110. Paper Prepared in the Department of State1


[Omitted here is a table of contents.]


East-West discussions, underway or proposed, aim at making the present security system in Europe more stable and less onerous—not at replacing it. Whatever their outcome, it is probable that the NATO and Warsaw Pact structures will remain in place, substantial US forces will be needed in Western Europe, substantial Soviet forces will remain in Eastern Europe, and the division of Europe will persist.

Though radical changes thus are unlikely, East-West relations have nevertheless undergone a sea-change in the past year, persuading many Western Europeans particularly that a new season in East-West relations is opening. Distrust persists, but neither side feels as directly threatened by the other; important negotiations have opened, but there is still no clear path to the future.

European security diplomacy in the period covered by this paper will thus be highly tactical and heavily influenced by calculations of effects on public opinion. Each side will be seeking limited gains, sometimes at the expense of the other, but agreements may be reached of value to both. An era of negotiations, though, may tend to erode somewhat both Western defensive arrangements and Soviet domination in Eastern Europe.

US decisions on the interrelated European security issues will significantly influence the entire process. However, both US vital interests and the tight correlation of the individual issues put limits on our range of choice, and decisions on each issue inevitably will shape the context for other decisions.

Our decision on US force levels is the critical variable in the current European security equation. It will be read in Moscow, Bonn, and [Page 306] elsewhere in Europe as meaning that the US commitment to Western Europe remains strong—or that it is weakening and that the European balance of power therefore is shifting in favor of the Soviets. Thus US force reductions—in proportion to their magnitude and to the degree of expectation that further cuts would follow—would reduce our leverage on all of the specific European security issues and make the European Allies more likely to seek accommodations on Moscow’s terms.

Of central importance also is German Eastern policy, which seeks better FRG relations with the Eastern countries and constructive change in Central Europe from the basis of formal acceptance of the territorial status quo. Specifically, it seeks easier communications between Germans living within a divided nation and greater influence and trade opportunities for West Germany in Eastern Europe generally. If the policy succeeds, the USSR could no longer use the spectre of German revanchism as a pretext for enforcing discipline in Eastern Europe. This, and the growth of West German presence and influence, would tend to reduce somewhat Moscow’s control in Eastern Europe and to encourage internal liberalization there. However, West Germany might become more vulnerable to Soviet suasion, and enhancement of the status of the German Democratic Republic could weaken the Western position in Berlin.

Bonn believes that the Four Power talks on Berlin and its own negotiations with the USSR, Poland and East Germany should be considered as a whole and that definitive agreements with the latter three capitals should be accompanied by Soviet agreement to some improvements in the status of Berlin. Indeed, the Soviet desire to conclude and make final the bilateral agreements with Bonn may offer us some additional leverage in the Berlin talks. At the same time, this FRG-conceived nexus also tends to give the Berlin talks a much more complex and central role than we had anticipated.

In the Berlin talks, the Western side has been seeking practical improvements such as better inter-sector communications and more assured access to the city. In return, we have suggested that the FRG would be willing to reduce the level of its activity in Berlin. The Soviets, however, have demanded that the FRG eliminate completely its political presence in West Berlin, and that the Western powers accept West Berlin as a separate entity.

Bonn regards the present level of US forces in Europe as an essential element in its negotiations with the East. The Germans have made clear their belief that reductions would undermine their bargaining positions in their negotiations, and in the implementation of their intended policy. By extension, such reductions would diminish our own influence on German Eastern policy as a whole.

The US, having sanctioned the concept of East-West negotiations on specific concrete issues, cannot oppose Germany’s Eastern policy in [Page 307] principle. Our leverage is highly limited. Our realistic choice lies between, (A) attempting to restrain and slow where possible the pace of the German initiatives, and (B) more enthusiastically supporting not only the general objectives but also the tactical means by which the Brandt government seeks to attain them.

Similarly, having entered SALT, the US should not seek to deny the Europeans a parallel opportunity to negotiate on such issues as mutual and balanced force reductions (MBFR). Indeed the European Allies regard the US as committed in principle to MBFR negotiations, and disarray in the Alliance would follow a US decision to abandon MBFR or to delay indefinitely movement toward actual negotiations. Thus, the issue is not so much whether to negotiate MBFR, but under what conditions and to what end. Hence, a clear US position will be needed to allow us to take a lead in further Allied work on specific MBFR proposals.

Substantial US troop reductions would effectively remove this issue from the international agenda, but minor reductions might be read as portending additional cuts later, thus prompting our Allies to press MBFR more energetically.

US troop withdrawals would diminish the credibility of US protection and thus enhance European desires for a Conference of European Security (CES) as a prudent placatory gesture to Moscow, and as a means of determining what deals might be struck as a hedge against any further erosion in the US presence. However, even if US forces remain in Europe at essentially their present strength, it will not, of course, rest entirely with us to decide whether or not such a Conference should take place. If SALT and the German and Berlin talks lead to significant agreement, it will be difficult to avoid movement toward CES.

Successful conclusion of current and prospective negotiating efforts could improve both the sense and substance of European security, but the net result would depend on the terms of agreements and the assumptions in both East and West regarding the new situation. The abortion of these efforts probably would not entail a major crisis, or an effort by either side forcibly to change the status quo. In fact, East-West relations will probably evolve toward an intermediate point, with both failures and successes in route, but the dialogue accompanying the search for even limited agreements will itself have a stabilizing effect on the East-West confrontation in Europe.

[Omitted here are the introduction, sections on “The Longer Term and the Impact of US Choices: Conclusions,” “The State of Play: Premises and Prospects,” “The Compatibility of German Eastern Policy with US Objectives in Europe,” “Berlin,” and “Other Current Issues of European Security, including Conference of European Security, Mutual and Balanced Force Reductions, Renunciation of the Use of Force, Issues of Cooperation in Europe, and East-West Trade,” and seven appendices.]

  1. Source: National Security Council, SRG Meetings File, Box 96, Senior Review Group, 8–31–70, European Security. Secret. Although no drafting information appears on the paper, it was prepared in EUR for the upcoming Senior Review Group meeting in response to a request from the NSC staff and without clearance from other agencies. (Memorandum from Hillenbrand and Spiers to Richardson, undated (ca. August 27); (National Archives, RG 59, S/S Files: Lot 80 D 212, NSSM 92—Mutual and Bal. Force Reductions Between NATO and Warsaw Pact (MBFR))