62. Minutes of a Legislative Interdepartmental Group Meeting1


  • Mansfield Resolution2


  • Chairman—Henry A. Kissinger
  • State
  • Mr. U. Alexis Johnson
  • Mr. David Abshire
  • Defense
  • Mr. G. Warren Nutter
  • Mr. Rady Johnson
  • Treasury
  • Mr. Paul Volcker
  • White House
  • Mr. Clark MacGregor
  • Mr. John Scali
  • NSC Staff
  • Gen. Alexander Haig
  • Mr. Helmut Sonnenfeldt
  • Mr. John Lehman
  • Mr. Keith Guthrie


1. Basic Policy. All USG agencies must clearly understand the President’s firm commitment to support for NATO and the maintenance of US force levels in Europe. The Administration rejects the Mansfield Resolution and opposes any compromise proposal.

2. Coordination. The LIG will act as the coordinating body for the Administration campaign against the Mansfield Resolution. It will assign action responsibilities to individual agencies.

3. Senatorial Contacts. State, in close coordination with the White House Congressional Relations Office and with the NSC Staff, should draw up a target list of Senators. State should also provide recommendations on how the President can assist in enlisting support for the Administration position.

4. Presenting Administration Views to the Senate. State will seek to have hearings scheduled on the Mansfield proposal and will also seek an opportunity for the Secretary of State to address the Senate in executive session.

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5. Informational Material. State will assemble a fact sheet covering the rationale for US forces in Europe and providing data on costs and on contributions made by the Europeans.

Speech material on individual issues should also be assembled. This should be cleared through the NSC staff and channeled to Ken BeLieu of White House Congressional Relations.

6. Outside Groups and Individuals. By 5 p.m., May 12 each Department will submit a list of groups and individuals whose support should be sought, together with suggested means for contacting them. George Ball3 will be asked to come to Washington full time, and Clark MacGregor will provide a list of Senators for him to contact. General Goodpaster is to come to Washington immediately, and State will approach Harlan Cleveland.

7. Media. John Scali will prepare by 5 p.m. May 12 a list of proposed media targets and ways of approaching them.

8. German Statement. State will seek to have the German Government provide some indication of its willingness to assist the US in meeting the burdens imposed by maintenance of US troops in Germany.

Mr. Kissinger: I thought that we should have a general strategy meeting on how to proceed on the Mansfield resolution. We can see who should do what, and I can also give you some sense of where the President and the Secretary stand at the moment. I talked to the Secretary this morning, so I think we are all together on this. The President feels very strongly that there is no acceptable compromise. This is not only because of the text of the resolution, but because once we accept the principle of such a resolution, we will be giving up one of the basic principles of our post-war foreign policy that has been supported for four administrations.

It is one thing to have a debate on how we withdraw from Vietnam. That is an issue on which all agree that we should get out. It is another thing to strike at our whole foreign policy without even consulting our allies and with no idea of where this might be taking us. I don’t know any issue on which the President feels more strongly. He does not want to get into a situation like the one we presently have in Vietnam in which we have agreed to withdraw and are merely arguing about the rate at which we pull our troops out.

The President has just given a commitment to the Europeans. Every Department has to understand that this is Presidential policy and that it cannot be attacked by discussion in the Senate. It is an issue [Page 268] that cannot be reopened. The Secretary of State is going to have the leadership in contacting Senators. He will coordinate closely with Clark MacGregor.

Mr. MacGregor: Yes. We talked about this this morning. I urged him to use the stature which he has with many Senators to oppose the Mansfield resolution. He said that he would.

Mr. Kissinger: We can use this group as a clearing house to keep everyone informed. We can also use it to assign responsibilities. For example, approaches to Senators will be made by the Secretary of State in close coordination with MacGregor and with me. Clark and I are in automatic contact anyway.

Clark and I had a talk this morning with Senators Scott and Griffin.4 They agreed to try to hold off a vote until next Wednesday.5 In the meantime, we can see how much public support we can generate for holding the line. This can take the form of editorials and of enlisting the support of leading people connected with our post-war foreign policy. We have about a week more or less to get a counterfire built.

Mr. MacGregor: I want to make clear that it is no more than a week. We could have less time.

