61. Minutes of a Verification Panel Meeting1


  • MBFR


  • Chairman—Henry A. Kissinger
  • State
  • George Springsteen
  • James E. Goodby
  • Ronald L. Spiers
  • Seymour Weiss
  • Defense
  • G. Warren Nutter
  • Robert Pranger
  • J.W. Morrison
  • CIA
  • Richard Helms
  • Bruce Clarke
  • JCS
  • LTG Richard T. Knowles
  • M/Gen. Marvin C. Demler
  • ACDA
  • Philip J. Farley
  • Thomas Hirschfeld
  • OST
  • Dr. Edward David
  • NSC Staff
  • Dr. K. Wayne Smith
  • J. Andrew Hamilton, Jr.
  • William Hyland
  • Wilfrid L. Kohl
  • John Negroponte
  • Jeanne W. Davis


It was agreed that:

—The Working Group would make a new analysis of the comparative impact of reductions assuming a lag of 7 days in NATO mobilization.

—The Working Group will try to answer some of the questions raised in this meeting in terms of some specific options: e.g., two types of symmetrical reductions; two types of asymmetrical reductions, including common ceilings; and one or two mixed packages. These options should include the collateral restraints that would be required to overcome disadvantages to the NATO forces. They should also include consideration of our nuclear weapons.

[Page 259]

—The Working Group will prepare a sanitized version of the current IG paper for transmission to the North Atlantic Council.2

Mr. Kissinger: I have gone over this paper in detail but I don’t think it is particularly useful to discuss the subject in terms of a political vs. a military approach. Would we say that a political approach makes no sense but might be cosmetically useful? I would rather we look at the various approaches, with their advantages and disadvantages, and make a judgment. I see three different approaches: symmetrical, asymmetrical, and mixed packages. I suggest we discuss these in terms of various criteria rather than discuss theology. This way we can focus the discussion on the substantive merits of each approach. Is this a fair method of proceeding?

All agreed.

Mr. Kissinger: Having read the paper, I have come to the conclusion that none of the approaches are any good. Let’s look at the symmetrical approach first. The paper indicates that a symmetrical reduction of, say, ten percent is not likely to affect the situation on M-day but it will on M plus 21. The situation will begin to reverse itself again at M plus 30. We had understood that we were in trouble in any event on M plus 21. How much worse off will we be with a ten percent reduction? Will we be worse off by the amount of Americans that have been withdrawn under a ten percent reduction?

Mr. Hamilton: This would depend to some extent on the disposition of the Belgian and the Dutch forces that were reduced. We would be withdrawing approximately 17,000 Americans.

Mr. Kissinger: That is two to four percent.

Mr. Farley: It is interesting that that is the percentage of the margin of error in the calculations.

Mr. Kissinger: What conclusions do we draw from that?

Mr. Farley: Given the uncertainties as to what would happen in mobilization on either side, a two to four percent difference is not very great.

Mr. Kissinger: On M-day the paper makes the assumption that we would be no worse off and possibly even slightly better off. However, the military has explained that we would be worse off with a symmetrical reduction because the defenders would have fewer troops spread over the same front while the enemy could concentrate its forces in selected parts of the front and leave others uncovered. (to General Knowles) Why have you changed your mind?

Gen. Knowles: We haven’t.

[Page 260]

Mr. Kissinger: Then do you agree with the judgment that on M-day the ten percent reduction would not change the situation or would slightly improve it?

Gen. Knowles: It certainly won’t improve it.

Mr. Spiers: It may not improve it but it would be less detrimental to NATO.

Mr. Kissinger: Let’s say it is equally detrimental to NATO. What has happened to the argument that symmetrical reductions will result in spreading a smaller force across the same front but does not affect the ability of the attacker to concentrate his forces?

Mr. Hamilton: Our analyses lead us to the conclusion that the defense would be too thin but that the Warsaw Pact and NATO forces would be relatively balanced except along the main avenues of attack. The effect would probably be greater in the ability of the NATO forces, after MBFR, to get into position against a Warsaw Pact attack. It is a fluid problem.

Mr. Kissinger: It is just as fluid with 18 divisions as with 20 divisions.

Mr. Hamilton: If each side has 20 divisions and reduces by two, there is no additional advantage to the attacker.

Mr. Kissinger: Unless one argues that the defenders would have to cover the same area while the attacker could concentrate his forces.

Mr. Hamilton: The question is whether this would change materially after MBFR. We haven’t tested this point adequately.

Gen. Knowles: Our quarrel is not with the mathematics but with the impact.

Mr. Kissinger: Are we improving the situation, keeping it the same, or worsening it? If the latter is true militarily, are there political gains that are worth it?

Gen. Knowles: We would be worsening the situation.

Mr. Kissinger: Where would we on M-day?

Mr. Hyland: Table III-4 (page III-14) has a comparison of the forces after a ten percent cut.

Mr. Kissinger: Will someone translate this table for me?

