93. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon 1


  • Your Moscow Discussions Tuesday, May 23, 1972

This memorandum summarizes the issues that will come up in the first set of your discussions on Tuesday and provides talking points.

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

4. European Security Conference. (Our title: Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe—CSCE)

This is Brezhnev’s major European initiative and he intends to get your commitment to prompt beginning of preparations and to the holding of the actual conference as early as this year.

We have long been on record as agreeing to a properly prepared and substantive conference (though, in fact, the problems of getting a mutually agreed agenda for a substantive conference are considerable). Our reservations have stemmed from our concern that the conference will be a propaganda circus, produce false euphoria and open up differences among NATO allies. We and the NATO allies have been working intensively on more substantive positions to present at a conference, especially proposals that would stimulate freedom of movement and undercut Soviet pretensions to hegemony in Eastern Europe (Brezhnev Doctrine).

Although Brezhnev has frequently suggested through the private channel that we jointly develop a position, and you have indicated a willingness to explore the objectives of a meaningful conference, little of substance has in fact occurred.

We and the Allies are committed to begin “multilateral” explorations on a conference once the Berlin agreement is in effect. Nevertheless you should use our agreement on the timing of these preparatory explorations to get Brezhnev’s agreement to early explorations on [Page 281] European troop reductions (MBFR), in which we are interested. You should also take into account the sensitivities of our Allies to anything that smacks of US-Soviet collusion against them.

Key Points to Emphasize

In respect to Brezhnev’s urgings for early preparations and a conference this year, you should:

  • —Agree to the beginning of multilateral preparations later this year, subject to agreement among all countries concerned;
  • —Note that you cannot visualize preparations for a truly meaningful conference to be completed rapidly and you believe that it would be soundest to consider holding a conference some time in 1973.

As regards substance, you should indicate that:

  • —We would agree that a conference should deal with the principles of relations among European states; such principles would include:
    • • sovereign equality, political independence and territorial integrity;
    • • non-intervention and non-interference in internal affairs;
    • • the right of people in each country to shape their own destiny.
  • —There could be certain agreed measures to improve physical security, such as restraints on movements of armed forces, exchanges of observers, notification of maneuvers. (Note: We want to keep MBFR as such out of a conference because we would only want countries concerned to be involved in negotiations.)
  • —There should be expanded cultural exchange and concrete arrangements for increased economic and technological cooperation.
  • The Soviets advocate some sort of permanent machinery to come out of the conference. You should:
  • —Stress that if new institutions are to be created they should have carefully worked out terms of reference;
  • —Note that military questions are highly complex and delicate and could best be dealt with directly by the countries concerned. Finally, if Brezhnev stalls on MBFR and suggests that this subject should only be dealt with after a conference has met, you should:
  • —Press our desire to move ahead in parallel on a conference and MBFR.

5. MBFR . Your discussion of this topic, on which the Soviets have remained reluctant, should be largely procedural. We have a need, for Congressional reasons, to have a process of negotiations underway; but we are less certain that early positive results are achieveable. The Soviets, apart from showing reluctance to begin talks (e.g. their refusal to receive Brosio, the NATO explorer), have so far given little evidence that they have done any substantive homework comparable to the massive studies undertaken by NATO and ourselves.

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The Soviets are aware that geography confers advantages on them. On the other hand, their forces in Eastern Europe have internal security functions. Consequently, while the Soviets might be interested in reductions that would enable them to shift forces eastward, they have displayed much hesitation. They may of course hope that they will be spared “mutual” cuts by growing pressures in the West for unilateral ones. In addition, the Soviets have shown great sensitivity to the term “balanced,” the B in MBFR, because they see in it a Western effort to obtain larger Soviet reductions as a compensation for our geographic disadvantage.

It is possible that in Moscow, as a “concession,” Brezhnev might propose quick and symbolic equal reductions and try to get a joint US-Soviet agreement to this effect. Our studies have shown this to be of questionable desirability (it would not be verifiable and would tend to accentuate present Soviet military advantages); moreover, a US-Soviet fait accompli on this subject would damage our Alliance relationship.

Key Points to Emphasize

In these circumstances you should:

  • —Seek Brezhnev’s agreement to MBFR explorations by countries concerned in parallel with the preparatory work on the CSCE.
  • —Agree that there can be private US-Soviet contact on this, but that the specific exploratory work should not be purely bilateral.

On substance, you should indicate that:

  • —Reductions should involve both foreign and local forces in Central Europe, although an initial phase could concentrate on foreign (ie. US and Soviet) forces;
  • —It would be best to concentrate in the first instance on ground forces;
  • —Nuclear weapons may present too complex a problem in the first stage of talks.
  • —There should be verification so that an agreement will not lead to misunderstandings and bickering (this could involve inspection, or, as in SALT, measures that are arranged in a way that each side can observe them by its unilateral means).

Note: As regards the European questions you could refer to the fact that the final communiqué on which there has already been considerable work by both sides will, of course, deal at some length with European questions.

One matter, not covered above, relates to frontiers in Europe. The Soviets are anxious to have us recognize their “inviolability.” But since they interpret this word as meaning “unchangeable” even by negotiation there is a problem for us in accepting it. We have no intention ourselves [Page 283] to see frontiers changed but because we maintain that the ultimate frontiers of a united Germany should be set in a peace treaty we have to maintain flexibility. Consequently, when Brezhnev raises this matter, you should:

  • —State that we are quite willing to recognize the principle of “territorial integrity,” but do not wish to infringe on the right of sovereign states to seek peaceful arrangements concerning their frontiers.

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

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 487, President’s Trip Files, The President’s Conversations in Salzburg, Moscow, Tehran and Warsaw, May 1972, Part 1. Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only. A notation on the first page reads: “The President has seen.” President Nixon visited Austria May 20–22 on his way to the summit meeting in the Soviet Union. For the full text of the memorandum, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XIV, Soviet Union, October 1971–May 1972, Document 253.