Mr. Kissinger: But we will have at least the rest of this week?

Mr. MacGregor: Yes.

Mr. Abshire: The Secretary is going to talk to Mansfield.6 He will make a plea for hearings. He may also ask if he can’t address the Senate as he did on the Middle East. That is, he would be invited by Senators Scott and Mansfield to talk to the Senate. All of this will help to delay a vote.

Mr. Johnson: The Secretary has already talked to Scott. He is trying to get in touch with Mansfield.

Mr. MacGregor: We should realize that a strategy of delay may reach the point of diminishing returns. It places into the hands of Senators like Gravel,7 who want to filibuster on the draft bill.

Mr. Volcker: Shouldn’t we consider that we may be getting into an unsustainable position if we take a stand that we will never move troops out of Europe? Obviously, we don’t want the Mansfield resolu[Page 269]tion, but we ought to look into the possibility that we are not going to be able to sustain our present position.

Mr. Kissinger: We have every intention of sustaining this position for another year.

Mr. A. Johnson: The President has made his decision.

Mr. Volcker: I wonder whether you can really do that.

Mr. A. Johnson: What is the vote count?

Mr. MacGregor: We estimate about 60 for the resolution to 35 or 40 against.

Mr. Volcker: We are already in this position after a little flurry on the exchange markets. Where will we be if something really serious happens?

Mr. Kissinger: We are not going to give up our whole post-war foreign policy. This is not the issue. This question was the subject of a study that took 1-1/2 years.8 It was the State Department’s unanimous conclusion that we had to maintain our position in Europe.

Mr. Volcker: There are two separate questions: our desire to stay in Europe and our ability to sustain that position.

Mr. Kissinger: What do you mean about our ability to sustain our position?

Mr. Volcker: I am not sure that we can hold off Congress for a year as a result of the exchange problem.

Mr. A. Johnson: What do you mean?

Mr. Volcker: The public is aroused by the attack on the dollar in Europe.

Mr. Scali: I don’t think the public is much aroused.

Mr. Volcker: What we had this week was just a minor flurry. I am not arguing that we should accept the Mansfield resolution.

Mr. Kissinger: You just want us to accept the substance of the resolution.

Mr. A. Johnson: Are you saying that our troops in Europe make a major contribution to our exchange problem?

Mr. Volcker: There is no question about it.

Mr. A. Johnson: I don’t accept that.

Mr. Volcker: They do. But regardless of whether they do or not, the link will be made.

Mr. Kissinger: I am going to be blunt about this. Whatever your view may be, during this crisis we have to have a united government[Page 270]. There is going to be no implication that we are moving in the direction of withdrawing from Europe because we are not doing so.

Mr. Abshire: We can pick up some votes by pointing this out.

Mr. MacGregor: Yes. We need to get some factual material together.

Mr. Kissinger: That is what we need. Alex (Johnson), you take the lead on that.

Mr. A. Johnson: We have done a paper on the cost of our force commitment to NATO.9 It includes a discussion of what the Europeans are doing. We would like to get your comments immediately on it.

Mr. Kissinger: We need a statement like that. We need something that will give the whole rationale. It should explain why we should not cut forces when MBFR is a prospect. It should explain why we cannot make unilateral cuts. This would completely undermine our position vis-à-vis the Soviets. We should point out why last year we judged that the political impact of a force cut would be disastrous. This is especially so if it were to follow 6 months after a formal Presidential commitment not to remove forces during his term in office.10 Whatever the impact of Vietnam in Europe, to withdraw from both Vietnam and Europe would be calamitous.

Mr. MacGregor: To give you an idea of the reality we are facing, I would point out if you were to talk about MBFR, 75 percent of the Senators would only give you a blank stare. If you referred to mutual and balanced force reductions you might find a few more had some idea of what you are talking about. The point is that the Senators don’t really know a great deal about the whole NATO question. They think that it is a simple situation of our insisting on maintaining all of our troops in Europe 25 years after World War II. That is why anything which we can disclose on MBFR will be helpful.

Mr. Kissinger: It is a brutal fact that with the present strategic balance our withdrawal will mean that Europe will seek nuclear autonomy or will move in the direction of Finland or possibly do both things simultaneously.

