65. Minutes of a Senior Review Group Meeting1


  • June NATO Ministerial Meeting


  • Chairman—Henry A. Kissinger
  • State
  • U. Alexis Johnson
  • George Springsteen
  • Ronald Spiers
  • Defense
  • Armistead I. Selden
  • Brig. Gen. Harrison Lobdell
  • Lt. Col. Edward O’Connor
  • JCS
  • Vice Adm. J.P. Weinel
  • Capt. R.A. Kamorowski
  • CIA
  • Richard Helms
  • Peter Dixon Davis
  • ACDA
  • Philip Farley
  • NSC Staff
  • Col. R.T. Kennedy
  • William Hyland
  • Wilfred Kohl
  • Helmut Sonnenfeldt
  • John Court
  • Jeanne W. Davis


It was agreed that:

1. the IG for Europe will prepare a paper on what strategy we want to follow with regard to a Conference on European Security, including the question of permanent machinery;

2. the IG will do a paper on a negotiating scenario for MBFR;

3. an NSC meeting on the NATO issues will not be necessary; they will be dealt with in a memorandum to the President.2

Mr. Kissinger: The principal purpose of this meeting is to go over the issues which will come up at the NATO meeting and to decide whether an NSC meeting is necessary.

Mr. Johnson: We have no differences on the issues.

Mr. Kissinger: I see no major issues. I originally thought we would need an NSC meeting but it now appears we can handle it in a memo to the President.

Mr. Helms: The issue is pretty thin for an NSC meeting.

[Page 289]

Mr. Kissinger: We also have Brezhnev’s statement on MBFR.3 Are our allies reasonably content with our position that a satisfactory Berlin agreement is a precondition for a Conference on European Security? Is there any pressure to break the linkage, particularly since there has been no obvious progress on Berlin? When are they meeting next?

Mr. Springsteen: They are meeting in London Monday and Tuesday.4

Mr. Kissinger: And our position will be to maintain the linkage between Berlin and CES. Do we expect any challenge?

Mr. Springsteen: No. The only cloud on the horizon is the confusion over what went on with regard to CES when Schumann went to Moscow. We do not have a full reading on his conversations, but we do have two conflicting press versions—one saying he maintained the linkage and another indicating that he did not. It’s probable that Schumann said more to the press than he did to Gromyko. We think the linkage will prevail, however.

Mr. Kissinger: There would be a problem if an agreement were reached on Berlin and the eastern treaties should fail in the German Parliament. Barzel has told me he would vote against a treaty. What about the other condition—that “other on-going talks” were proceeding favorably. I’m not sure what that means.

Mr. Springsteen: Before the NATO Ministerial meeting last December the Germans said there could be no CES without a satisfactory outcome on Berlin and in the inter-German talks. Harmel added “other on-going talks” to the Berlin condition to head off a more specific condition from the Germans. There is a split within NATO on this. Some people want to get rid of the condition, or convert it to language on the “general atmosphere.” We think there is some merit to keeping the present wording, since removing or changing it could be interpreted as a signal of some sort. We won’t take the lead on this, though.

Mr. Johnson: Could they think it refers to SALT?

Mr. Springsteen: We have clearly indicated that it is not SALT.

Mr. Helms: Then it’s a mystery as to what it does refer to.

Mr. Kissinger: If it’s not SALT and if the internal German issue is wrapped up, who else is negotiating?

Mr. Johnson: It has no meaning.

Mr. Kissinger: It may have some advantage in keeping the Russians on their toes. Am I correct in saying that we don’t know to what it refers, but if someone proposes that we drop it, we won’t oppose it?

[Page 290]

Gen. Lobdell: By leaving Berlin as the only precondition, are we putting pressure on the quadripartite powers to bring Berlin to a conclusion?

Mr. Kissinger: The biggest pressure on this comes from the Germans, not the allies. Would we apply this to the preliminary discussions of the Ambassadors in Helsinki—that there would be no discussion of CES before a Berlin agreement?

Mr. Springsteen: Yes.

Mr. Kissinger: Assuming Berlin is out of the way and we are moving toward a CES, do we know what we want to accomplish? There are two issues: (reading from Mr. Sonnenfeldt’s memo)5

—“the principles which should govern relations between states, including renunciation of forces;

—the development of international relations with a view to contributing to the freer movement of people, ideas and information and to developing cooperation in the cultural, economic, technical and scientific fields as well as in the field of human environment.”