Mr. Hyland: The table compares the ratio of Pact and NATO forces after reductions. It shows some improvement for NATO in both of the cases of a weighted attack; in the North German plain and the Hessian corridor.

Mr. Kissinger: So we would be actually improving the situation.

Mr. Hyland: Slightly.

Mr. Kissinger: This proves only that if we are right, we won’t be run over on M-day. But we would be starting on M plus 7, since we are assuming a 7-day lag in our mobilization.

[Page 261]

Mr. Hamilton: We could make the same analysis on the basis of M plus 7.

Mr. Kissinger: That should be done. The paper assumes a lag of 7 days in our mobilization. I think that is generous.

Mr. Hamilton: The real difference would come in the situation at M plus 21.

Mr. Kissinger: M plus 21 for the Pact is M plus 14 for us.

Dr. Smith: All the tables are based on simultaneous mobilization. We can do the analysis with a 7-day lag.

Mr. Kissinger: Let’s do it. On M plus 21 the assumption is that the other side will have gained by the number of American troops that had been withdrawn under a symmetrical reduction. This is based on the fact that they can return their withdrawn troops by that time and we cannot. Even without that, we would be in bad shape on M plus 21. If we are decisively behind on M plus 21, can four percent make the difference between success and failure? Can we do some analysis on that? It isn’t enough to show that we would be suffering unless we can demonstrate whether or not it makes this difference.

Gen. Knowles: Of course, this has all been done on a static basis. In that case, four percent does not make too much difference. However, in a dynamic context in which we were holding on by the skin of our teeth, it could make a difference.

Mr. Kissinger: I remember NSSM 84 which indicated we would be in bad shape anyway on M plus 21. Would we still be holding on or would we be defeated by that time? (to Wayne Smith) Your analysis never got us from M plus 14 to M plus 30.

Dr. Smith: There was a small period in which we would have serious problems, so we decided not to assess war outcome during that period. We would be in a very difficult situation.

Mr. Kissinger: Would four percent push us over the brink?

Dr. Smith: We don’t know—it certainly won’t help. We had originally thought that small symmetrical reductions would not have that much impact, but our analysis shows us differently—not on M-day but on M plus 21.

Mr. Kissinger: What about asymmetrical reductions—ten percent for NATO and 30 percent for the Pact, for instance. Would we be in the same position on M plus 21?

Gen. Knowles: Unless the Pact had disbanded the troops that they had withdrawn.

Mr. Kissinger: Unless one argues that at M plus 21 we would already be in a hopeless position beyond the possibility of fixing, if our M plus 21 situation might be decisively affected by a four percent shortfall, we would have to build into any symmetrical cuts sufficient collat[Page 262]eral restraints to overcome our M plus 21 disadvantage, or discard this idea. Is that a fair statement?

Dr. David: Is the four percent figure meaningful in terms of the analysis? The margin of error may be four percent.

Dr. Smith: It is proportionate, whatever the margin of error.

Mr. Kissinger: If the margin of error is four percent and we fail by four percent, we could argue that we are not that badly off. It could be covered by the margin of error. But the margin of error could work the other side, too; it might be eight percent.

Gen. Knowles: We are talking about a breaking point. We would have some very dark days from M plus 10 on. We could trade space for time for a while but by then we would be running out of space. We would have a helluva time getting reinforcements between M plus 14 and plus 45. We would be beginning to hang on and, if everything went right during that period, we would be O.K. But in order to do that, we have been trying to get all of the improvements we can in the forces of our allies. If we are now talking about going in the other direction, we would be going below the breaking point.

Dr. David: If our analysis should find a big difference, we would not go into reductions without collateral restraints, but four percent is not that meaningful.

Mr. Kissinger: We know that we could not get our forces back in time and they could. There is no margin of error there. The margin of error is that our intelligence cannot get closer than X percentage of their capability. There is no challenge to the idea that they could get back ten percent of their forces in 21 days if these forces were stationed in Western Russia. That is not in the margin of error. The margin of error pertains to the ability of our intelligence to identify what units are where.

Gen. Knowles: Right. We can’t forecast within four percent what we can do.

Mr. Kissinger: Also, we don’t know what the collateral restraints should be, although there is a list of possible restraints in the paper. (to Wayne Smith) I suggest we put together an option for a symmetrical reduction, putting down the precise collateral restraints which would be needed to overcome our problem, if indeed the problem can be dealt with by collateral restraints.

We might consider various symmetrical packages: say, ten percent and 25 percent and 30 percent. Let’s do two of those.

Gen. Knowles: Let’s do ten percent and 30 percent.

Mr. Kissinger: O.K. Can we now consider asymmetrical reductions. Do we have any models?

[Page 263]

Dr. Smith: We know that without collateral restraints we would be in the same position at M plus 21 with ten percent NATO reductions and 30 percent Pact reductions as we are with symmetrical reductions. When we develop some collateral restraints we might be better off at M plus 16. We have some restraints in mind and we think some of them have a chance of success. These are included in the table at III–7 (page III-21).

