28. Paper Prepared in the Department of State and the National Security Council1


Part I—Alternative Structures

We face no imminent crisis in our relations with Western Europe. If anything our multilateral and bilateral relations have improved in the past year. Most observers do not foresee a major crisis arising in the next few years, barring major changes in U.S. or Soviet policy.2

Nevertheless certain developments—the departure of de Gaulle, signs of new interest in an enlarged and more structured Western European community, the Federal Republic of Germany’s new emphasis upon Ostpolitik, pressures for a European Security Conference, the evolving strategic relationship between the US and the USSR and their Strategic Arms Limitation Talks—all make desirable examination of the basic concepts of our relationship with Europe.

American Interests

US security is bound to that of Europe. Western Europe with 300 million people, a gross national product of more than $600 billion and an industrial output contributing about one-fourth of the world’s total, is an area of vital interest to the [Page 97] United States. This interest is reinforced by myriad other bonds: official, commercial, political, technological, cultural, and personal. Our security and our prosperity are both indissolubly linked with the security and prosperity of Western Europe.

Our fundamental objectives are:

—A stable and peaceful situation effectively guaranteeing the independence and sovereignty of all European states, based upon a military equilibrium sufficient to ensure that this settlement is on terms satisfactory to the United States and its Allies.

—A strengthened, prosperous and cohesive Western Europe able to bear its full responsibilities for the preservation of peace and stability.

—The resolution of the German question in a manner satisfactory to all concerned.

—Peaceful and positive US relations with the USSR and the other countries of Eastern Europe.

—Diminution of Soviet control in Eastern Europe and the gradual liberalization of Communist regimes.

Broadly speaking, there are three patterns of relationships (or systems or models) which are sufficiently within the realm of the possible and have enough advocates to be worth examining:

1. The Present Structure: The continuation of, essentially, the present relationships, i.e., basically a bipolar structure of power in which the USSR dominates Eastern Europe and the US is the preponderant military and political power in Western Europe; Western Europe is loosely organized economically and politically (although the Common Market has brought its six members partly along the road to economic union) and heavily dependent on the US militarily; Germany remains divided.

2. Enhanced Western Europe: A modified bipolar structure in which a more highly organized Western Europe becomes a significant, independent power complex still linked to the US in a defense treaty and relying, ultimately, on a US nuclear guarantee, but which has an increased defense capability of its own. Germany remains formally divided but the Western European complex consciously expands its trade and other relationships with the smaller Eastern European countries, including the GDR. In this situation, even though the Eastern European countries would doubtless remain linked in defense arrangements with the Soviet Union, they might become more independent in their domestic and foreign economic and social policies. (This pattern could evolve from pattern 1, above.)

3. Disengagement: A formal European military and political settlement involving the disengagement of American and Soviet forces from at least Central Europe.

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Comments on System 3. It might be desirable to look briefly at System 3.

The key to the European security problem is, obviously, Germany. In a system in which both the Soviet Union and the United States have withdrawn from Central Europe and no Western European framework had been developed, the Federal Republic would remain the dominant Western European power. It is inconceivable that the Soviet Union would agree to any arrangement that both weakened its control over Eastern Europe and left the Federal Republic strong and uncontrolled. For this reason most disengagement plans envisage a zone which would embrace both Germanies and some adjacent areas in which there would be no nuclear weapons and a thinning out of forces.

A disengagement plan which involved the effective erosion of US power in Western Europe with no corresponding development of Western European power would shift the power balance in Europe toward the Soviet Union and thus not be acceptable on security grounds to the US. Any disengagement plan which did not bear disproportionately on the Federal Republic would not be acceptable to the Soviet Union. Any plan which satisfied Soviet fears on this score would not be acceptable to the Federal Republic.

