35. Memorandum From the Under Secretary of State (Richardson) to President Nixon1


  • Courses of Action Regarding NATO Strategy and Forces


That you approve the course of action indicated below for Allied review of the military strategy and posture of the North Atlantic Alliance.2


In response to Mr. Kissinger’s March 19 memorandum,3 there follows a recommended comprehensive schedule for bringing the NATO Strategy Review to fruition by December 1970, or possibly mid-1971, together with our suggestions regarding NATO mechanisms and procedures to be employed, key US decisions required, and how we might encourage French participation to the fullest extent possible.

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Completion of the NATO Strategy Review could have three, or possibly four phases, depending upon the outcome of NSSM-84 and upon whether we and our Allies prefer to examine how best to implement the existing NATO “flexible response” strategy, rather than to consider alternative basic strategies.

The British and others have proposed that the Review be limited to the more narrow focus which would permit it to be completed by the end of this year. Consideration of a broader range of options would extend the Review.

Phase I: From Now until May 1970.

This phase would involve:

(a) preparation at NATO Permanent Representative level of terms of reference and suggested procedures and timing of Study,

(b) presentation of Permanent Representative report for decision by NATO Foreign Ministers at the May 26 North Atlantic Council (NAC) Meeting and by the June 11 Defense Planning Committee (DPC) Meeting of Defense Ministers. It is not yet certain but preliminary indications suggest that a majority of the Allies may prefer terms of reference which call for an examination of better ways to implement the existing NATO strategy, but do not question the basic validity of this strategy.

Phase II: From June to September 1970.

Gathering by NATO political and military authorities of basic data necessary for analysis and for addressing specific strategy, force posture and burden-sharing questions. This would include an assessment of the threat, Allied force contributions, and the relative defense burdens as among Allies.

Phase III: September to December 1970.

Conduct the Study, with decisions by Ministerial Meeting of Foreign and Defense Ministers in December. If the Study deals primarily with better implementation of existing strategy, it should be far enough along by this fall that we might foresee its outcome. We could use even preliminary indications for our own planning purposes in connection with the FY 1972 budget preparation. As a minimum, we require an agreed interim NATO report, which would provide meaningful data useful in budget planning for FY 1972, to be issued in December 1970.

Possible Phase IV: December 1970 to June 1971.

The depth and range of the Study could lead to a Ministerial decision in December that the NATO PermReps should continue certain aspects of the Study after December and make final recommendations to Ministers in June 1971. We should allow for this possibility in order to [Page 124] facilitate full and meaningful consultations. Particularly if the French, who question current strategy, participate actively, it may be necessary to allow more time for a full examination of alternative NATO strategies. It will remain necessary, for budget purposes, to have an interim NATO report in December 1970.


We recommend the following organizational framework in NATO.

An open-ended “Special Committee” should be established at Council level, to be chaired by the Secretary General and to include PermReps and the NATO Military Authorities.

Assuming the Review involves an examination of the premises and execution of the existing flexible response strategy, the Special Committee should make its final report to the NAC in Ministerial Session in December 1970, with perhaps an initial report to a session of Deputy Foreign Ministers in late October or early November. The Special Committee would use all NATO’s resources—its Political Committee, Economic Committee, and Military Committee, as appropriate. Because of the important role of the Nuclear Planning Group (NPG), whose membership includes defense ministers of the key NATO countries, the Special Committee should also invite the NPG to comment on its work from the nuclear aspect.

The Special Committee’s report would address the President’s suggestion, which has met with widespread approval within the Alliance, for a thorough study of the premises on which current NATO strategy for the defense of Western Europe is based.

US Participation

Overall, we should seek a thorough examination of the various strategy issues and a full and candid exchange of views with our Allies. Our objective is to have the Review completed by December 1970. As suggested above, we believe this should be possible if the Review is conducted within the context of the flexible response concept. We should, however, allow for a full Allied expression of views, and should not seem to press for quick judgments. This is obviously a very fundamental Review and support for it will come more easily if the pace is orderly and permitting of full discussion. Our own position should be determined by NSC decisions on NSSM–84,4 on which we would hope to receive initial guidance by mid-June 1970.