Now the strategic balance is at a point where we cannot use strategic war for the contingencies that were envisioned in the 1950’s and 60’s. In addition, the political situation in Europe is in flux. Nothing could be more calamitous than a US withdrawal at this moment.

Mr. A. Johnson: We have got to get across the point that our troops are serving U.S. purposes. They are there for the defense of the U.S.

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Mr. Kissinger: What we need is a fact sheet covering all of the issues and then material on individual issues to be used for State speeches.

Mr. MacGregor: Once the Senators have the basic material, they can stretch it out into a full speech.

Mr. A. Johnson: (to Nutter) I understand you are doing a speech for Senator Jackson.11

Mr. R. Johnson: No, that is not exactly the case.

Mr. Nutter: We are briefing him today.

Mr. A. Johnson: I thought I heard yesterday that Gardiner Tucker12 was doing a speech for him.

Mr. R. Johnson: What he is putting together is just factual material.

Mr. MacGregor: Ken BeLieu of my office will be stationed in Senator Scott’s office. Anything that you put together should be given to him.

Mr. Kissinger: We need to make sure that everyone sings from the same tune. All of this should be cleared by our people.

Mr. Scali: Whatever we put out should be strong and pungent. This sort of style would be fully in keeping with the importance of the issue.

Mr. Kissinger: If we don’t get the establishment with us on this one, it is hard to know whether we will ever be able to get them.

Mr. A. Johnson: We will put together a fact sheet.

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: It should include what the Europeans are doing.

Mr. Kissinger: Dave Abshire will be working with MacGregor on approaches to individual Senators. The President has indicated that he is willing to help. You should let the President know what he can do.

Mr. Abshire: I take it you don’t envision a large Presidential meeting with members of the Senate.

Mr. Kissinger: He is open to suggestions. He is prepared to do anything.

We need a list of outside groups and individuals that should be approached. Every agency should submit to me by 5 o’clock today a list of such groups together with an indication of who should contact each one of them.

I talked to George Ball this morning. He said that he was willing to work full time on this and asked to have a list of Senators and said that [Page 272] he would also go to the newspapers. I am sure that McCloy13 will help. This is one issue where we can get all of the foreign policy groups to help out. Ball will be calling me back at 2 o’clock this afternoon.

Mr. MacGregor: We will get a list for him.

Mr. Scali: I would suggest we make good use of Ball. We should bring him down here full time. This would be a concrete demonstration of the bipartisan nature of this.

Mr. A. Johnson: We are having a State Department breakfast Friday. It would be useful to have him talk to that group. Could you put that on his list of things to do?

Mr. Kissinger: Certainly. We will get him down here tomorrow.

Mr. MacGregor: One of the first things he should do is call on Senator Humphrey.14 They have a very close relationship.

Mr. R. Johnson: Humphrey has asked for information material on this. He apparently hasn’t taken a position yet.

Mr. Kissinger: (to Haig) Would you get General Goodpaster back here tomorrow.

Mr. Scali: How about Brosio?

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: What about Harlan Cleveland?

Mr. Scali: Brosio can speak for the reaction of our allies.

Mr. MacGregor: We would have to treat that carefully.

Mr. Kissinger: We should have Goodpaster here immediately.

Mr. Nutter: General Lemnitzer could also be useful.

Mr. Scali: And General Gruenther.15

Mr. Kissinger: I am sure that Norstad16 and others will help.

Mr. Abshire: Harlan Cleveland would have good connections among the Democratic Senators.

Mr. Scali: What Senator could we make a hero out of by letting him lead the fight on this? How about Chuck Percy.17

Mr. Kissinger: Oh no.

Mr. Abshire: I think he will be with us on this. The financial thing is what bothers him.

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Mr. Kissinger: My experience with Percy is that on every hot issue something bothers him. He manages to keep on the fence until he isn’t needed. He won’t lead anything.

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: Maybe we could use Mathias?18

Mr. MacGregor: He is on record with his alternative proposal. It would be difficult for him to back off.

Mr. Kissinger: Who will call Harlan Cleveland?