Thus, in effect, System 3 is not practical for the present, in part because of the conservatism of Soviet policy. Conceivably some thinning out in the center might be acceptable to both sides and negotiable if it were an adjunct of the basic defense posture described in 1, above. And a substantial disengagement of the super-powers could be conceivable over the long term as an adjunct of the development of the kind of Europe described in 2.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Present System

The present structure of European relationships is not static. It has encompassed considerable movement toward Western European cohesion and increased self-reliance and self-confidence. Without altering the essential preponderance of the US in European security affairs or in East-West negotiations, there could be further development of the Common Market, of intra-European military cooperation, of European ministerial conferences and of independent relations with Eastern Europe or the Soviet Union. Developments along these lines have already increased both the feeling and reality of special Western European ties independent of the United States. But in the important area of military affairs it has remained true that the United States Government delimits the major decisions which affect the Alliance.

The United States has not, however, been the only or even the most important factor in inhibiting greater cohesiveness among the Western Europeans. Rivalries (and jealousies) have been and remain important [Page 99] (for example, UK and Germany, France and the UK), the political will is at times uncertain (for example, the UK) or political instability can at times be of psychologically crippling proportions (France before de Gaulle, Italy) and the smaller powers can be as self-righteous, jealous and parochial as the larger. In some respects the United States has “held the ring” among potential contestants in NATO. Pending a situation in which the French, British and Germans are willing and able to work together, there will inevitably be very finite limits to what kind of a European unit can develop.

Advantages of the Present System

1. It has been stable and has preserved peace in Europe for more than 20 years.

2. It provides responsible management of the most vital sector of the military balance (the US nuclear deterrent).

3. It contributes to US strength on the world political and economic scene which gives us our presently preponderant role in such institutions as the IMF.

4. It has proven advantageous to American industry and at least in the short run to our commercial interests.

5. It avoids the problems in the management of our relations with the Soviet Union which would inevitably accompany the development of another effective center of power.

6. It discourages the development of a European nuclear force—with all its potentially destabilizing consequences.


1. Our preponderance of military, political and economic power is frequently a source of strain in our relations with our Allies.

2. It tends to freeze the status quo in Central Europe.

3. The present system is tending to erode as a result of changing generations, differing perception of the threat, social restiveness, etc.

Enhanced Western Europe

This structure of European relationships would differ from the present structure primarily by virtue of a materially and politically significant cohesive European entity which could and would assume a significant degree of responsibility. It presupposes the continuation of NATO and America’s nuclear protection to NATO. It does not depend upon a single relationship as centralized as a European federal government but upon a variety of intra-European economic, political and military arrangements. By definition, Western European action in political and security affairs would be more structured than today. However, since it is unlikely that Western Europe would exert equal weight [Page 100] to the US in elements of power—certainly not in nuclear deterrence—inevitably mutual interdependence would be strong with all which that implies with respect to such issues as East-West relations; in this area more or less harmonious policies as between Western Europe and the United States would prevail, if for no other reason than that the Soviet Union will view an Enhanced Western Europe with deep suspicion for some time at least.

Even were Western Europe to become appreciably more structured and independent, it is unlikely that the ties with the United States would disintegrate. These ties are strong and extensive: They are already present in a complex of economic, political and military interests (NATO, OECD, IMF, Group of Ten, investment, etc.). If the prospect of a redistribution of power within the Alliance should result in some reduction in the American presence, it is not clear that, at least in the early stages, either a European defense community or a European nuclear capability would result. In the early years at least the Western Europeans might be more likely to adapt themselves to whatever degree of protection and support the US was willing to provide rather than face the domestic unrest generated by more taxes for defense and longer terms of military service.

Since Western Europe would in all probability organize itself with US support and approval (our consistent policy), it would retain sufficiently close links with the US to make it unlikely that our security and economic interests in Western Europe would be adversely affected.


1. It will assist in the development of a mutually advantageous and stable relationship with the US.

2. It would offer the best solution to many of the dilemmas posed by the German problem.

3. In the last analysis, the Western European concept offers the best possibility of solution for certain of the longstanding social/cultural/ political problems of individual Western European countries (such as Italian social instability and need for modernization, Flemish-Walloon problem in Belgium).

