. Kissinger: Who in NATO is creating this pressure?

Mr. Hillenbrand: The British—and others—have said that we should do something about Brosio before May.

Dr. Kissinger: I see the British, and they tell me they are horrified by MBFR.

Mr. Hillenbrand: They have an inner inconsistency, but they do want to help us.


Interagency Paper


Option 1:

Maintain total separation between CSCE and MBFR—current policy.

Option 2:

Maintain current procedural separation but condition progress in preparation for CSCE on progress towards MBFR.

Option 3:

Link MBFR to CSCE via a special MBFR group to discuss MBFR “in tandem” with preparation for CSCE. CSCE might establish a follow-on MBFR group.

[Page 269]

Option 3a:

Discuss stabilizing measures in CSCE preparation and remand to MBFR body for drawing up separate agreement which would be open to all states for accession.

Option 4:

Deal with MBFR in CSCE Plenary. Either reach broad agreement on or negotiate Principles and/or stabilizing measures.

Option 5:

Advocate establishment by CSCE Ministerial of machinery for MBFR negotiations.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Institutional Files (H–Files), Box H–113, SRG Meetings Minutes, Originals, 1972–1973. Top Secret. The meeting took place in the White House Situation Room.
  2. See Document 86. In a meeting on February 29, Raymond Garthoff, Deputy Director of Political-Military Affairs, asked Vorontsov about receiving Brosio, NATO’s “explorer” for MBFR talks. “Vorontsov replied that there was no need for ‘exploration’; the Soviet policy was not a Dark Continent requiring Stanley and Livingston ‘explorers.’ Why, he asked, should the Soviet Government let someone who was not competent to negotiate come and subject them to a battery of questions?” Vorontsov said the Soviet Union “was ready to discuss MBFR on an equal basis at any time” and that “his authorities had suggested USUSSR talks; surely our Allies trust us.” Vorontsov said that the Soviets “were convinced that the US Government did not wish to go forward with MBFR negotiations at this time.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL USUSSR)
  3. All brackets are in the original.
  4. See footnote 5, Document 76.
  5. Kissinger discussed MBFR with Laird in a telephone conversation on January 22. A transcript of the conversation reads in part: “K[issinger]: The only trouble I am having is with the MBFR. L[aird]: I am not sure that we want to get wetted [sic] on that. K: Why not? L: Well, I will talk to you about it. K: But how can we recommend something if it is bad? L: I don’t think our studies have come far enough to make that judgment. They are still really in the preparatory state. K: Well, no one has raised that point before. L: Well, you know that I have put Larry [Eagleburger] in charge of that.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Henry A. Kissinger Telephone Transcripts (Telcons), Box 12, Chronological File)
  6. Attached; printed below.