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French Participation

We would encourage full French participation. Preliminary indications are that France will wish to be associated with the Review. Secretary General Brosio’s suggested procedure for conducting the Review (which is compatible with our own suggestions) has been initially discussed in favorable terms by all PermReps, including the French. The matter of French participation would be kept under review and we should bear in mind the possible desirability at a later date of a high-level US approach to the French.

We would seek a tacit assumption of French participation by having the Special Committee report to the Ministerial NAC. Although the French do not now participate in the NPG, we would hope they might wish to establish some relationship with the Group at its November 1970 meeting when we envision NPG discussion of the nuclear aspects of the Special Committee’s report.

We should be prepared, however, for any future French decision to disassociate themselves from the Review. In such a case, the Special Committee’s report could be submitted to the Ministerial DPC (the fourteen Allies involved in the integrated military command).

In the event the French decide not to participate in the Special Committee, we should propose to NATO that (a) the French be given full access to the data developed by the Study and that (b) their views be solicited.

Scenario for Strategy Review and US Participation

(Note: Dates on which key US decisions will be required are underlined.)5

April Preparation by PermReps of terms of reference.
April 30 Due date for submission of NSSM–84 to the NSC.
Mid-May Preliminary NSC Meeting on NSSM–84 to provide background for May Ministerial.
May 26 NAC Ministerial Meeting in Rome, probable approval of Terms of Reference for Strategy Review.
June 11 DPC Ministerial Meeting.
Mid-June NSC considers NSSM–84 Study. President provides initial guidance to US officials for Strategy Review.
Late June US begins active participation in NATO Review on the basis of Presidential guidance.
July 31 US submits Reply to 1970 NATO Defense Planning Questionnaire (DPQ 1970) covering calendar years [Page 126] 1971–1975 with an assumption for planning purposes that US force contributions will remain essentially unchanged but with the clear understanding that NSSM–84 and NATO Strategy Review decisions could affect contributions.
September US force decisions for FY 1972–76 made by SecDef in light of final decisions on NSSM–84.
October Preparation of a NATO preliminary report on strategy.
Late October or Early November Possible Deputy FonMin meeting to assess progress and problems of Strategy Review.
November Submission of preliminary report to NPG Ministerial Meeting with which France is encouraged to be associated to some degree.
December Ministerial US undertakes firm force commitments for calendar year 1971. Ministers receive report of Special Committee and take final decisions or issue guidance regarding future course for Strategy Review.
December Final decisions on US FY 1972 budget.
January 1971 Publication of FY 1972 budget.
January–May Possible continuation of NATO Strategy Review.
Mid-1971 Ministerial Meetings and possible NATO decisions on strategy.
July 1971 DPQ 1971 submission for 1972–76.
October and November 1971 Consultations with Allies concerning force plans, 1972–76.

Relation to the US Budget Process

The proposed timetable is predicated on full consultation with our Allies prior to any major change in US forces committed to NATO. However, major decisions on the US budget for FY 1972 will be made in the fall of 1970 while the Strategy Review is still in progress.

While FY 1972 force programs are still being formulated, it now appears that the projected changes in the Army and Air Force will not require changes in NATO-committed forces. However, prospective reductions in naval forces are very likely to affect NATO-committed units even in FY 1971.

If such reductions (a) are significant, (b) affect category A commitments and (c) affect our forces in the Mediterranean, we are likely to be [Page 127] faced with a political problem, especially coming in the midst of a review of basic strategy.

Elliot L. Richardson6
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Executive Secretariat, Decision Memorandums of the National Security Council Undersecretaries Committee, 1969–1977, Lot 83D276, NSC–U/DM 33. Secret. Drafted by Smith on April 10 and cleared by Goodby, McGuire, and Springsteen.
  2. Kissinger informed Richardson on April 17 that the recommendation was approved, but stated that “final agreement with the Allies on schedule, procedure, and terms of reference” was “subject to Presidential approval.” (Ibid.)
  3. In his March 19 memorandum to Richardson, Kissinger informed the Under Secretaries Committee that the President directed the Committee to prepare “a comprehensive schedule of actions” for a review of military strategy and posture of the North Atlantic Alliance and to report by April 3. (Ibid.)
  4. Document 25.
  5. Printed here in italics.
  6. Richardson initialed above his typed signature.