Since we won’t go to a conference such as this to attack the Soviets, isn’t it a meaningless psychological exercise? Won’t it make it harder to make progress in NATO?

Mr. Springsteen: There is a risk that it might create a state of euphoria which would make holding the allies together that much more difficult.

Mr. Kissinger: There are a number of things we could do. We could make it a damage limiting operation; we could try for a series of conferences on specific items; or we could take it more seriously and wrap it up with MBFR, which is the only real issue.

Mr. Johnson: The Soviet concept is that the Ministers get together, say nice nothings and appoint sub-groups to do any work.

Mr. Springsteen: That’s the French position on procedure. The Soviet desires are clear. They want a renunciation of force agreement, recognition of the status quo in Europe, an opening wedge for increasing economic and cultural contacts with the West, and creation of a sense of euphoria for what divisive effect it can have.

Mr. Kissinger: I don’t see this as a major issue now, but we need to know what strategy we want to pursue on CES. Let’s ask the IG to do a paper taking another look at CES in the light of the Soviet Party Congress.

Mr. Johnson: Okay.

[Page 291]

Mr. Kissinger: How about MBFR?

Mr. Johnson: We will have to take account of the Brezhnev statement. It will obviously be a subject of discussion at Lisbon. How do we handle it? We should do some probing—send our Ambassador in to find out what the statement means.

Mr. Springsteen: A possible scenario would be to discuss it with the allies in Brussels, while we probe bilaterally with the Russians to see what the statement means. Then we can develop a position that the Ministers can agree on as to how to handle the issue in the post-Lisbon period. The Russians are no more prepared than we are to negotiate on MBFR. Whatever emerges from Lisbon, we should probably intensify our efforts to find out what the Russians have in mind.

Mr. Kissinger: (to Mr. Farley) Weren’t we going to brief NATO on MBFR?

Mr. Farley: The paper is being sanitized now for that purpose.

Mr. Kissinger: I think this is essential. We are light-years ahead of the Europeans in our thinking on this. How quickly can we do this?

Mr. Court: In about two weeks.

Mr. Kissinger: Let’s push our own discussions so when the Soviets start pressing we’ll be ready. Let’s get a paper on what strategy we want to follow. Should that be done by the IG or by ACDA? Who would handle the negotiations? Let’s ask the IG to do a paper on a negotiating scenario. We can’t have all of Europe in the room. Who will do the negotiating. Would we negotiate simultaneously with SALT? What would the first meeting look like—would it be a meeting of principals?

Mr. Farley: We might consider a phased approach. Brezhnev is out ahead of us on this. He was much more pointed as to negotiations.

Mr. Kissinger: There would be no condition to an MBFR agreement?

Mr. Johnson: No.

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: There might be a problem with the GDR.

Mr. Springsteen: That would not be unmanageable. NATO will probably try to avoid the term “negotiations” and use “exploratory discussions.”

Mr. Johnson: We have to get ourselves in position for this.

Mr. Kissinger: We need a position next week in connection with the Mansfield resolution. We have to answer those Senators—tell them we are ready to negotiate.

Mr. Helms: Damn right!!

Mr. Johnson: We can’t appear any less ready than the Soviets.

[Page 292]

Mr. Kissinger: How about the question of permanent East-West machinery? Are we opposed?

Mr. Johnson: We can make this part of the CES study.

Mr. Springsteen: The question has already come up. The British proposed permanent machinery as a substitute for CES. The Russians are talking in the context of CES. This could be one of the alternatives we might consider.

Mr. Kissinger: On the defense issues, these won’t be coming up at this NATO meeting, will they? Are we agreed that we don’t need an NSC meeting? If so, we will produce a memorandum for the President.

Gen. Lobdell: Could we consider this matter of “on-going talks” a little more?

Mr. Springsteen: That is not our phrase.

Mr. Kissinger: How can you give up something you can’t define?

Capt. Kamorowski: That’s the basis of many a love story.

Mr. Kissinger: What Department are you from?

Capt. Kamorowski: Department of Defense.

Mr. Johnson: That sounds like “make love, not war”!

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–112, Senior Review Group, SRG Minutes (Originals) 1971. Secret. The meeting took place in the White House Situation Room.
  2. Not found.
  3. See Document 66.
  4. May 17–18.
  5. For Sonnenfeldt’s May 10 briefing memorandum to Kissinger, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXXIX, European Security, Document 48, footnotes 1, 3, and 710.