Mr. Kissinger: What about other types of asymmetrical reductions? A common ceiling, for example, on total forces.

Mr. Spiers: We think that is a good one to look at in some detail.

Mr. Hamilton: Under a common ceiling, NATO would not reduce at all so there would be no mobilization or reinforcement disadvantage. If the Soviets took half of their forces back to the Soviet Union, it is hard to believe that they could still get back, plus the necessary reinforcements, in time.

Mr. Kissinger: Let’s do some asymmetrical packages. Could we look at some mixed packages now. I like the one that has us trading 83 F–4s for 1400 Pact tanks. I think the President would like that. We should have a table showing the impact of various packages on various situations along the mobilization spectrum and the means available to fix our shortcomings, if it is possible to fix them. Also, we need a more precise definition of how to count each unit. How do we count our 4,000 reserve tanks in Europe, for example? Do we not count our reserve equipment? Do we count on active forces? This would give us 4,000 tanks free.

Gen. Knowles: No, we would pick them up in our reinforcement capability. We would also have a sustaining capability.

Mr. Hamilton: We think all the Pact tanks are in active units.

Mr. Kissinger: In working out some mixed packages, let’s get some that are more realistic than 83 F–4s for 1400 tanks. That is a reinforcement time of two days vs. two weeks.

Gen. Knowles: We should also do some more work on building blocks. We should design a building block for us which would include our reinforcement and sustaining capability. Then we should do the same thing for their side. This would show us our equivalent capability on M-day, M plus 21, etc.

Mr. Kissinger: I haven’t seen any particular mixed package that fits the concept of what we are trying to do. We are trying not to give a mobilization advantage to either side; to see if we can reduce without affecting either side at any time. Also, we have done nothing with our nuclear weapons. They may be our greatest superiority and we have no clear doctrine as to what to do with them. Let’s try to grind them into the equation.

[Page 264]

This is a first class paper—extraordinarily illuminating. But there are light-years between our understanding of this problem and that of our NATO allies. I am afraid they will be grinding out position papers without any analytical framework. How and at what point should we get them into this thing? In SALT, we gave them a detailed rundown at an early stage of our evaluation. Can we at least give them our method of analysis and the types of questions we have been asking ourselves?

Mr. Springsteen: Yes, that would be very helpful.

Mr. Spiers: We should give them more if we can.

Mr. Farley: And in fairly concrete terms.

Mr. Spiers: We have given them a sanitized version of the response to NSSM 92.

Dr. Smith: We gave them only Part II without the numbers.

Gen. Knowles: They are still struggling to understand that. We could give some material to [General]3 Milton.

Mr. Kissinger: Who is Milton?

Mr. Springsteen: He is our man who works on MBFR on the NATO staff.

Mr. Kissinger: How did we handle SALT?

Mr. Farley: We made a presentation directly to the Council.

Mr. Kissinger: Why not do this the same way?

Mr. Springsteen: It would be greatly appreciated.

Mr. Kissinger: We could make a presentation to the Council and give more detailed information to Milton. This would also give them some confidence that we are not selling them out to the Soviets.

Mr. Springsteen: It will also prevent them from going off on their own in the wrong direction.

Mr. Kissinger: Who should do this?

Mr. Spiers: We did a sanitized version of the NSSM 92 paper and circulated it within the working group.

Mr. Kissinger: Let’s try it with this paper in the working group, and try to get it within the next few weeks. This is a damned good paper; all our refinements are growing directly out of it.

If I may sum up, we will try to answer some of the questions we have been asking today in terms of specific options: say, two symmetrical, two asymmetrical, and one or two mixed packages. We should include the political factors and try to grind in our nuclear weapons, particularly in the mixed packages.

[Page 265]

Mr. Spiers: We might also start looking at phasing in terms of how it might impact on the approaches.

Mr. Kissinger: You mean phasing in the negotiations?

Mr. Spiers: Whether we might do something before we get to reductions. We might start with a freeze, for example.

Mr. Farley: That would be an easy first step.

Mr. Kissinger: Let’s make it one of the options.

Mr. Springsteen: It’s already part of the German proposal.

Mr. Kissinger: We went through the same thing in SALT.

Mr. Farley: We might also look at the collateral restraints in terms of what concept each is based on. We may need sooner rather than later to get criteria for collateral restraints that are generally desirable. This might accompany our looking at the options.

Mr. Kissinger: All right. And we will also prepare soon a sanitized version of the paper for use with NATO. I have learned a helluva lot today. I think we are proceeding in a fruitful way.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–107, Verification Panel Minutes, Verification Panel Minutes Originals 1971. Top Secret; Sensitive. The meeting took place in the White House Situation Room. The participants considered yet another version of the NSSM 84 report dated April 12, a copy of which is ibid., Box H–168, National Security Study Memoranda, NSSM 84 (3 of 3).
  2. The sanitized version was not found.
  3. Brackets are in the original.