4. If it is clear that Germany is not dominant, the Soviet Union might in time accommodate itself to this new situation which could lead to Soviet relaxation in Eastern Europe and hence possibly eventually open the road to mutual disengagement.


1. The new Western Europe would be considerably more difficult to deal with in the growing pains period.

2. In the short run, East-West tension would increase.

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3. A more independent Western Europe might pursue economic policies which conflicted with our own.

4. It increases the chances that Western Europe would become a more or less independent nuclear power.


Regardless of what kind of Europe we want, our views will not be controlling. We can affect the choices which the Europeans will make, but not determine them. To oppose the development of a structured Europe, if the Europeans decide they want to proceed in this direction, would not stunt the new Europe but would certainly poison our relations with it. But if we encourage the Europeans, we should be able appreciably to affect the way they see their relationship with us. The US record in this respect is good.

If we and the Soviet Union both continue to bolster the present system—they by force as in Czechoslovakia, we by persuasion (NATO Ministerials, etc.) we can probably maintain it through the next decade. As indicated above, there are strong reasons why we should try to step up the pace of evolution towards an Enhanced Western Europe, and shape our decisions to that end.

There are signs that processes are at work in Western European relations which are going in the direction of an Enhanced Western Europe.

But at all times we must remember that the view is different through the Soviet end of the telescope. The present structure has brought peace and progress and protected our interests. The pace at which it can evolve towards a more self-confident European structure cannot be entirely dependent upon us, or even upon the Western Europeans.

Part II—Issues of European Security

Many aspects of our relationships with Europe are now being examined in detail in response to various NSSMs. Our decisions on some of the problems addressed in these studies will be directly affected by our assessment of the advantages and disadvantages of the alternative concepts discussed in Part I.

This section comments briefly on three issues that the NSC will shortly consider in more detail: (a) East-West Negotiations on European Security; (b) Mutual and Balanced Force Reductions (MBFR); and (c) NATO Defense Strategy.

East-West Relations and European Security Proposals

1. The Central Issues Today. Most of the fundamental political and security problems in Europe which evolved from World War II remain [Page 102] unsettled: Soviet domination of Eastern Europe; the enforced division of Germany; the status of Berlin; certain border questions between Germany and its Eastern neighbors; and the confrontation of armies in Central Europe.

Although these issues are less marked by recurring crises than in the past, a mutually acceptable basis for resolving them has not yet emerged. The Soviets still seek to consolidate and obtain recognition, particularly US, of their substantial political and security gains from the Red Army’s westward thrust during World War II. We and our Allies, who contain further Soviet expansion and maintain the balance of strength, have sought an end to Soviet hegemony in Eastern Europe and to the bisection of the Continent.

However, in contrast with the immediate post-war period, the 1950s and the early 1960s, the contemporary Western approach to East-West negotiations has two new characteristics:

—A realization derived from experience that while major progress on the fundamental issues is not yet possible, agreements can be achieved on discrete, well-defined subjects (e.g., limited test ban, outer space, nonproliferation treaties); and

—the US and its Allies have fully committed themselves to an era of negotiations and to the quest for progress towards resolving the underlying political issues dividing Europe.

2. NATO Initiatives. Since the NATO Ministers in 1967 concurred in the “Report on the Future Tasks of the Alliance” (Harmel Report), which gave the Alliance a mandate “to pursue the search for progress towards a more stable relationship in which the underlying political issues can be solved,” NATO has become increasingly engaged in consultations relating to European security.

One of the sharpest indications of this trend has been the Allies’ interest since 1968 in mutual and balanced force reductions (discussed more fully below).

Additionally in response to the Warsaw Pact’s Appeal of Budapest in March 1969 for an ESC, the Ministers at their April meeting in Washington called upon NATO to prepare a list of specific subjects for possible negotiation with the Soviet Union and other countries of Eastern Europe. The Ministers believed that an ESC would have to be carefully prepared through prior progress on concrete issues.

