41. Telegram From the Embassy in Germany to the Department of State1

6764. Subject: Secretary Laird’s Talk With FRG Defense Minister Helmut Schmidt.

1. Secretary Laird, accompanied by Ambassador Rush called on FRG DefMin Schmidt on June 12. Schmidt said the US–FRG military offset agreement could not be continued in its present form after the existing agreement expires. Military procurement will not provide much possibility in the future for fulfilling the offset requirement since the Germans have all the basic military equipment they need. Schmidt therefore had proposed to the European Defense Ministers a new type of multilateral contribution from European NATO countries to assist the US in meeting its defense burdens in Europe. Schmidt did not de[Page 158]fine further what he had in mind, other than to say that it would be a fund to meet certain “infrastructure” costs of US forces in Europe (presumably by “infrastructure” Schmidt means operating costs). Schmidt said only the Greeks and Turks had demurred: the others seemed favorably disposed. The Greeks and Turks had wondered whether such a proposal would really appeal to the US and whether there would be concern about “European bloc” developing in NATO. Schmidt said that the other European Defense Ministers did not share these concerns, although he himself wondered how the Canadians would react to the idea. Schmidt hoped to get something concrete developed as soon as possible. He added that any German Government payment into the multilateral burden-sharing would have to come out of his own defense budget and that it would not apply until 1971. Secretary Laird and Ambassador Rush both welcomed Schmidt’s initiative in this matter.

2. Schmidt made a strong plea for maintaining a substantial US troop presence in Europe. He predicted that, if the US cuts its troop level, Germany and other European countries would inevitably begin to accommodate with the East. Schmidt added that, if anything is cut, it should be the long logistics tail. Secretary Laird indicated that he was fully conscious of the seriousness of the US troop presence problem.

3. On the military draft, Schmidt said that new legislation would be introduced by Easter 1971. It would reduce the length of Bundeswehr service from 18 to 15 months, although it would also have the desirable effect of drafting 80 percent of German youth instead of the present 60 percent. Unless he did this, Schmidt said, the draft would be eliminated entirely within a few years because discontent in the Bundestag over the draft is great and increasing. Schmidt said he was, in effect, saving the draft by this measure. Schmidt referred to draft reform proposals in the US, with discussion about a draftless professional army. Schmidt hoped that this kind of discussion could be muted as much as possible because it made it more difficult for the European governments to continue their efforts to preserve the draft system.

4. One specific subject also came up. German Air Force Chief General Steinhoff, who was also present, said that the Luftwaffe wants to create a special force of reserve officers for flying transport aircraft. He requested a briefing on this subject, which Secretary Laird said we would be glad to arrange.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 683, Country Files—Europe, Germany, Vol. V. Confidential. Repeated to the Missions to NATO and Berlin, USAREUR, USAFE, USEUCOM, and Ankara, Athens, Brussels, Copenhagen, The Hague, Lisbon, London, Luxembourg, Ottawa, Reykjavik, and Rome.