Mr. A. Johnson: I will call him.

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: I think this economic issue ought to be knocked in the head. A U.S. withdrawal would be far more deleterious to our economic position than the $1.3 billion that Mansfield is talking about.

Mr. Scali: A lot of Senators are going along with Mansfield because they think the Germans are screwing us.

Mr. A. Johnson: We have sent out a cable to Bonn and told them that now is the time for them to give some indication of their willingness to help.19

Mr. R. Johnson: Even Senator Bellmon20 is ticked off about the Germans.

Mr. Scali: We have to get the Germans to do something publicly.

Mr. Abshire: Even barring publicity, any sort of message from the Germans would be helpful.

Mr. Kissinger: It would be very helpful. It would even affect Muskie.21

Mr. Abshire: I think Muskie will be with us on this one in view of his statements after his visit to Europe.

Mr. Kissinger: (to Scali) Can you give me a list of media groups that might be helpful. (to Volcker) The best thing we can have out of you [Treasury]22 is a little constructive silence.

Mr. A. Johnson: (to MacGregor) I am confused about the procedural situation. Can an amendment be referred to a Committee?

Mr. MacGregor: You can have an informal agreement that it will not be voted upon until the issue has been ventilated in the Foreign Re[Page 274]lations Committee or in response to some action such as a request by the Secretary of State to address the Senate on this issue.

Mr. A. Johnson: We are thinking about repeating the Middle East scenario on this.

Mr. Scali: Would it be closed session?

Mr. A. Johnson: That is my thinking.

Mr. Kissinger: This group should meet again later today. Let’s make it at 6 o’clock.23

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 137. Secret; Nodis. The meeting took place in the White House Situation Room. Kissinger provided an account of the background to this meeting in White House Years, pp. 938–949.
  2. The Mansfield Amendment to the Military Selective Service Act of 1971, introduced on May 11 by Senate Majority Leader Michael Mansfield (D–MT), called for a one-half reduction in the United States military presence in Europe. The Senate defeated the resolution 61–36 on May 19. On November 23, the Senate voted 39–54 to reject an Appropriations Committee provision that limited the number of U.S. troops in Europe to 250,000 and called for the cessation of funds in excess of that limit by June 15, 1972. (Congress and the Nation, Vol. III, 1969–1972, pp. 214–215)
  3. Under Secretary of State, 1961–1966.
  4. Senator Hugh Scott (R–PA), Minority Leader, 1969–1977; and Senator Robert Griffin (R–MI), Republican Whip, 1969–1977.
  5. May 19.
  6. Rogers called Mansfield at 11:17 a.m. and 2:50 p.m. on May 12 and met with him on May 13 at 11:30 a.m. No further record of their conversations has been found. (Personal Papers of William P. Rogers, Appointment Books)
  7. Senator Mike Gravel (D–AK).
  8. This is presumably a reference to the often-revised NSSM 84 study.
  9. Not further identified.
  10. See footnote 2, Document 56.
  11. Senator Henry M. Jackson (D–WA).
  12. Assistant Secretary of Defense for Systems Analysis.
  13. John J. McCloy, U.S. High Commissioner in occupied West Germany after World War II and Chairman, Council of Foreign Relations, 1953–1970.
  14. Senator Hubert H. Humphrey (D–MN).
  15. General Alfred M. Gruenther, former Supreme Allied Commander Europe, 1953–1956.
  16. General Lauris Norstad, former Supreme Allied Commander Europe, 1956–1963.
  17. Senator Charles H. Percy (R–IL).
  18. Senator Charles Mathias (R–MD) proposed a compromise that called for negotiations on troop reductions with both Europe and the Soviet Union without mentioning specific cuts. It was defeated 73–24. (John W. Finney, “Senate Bars a Reduction in American NATO Force; Mansfield Defeated, 61–36,” New York Times, May 20, 1971, p. 1)
  19. Telegram 83041 to Bonn, May 12. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, DEF 6 NATO)
  20. Henry Bellmon (R–OK).
  21. Senator Edmund R. Muskie (D–ME).
  22. Brackets are in the original.
  23. Apparently the group did not meet again before the meeting the following day with Nixon; see Document 63.