49. Minutes of a National Security Council Meeting1


  • President Nixon
  • Vice President Agnew
  • William P. Rogers, Secretary of State
  • Melvin Laird, Secretary of Defense
  • George A. Lincoln, Director, Office of Emergency Preparedness
  • David M. Kennedy, Secretary of the Treasury
  • Adm. Thomas H. Moorer, Chairman, JCS
  • George Shultz, Director, OMB
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • John N. Irwin, Under Secretary of State
  • Lt. Gen. Robert E. Cushman, Deputy Director of Central Intelligence
  • Martin J. Hillenbrand, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs
  • Robert E. Ellsworth, U.S. Ambassador to NATO
  • Kenneth Rush, U.S. Ambassador to the Federal Republic of Germany
  • Gen. Alexander M. Haig, Jr., Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Col. Richard T. Kennedy (USA, Ret.), NSC Staff
  • Helmut Sonnenfeldt, NSC Staff


  • Meeting of the National Security Council: Berlin and Germany (NSSM 83)2

[Omitted here is discussion of Berlin and Ostpolitik; see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XL, Germany and Berlin, 1969–1972, Document 126.]

President Nixon: A related issue is the offset problem. Let me state a few basic propositions to start with. There is growing sentiment here to reduce our defense costs and to reduce our commitment in terms of men. In terms of the European situation there are different views. The majority view is that the Europeans deep down still believe that the key to successful defense in the NPG strategy is the U.S. presence—which more than anything they can do for their own forces guarantees the deterrent. Also the bigger our presence, the more likely we are to be willing to use the deterrent. Some European countries would be willing to give money to us rather than devote it to improving their own forces. On our side, we need to work on the German offset to get the best pos[Page 196]sible deal we can, but for the long haul for us to get into the position that we can’t finance our forces abroad and can stay only if Europeans will pay this would be bad. We have to look at a new NATO strategy. The need for maintaining adequate conventional forces may be infinitely greater than ten years ago.

Secretary Laird: The Germans are not very responsive now.

President Nixon: We must not be shortsighted. We must not show that our primary interest is in cost covering but rather in the mutual responsibility to ensure our defense.

Secretary Rogers: If we start reducing forces unilaterally it will play into the hands of those who support Ostpolitik. A troop withdrawal will cut our leverage.

President Nixon: We are at a sensitive point. With all our budget decisions and political actions we have to be careful that we do not imply that reductions will be made.

Amb. Rush: Chancellor Brandt considers that your statement, Mr. President, that you will maintain American forces in Europe, was essential from his point of view.

Secretary Laird: We must face up to the question of our ability to implement it. Our dealings on defense issues are with committees other than Foreign Relations. The situation in Europe now is that the other countries are just not cooperating in improving their forces. They haven’t done what they needed to do to have the Alliance move to a new strategy. Their forces are going down. I have to take a tough line on the burden sharing mix. Germany isn’t going forward to improve their forces. We are paying for aircraft shelters, which should be covered by the infrastructure account. Here is an example of what they can do to be helpful. I have to take some of the additional $1 billion ’71 cut from NATO forces—I can’t take any from Southeast Asia. We must avoid tying ourselves down to numbers of planes, ships or personnel. The appropriations committees took a hard look this year at the costs in Europe and the contributions of the others. I must take a tough line.

President Nixon: If we look down road it is not a viable strategy for them to reduce their forces and pay for ours.

Secretary Kennedy: There are no real inconsistencies there. We can get more help from them in terms of support for our operations. The Congressional pressures are tough. Offset is no good; it costs us money.

Secretary Laird: I think we should wait for them to come up with a plan; it’s not for us to make a plan.

Secretary Rogers: But the Germans are confused.

Secretary Laird: There is no new policy.

Amb. Rush: The Germans do think there is a change. I agree with the Secretary of Defense that we should get them to pick up a fair share [Page 197] of the costs. We make about $500 million in payments to German personnel; we should press them to pay for this. Schmidt says that no government in Europe could get an increase in the defense budget through its parliament.

Secretary Kissinger: In the broad sense of burden sharing—this is no change in policy—the question is whether they should pay for our non-military costs or whether they should put more in their own defense expenditures. All the studies I see show there are serious maldeployments; they’ve been taking a free ride on our forces. They won’t face up to the issue. If the European effort goes down and we just sit there, our strategy is unviable. We must face up to it now.

Secretary Kennedy: Do they come up if we stay?

Dr. Kissinger: They must and they must accept our view of burden sharing.

Secretary Laird: They must be made to understand it’s not a new policy. They think they are off the hook.

Amb. Ellsworth: They may feel they are slightly off the hook. The Italians and Dutch may have in mind each step. We must clarify this.

Admiral Moorer: They are living in a dream world about our nuclear support. They believe there will be an immediate shift to nuclear weapons in any war and thus conventional forces are unnecessary.

President Nixon: The easy way for them is to let them give us the money and we keep our forces there. I’m concerned that we should get all we can, but the most important thing is that our strategy has to be made viable, and that means they need more forces. We must change their thinking. We must avoid getting in the position of saying that if they contribute we won’t reduce our forces—that means we accept their strategy. We cannot accept that proposition. This lets them deal easily with their own domestic problems.

Secretary Laird: The problem is that their forces are going down.

[The meeting adjourned at 11:15.]3

  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. The meeting was held in the White House Cabinet Room.
  2. For NSSM 83, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXXIX, European Security, Document 12.
  3. Brackets are in the original.