The culmination of this study of issues was the NATO Ministerial Declaration of December, which reiterated the Allies’ interest in mutual and balanced force reductions and noted that the Alliance would give further study to other arms control measures which might accompany [Page 103] or follow these reductions.3 Expressing approval for the new German Government’s Eastern policies and the tripartite efforts on Berlin, the Ministers also stated that they would attach great weight to the responses from the East to these proposals “in evaluating the prospects for negotiations looking toward improved relations in Europe.” Moreover, they cited the Alliance’s interest in economic, technological and cultural exchanges, and in cooperation in the fields of environment and oceanography.

In addressing the question of procedures for negotiations, the Declaration stated that progress in bilateral and multilateral problems on some of the fundamental issues of European security would help to insure the success of any eventual European Security Conference.

3. Basic US Approach to East-West Negotiations. At this mid-point in East-West relations—in which we are moving away from confrontation but in which there is no clear path for the future—there are three basic approaches available to the US for negotiations, assuming that the US is not prepared to negotiate a settlement directly with the Soviets:

a. Maintain the territorial status quo in Europe, but not actively seek a resolution of the issues dividing Europe. This presumably would entail preservation of NATO’s defense shield, and at least tacit US acceptance of a Soviet preserve in Eastern Europe, and of the indefinite division of Germany, that conceivably eventually could be ratified in a treaty of the Locarno type.

b. Continue actively a leadership role in pursuit of a resolution of issues dividing Eastern and Western Europe, looking toward a comprehensive settlement along the lines of the Western Peace Plan (Herter Plan) of 1959.

c. Continue pragmatic efforts to make bilateral and multilateral progress on concrete issues where and when possible. This option—essentially the present US and Allied approach—is predicated on the assumption that the Soviets would refuse to deal meaningfully with the central issues, such as Berlin and Germany, but that in time a European settlement on terms acceptable to the West could be arranged. Under these circumstances, Western security interests might continue to be pursued through an approach entailing separate smaller steps: undertaking negotiations on specific issues bearing on reduction of tensions—even remotely—and dealing with central issues whenever and wherever there appears reasonable prospect of success.

Mutual East/West Force Reductions Balanced in Scope and Timing (MBFR)

Options: This issue, which is among topics covered in a response in preparation of NSSM 83, has immediate relevance to continuing allied [Page 104] efforts to find ground for negotiation with the Warsaw Pact countries on concrete issues of European security, and will again be before NATO Ministers for further decisions at the May 1970 Ministerial Meeting. The immediate choices are whether to:

a. Stalemate the current NATO study;

b. await the results of further study prior to taking a definitive decision; or

c. press forward toward an early Allied position to be negotiated with the Warsaw Pact countries.


a. Background: In December 1969, after similar action in November 1968 and April 1969, NATO Foreign Ministers reaffirmed the 1968 Reykjavik Declaration which called for NATO studies on MBFR in the context of “a substantial and significant step, which will serve to maintain the present degree of security at reduced cost, but should not be such as to risk destabilizing the situation in Europe.”4 At their December 1969 meeting, the Ministers also asked the Council in Permanent Session to report as soon as possible on the preparation of illustrative models for MBFR. These models, being developed by an open-ended, NATO political/military working group, are largely based on guidelines drawn up after about two years of study by NATO. The Permanent Council will consider the working group’s report by the end of April, prior to Ministerial consideration in May.

In this process, the Permanent Representatives in April and the Ministers in May will analyze the adequacy of the NATO guidelines upon which the models are based, as well as the feasibility, verifiability, advantages and disadvantages of the specific models prepared.

b. Political and Military Implications: The political and military implications of any specific MBFR proposal would of course vary with the terms of that particular proposal. Thus, final decisions on MBFR in any case should await the outcome of the NATO studies currently underway and due to end in April.

