67. Editorial Note

On May 21, 1971, K. Wayne Smith and Helmut Sonnenfeldt of the National Security Council Staff sent an urgent action memorandum to President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs Henry Kissinger that discussed the need for an official statement of the U.S. position on MBFR, particularly with the upcoming NATO Ministerial meeting in Lisbon. “The events of the past two weeks undoubtedly have created the expectation within the U.S. bureaucracy, the Congress, and NATO that we will now take a vigorous lead in moving the alliance into ‘Mutual and Balanced Force Reductions’ in Europe. The Soviets (and Mansfield) have put the ball squarely in our court.

“The problem is that we have no agreement within the U.S. Government—much less with our allies—concerning either what kinds of possible elements of ‘MBFR’ we are most interested in pursuing nor the procedural approach to be taken leading up to or in negotiations.”

As a result, Kissinger issued NSDM 108, “Guidance on Mutual and Balanced Force Reductions,” on May 21. The NSDM approved formal negotiations with the USSR or the Warsaw Pact only after the development of an Allied consensus. The United States would “distinguish between (1) diplomatic explorations, which can be pursued at this time; and (2) the first phase of formal negotiations, which we will not begin until further preparations are accomplished.” Smith and Sonnenfeldt’s memorandum and NSDM 108 are printed in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXXIX, European Security, Documents 52 and 53.

After meetings of the Verification Panel on June 11 and the National Security Council on June 17, Kissinger issued NSDM 116, “The [Page 295] U.S. Policy on Mutual Force Reductions in Europe (MBFR),” on June 28, which outlined the administration’s approach to consultations with the NATO allies and the Soviet Union. Regarding NATO, the United States planned to “develop a consensus within the NATO Alliance governing the substantive elements of its position on mutual reductions of forces in Europe.” Though materials would be prepared to send to the NAC, the United States would not discuss specific reduction figures until the President considered the available options. The minutes of the June 11 Verification Panel meeting and the June 17 NSC meeting and NSDM 116 are ibid., Documents 58, 63, and 65.