17. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1

SUBJECT

  • NATO Defense Planning Committee Meeting

In accordance with your request, Secretary Laird and Acting Secretary Richardson have submitted their memorandum reviewing the major issues to be dealt with at the Brussels meeting of the NATO De[Page 63]fense Planning Committee on May 28.2 Secretary Laird is our delegate. (The memorandum is at Tab A.)3

The major question before the meeting concerns policy guidelines for planning force levels for the period 1971–75. The issue is whether the guidelines should include a specific commitment to the effect that NATO members will increase their defense budget commitments by a given amount in this period, or whether the guidelines should acknowledge that only a “moderate” increase in defense allocations can be expected.

We have supported the former position, and the memorandum recommends that we continue to press for a specific commitment. Our position is that each country as a general guide should attempt to increase the NATO account in its defense budget by an annual average of 4 percent during the planning period. This position has met considerable resistance; therefore, the memorandum recommends we be prepared to fall back, if necessary, to a general commitment to budgetary increases, with no specified amount, and as a last resort accept the position which acknowledges only a “moderate” over-all increase can be expected.

The second issue, not formally on the agenda, but certain to be discussed, is the Canadian decision to reduce or withdraw its forces from Europe.4 The recommended US position would stress:

a. Any substantial Canadian reduction may weaken the Alliance.

b. We welcome Canada’s promise of full consultation on the scope, timing and characteristics of their reductions.

c. We are willing to discuss a change in the role of Canadian forces in Europe if this would increase the chances of retaining more Canadian forces.

I think both of these recommended approaches are acceptable and consistent with your policy views. I do believe we need to be very careful in handling the Canadian issue. I would prefer we stress consultations and discussions and not directly raise the issue of weakening the Alliance. We are not likely to be able to reverse the Canadian deci[Page 64]sion, but we may still be able to mold it to the over-all interests of the Alliance by affecting its scale and timing, as the memorandum notes.

Recommendation:5

That you approve the Secretaries’ memorandum (Tab A) as a guide to our position in the Brussels meeting.

Approve

Disapprove

See Me

That I inform Secretary Laird of your approval, and add on your behalf that we should not take a harsh line on the Canadian decision, but seek to open real consultations.

Approve

Disapprove

See Me

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 256, Agency Files, NATO, Vol. IV. Secret. Sent for action.
  2. The meeting communiqué is printed in NATO Final Communiqués, 1949–1974, pp. 222–223.
  3. Attached but not printed. In a memorandum dated May 19, which laid the foundation for the joint memorandum, Laird recommended that the United States encourage the Allies to increase their defense budgets by an annual average of 4 percent from 1971 to 1975. (Ford Library, Laird Papers, Accession 2001–NLF–020, Box 1, NATO) Kissinger discussed this topic in White House Years, p. 393. He stated that the Allies would commit only to a “moderate” increase rather than a fixed percentage.
  4. Trudeau announced on April 3 that Canada planned to reduce its 10,600 military personnel in Germany and would begin consultations with NATO members later in May. See Documents 93, 94, and 96.
  5. The President initialed approval of both recommendations.