The main military risks involved are clearly discernible: NATO is already at something of a military disadvantage vis-à-vis the Warsaw Pact because of existing force deployments and because of geographical and corresponding reinforcement/redeployment asymmetries. It can be argued that equal percentage force cuts, particularly large percentage reductions, could place NATO in a proportionately weaker military position, particularly since US forces would have to be redeployed from the US. On the other hand, a verifiable agreement which [Page 105] restricted the re-entry of Soviet troops into Eastern Europe might have military compensations for NATO.

Some of the political advantages ascribed to MBFR are that mutually acceptable, verifiable reductions would constitute a meaningful step toward détente in Europe and their negotiation might reduce existing pressures for other, possibly more dangerous East-West détente initiatives.

Further, MBFR might complement the US-Soviet strategic arms talks and might serve to relieve pressures for unilateral force reductions in the US and other NATO countries. In the latter regard, there would clearly be both military and political disadvantages were unilateral cuts to occur and exacerbate the existing military asymmetries without any quid pro quo from the East.

We do not know the Soviet position with respect to MBFR, though they have indicated that it would not be a suitable subject for a European Security Conference. There has been no clear Soviet response to the NATO MBFR “signals” beyond an indication they would be considered. Further, the Soviets may well feel that reductions in the West are likely to occur without concessions on their part. On the other hand, the state of Sino-Soviet relations may at some point increase Soviet interest in reducing Soviet forces in Eastern Europe. Apart from any contribution MBFR might make toward codifying the territorial status quo in Europe, the Soviets might also see an advantage in making West German force levels and US nuclear capabilities in Western Europe the subject of East-West negotiations, which is potentially divisive within the Alliance.

c. Possible NATO MBFR Proposals: Subject to the outcome of NATO studies, the following are the basic elements of NATO’s proposals which might be put to the Warsaw Pact:

—The geographic area involved would be the FRG and Benelux countries vis-à-vis the GDR, Poland and Czechoslovakia.

—All indigenous and stationed (foreign) forces would be involved.

—Conventional, nuclear (delivery systems not warheads) and dual-capable forces would be reduced.

—Air forces may or may not be reduced. If reduced, the reductions would probably be in smaller proportions than ground forces.

MBFR plans based on symmetrical reductions could be on the order of a minimum of 10% or a maximum of about 30%, and effected in step-by-step increments within these limits.

—An agreed limitation on forces at their present levels might be considered as a first step, but only if part of a reduction agreement.

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—Verification would need to be adequate both to insure confidence in compliance with the agreement, and to provide evidence of violations to be used to confront the violator.

The NATO Working Group will also develop MBFR plans based on asymmetrical reductions, primarily as a way to compensate for the Soviets’ ground force and geographic advantage. The criteria for asymmetrical reductions have not yet been defined, but could include, say, 10% reductions on the NATO side but correspondingly greater reductions in Warsaw Pact forces.

As directed in the Reykjavik Declaration and in subsequent Ministerial decisions, it will be the task of the NATO political/military MBFR Working Group, and of the NATO Governments themselves in formulating Alliance policy on MBFR, to weight the above factors and if possible to find a compatible “mix” meeting NATO’s military and political requirements.

NATO Defense Strategy

Introduction: In NSDM 275 a decision was reached for planning purposes that the strategy for our NATO forces should be one of “initial defense.” This approximates the previous Administration’s stated strategy and is consistent with agreed doctrine adopted by NATO. It assumes that within a period of 90 days after an attack on NATO, the requirements for additional conventional defense forces will fall off because (a) diplomatic settlement will be reached, or (b) the Soviets will reach the limit of their conventional capability, or (c) the fighting will escalate to nuclear warfare. In support of this strategy, existing forces in Europe would be maintained at least for the time being.

In the near term, at least, there are no realistic alternatives to this approach. It is unlikely that we would be able to convince the Europeans of the need for a major reassessment of strategy or obtain much larger commitments of European resources. At the same time, an abrupt and sizeable withdrawal of US combat troops would provoke a considerable crisis of confidence in the Alliance, particularly if there were no evident strategic rationale for it.

Current NATO strategy (elaborated in NATO Document MC 14/36) is described as a strategy of “flexible response,” a characterization which satisfies the security needs of the various NATO members but without necessarily conveying the same meaning to each of them. There is probably a general understanding that a Soviet attack on Western Europe would not be countered with an immediate US strategic nuclear attack on the Soviet Union. On the other hand, there is no agree[Page 107]ment that a major Soviet attack could be or should be repulsed with conventional forces alone. The most that Europeans are prepared to accept is that NATO strategy should provide for a conventional response to limited aggression. Beyond this, there is no common view of what response NATO should make to Soviet aggression. The opinion in fact is that the Soviet Union should be kept in some doubt as to what kind of response NATO might deem appropriate to the occasion.

The experience of NATO strategic debates is that the strategic concerns of the United States and of Western Europe are not identical and that neither side can wholly persuade the other of the rightness of its own strategic outlook. Thus NATO strategy tends to be the product of compromise between the United States and its European Allies. This is likely to persist and the effect, for reasons explained below, will probably be that:

NATO strategy will be more oriented to deterrence through the threat of escalation than to developing a superior war-fighting capability.

—It should nevertheless be possible to incorporate a broad band of options in agreed NATO strategy if these can be viewed as links in a chain of escalation.

NATO strategy will probably be ambiguous on several key points, particularly on conditions justifying the use of various types of nuclear weapons.

—There will almost certainly be several national views about what declared strategy means, to say nothing about what the actual strategic performance might be in the event of war.

Issue: The underlying issue is whether we can and should maintain the current strategy and force levels.


1. We could decide to maintain the status quo for several years (beyond July 1971), using the time for negotiating and implementing a new balance of responsibilities with the Europeans.

2. We could begin planning for reductions:

a. Based on an examination of alternative strategies for planning war-fighting capabilities (e.g., against smaller threats for periods of less than 90 days) or new strategies of deterrence; for example, shifting toward more efficient and earlier resort to tactical nuclear weapons; or

b. Based on maintenance of present strategic planning concepts, but openly accepting higher risks and relying more on mobilization, or on reserves, and on the mobility of dual purpose forces.

3. We could plan on reductions with the aim of creating a new distribution of responsibilities and burdens; this could entail deferring any reductions depending on negotiations with the Allies.

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Pertinent NSSMs7

NSSM 60—United States Policy Toward Post-De Gaulle France

NSSM 65—Relationships Among Strategic and Theater Forces for NATO

NSSM 79—U.K. Accession to the European Community

NSSM 83—U.S. Approach to Current Issues of European Security

NSSM 84—U.S. Strategies and Forces for NATO

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–109, NSC Meeting Minutes, NSC Minutes Originals 1970. Secret. Sent under cover of a January 26, 1970, memorandum from Kissinger to the Vice President, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, and the Director, Office of Emergency Preparedness. Copies were sent to the Attorney General, the Under Secretary of State, the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Director of Central Intelligence. In the cover memorandum, Kissinger stated the paper reflected the discussion of an earlier draft of this paper at the January 23 Review Group meeting. The Review Group decided at its meeting that Part I of the draft paper should be revised; that a few key issues from Part II, especially European security, NATO defense, and balanced force reductions, should be selected for NSC discussion; that a revised paper should be distributed to NSC principals; and that a NSSM should be drafted for a study of Germany. (Ibid., Box H–111, Senior Review Group, SRG Minutes Originals 1970)
  2. See National Intelligence Estimate 20–1–69, “Europe, the US, and the USSR,” December 4, 1969. [Footnote is in the original. See Document 27.]
  3. See Document 26.
  4. See footnote 6, Document 1.
  5. See footnote 2, Document 25.
  6. Dated January 16, 1968. ( NATO Strategy Documents, 1949–1969, pp. 345–370)
  7. Documents 130, 20, 318, 24, and 25, respectively.