72. Letter From Acting Secretary of State Irwin to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

Dear Henry:

Following the Verification Panel discussion of MBFR September 21,2 I have been working with my staff on a short paper covering the is[Page 309]sues for the Deputy Foreign Ministers meeting on which I believe Panel discussion and decision will be necessary so that I am in a position to participate most effectively in the October 5–6 meeting.3 This paper covers the essential issues requiring US decision prior to the meeting of Deputies both with respect to launching the explorer and to establishing an MBFR work program in NATO leading to the Ministerial meeting in December.4 I am sending copies of the paper, which is enclosed, to members of the Verification Panel.

This Department of State paper is intended to provide a useful basis for our discussion at the September 30 Verification Panel meeting.5

I understand that the Verification Panel Working Group is further refining our thinking on the issues involved in MBFR Elements and reviewing a Preliminary Report on MBFR Options and Analysis.6 Although it will not be essential for the Working Group to have completed this work prior to the Deputies meeting, I will want to indicate in my remarks that our Mission will be providing further US input of this sort shortly. Such input will be necessary if we are to achieve our objective of having the allies begin to move towards possible negotiating approaches prior to December.

In my remarks at the Deputies meeting, as well as during my brief European trip following it, I will take the opportunity to stress the importance the US attaches to allied force improvements. NSDM 133,7 and some points I have received from Dave Packard on specific allied force improvements, will be most helpful in that regard.

With warm regards,


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Enclosure 8

Paper Prepared in the Department of State

MBFR—Major Issues for the Deputy Foreign Ministers Meeting

The following topics will be considered at the October 5–6 Deputy Foreign Ministers meeting in Brussels:

—the naming of an MBFR explorer.

—the delineation of his mandate.

—the setting out of October-December MBFR work program.

In addition, the meeting will serve as an occasion for stressing the importance we attach to Allied force improvements.

A certain amount of agreement has already been reached among the Allies on the explorer and his mandate:

—everyone accepts Manlio Brosio,9 and it remains only to appoint him officially. Brosio is arriving in Washington on September 28–29 and has indicated his interest in discussing MBFR. He is specifically concerned at the limitations on the explorer’s mandate, and the fluctuating pace of US leadership in MBFR preparations.

—there is a general consensus that he will be accompanied by a small staff, including an American and several other allied representatives, including probably one from the UK and the FRG.

—there is general agreement that he should explore and not negotiate.

There are, however, some issues outstanding concerning where the explorer should go and what he should or should not say to the Soviets. The Allies will look to us for a strong lead in resolving them, and also in indicating the appropriate next steps. While some of these disputes reflect deep-seated concerns among the Allies, many of them can for the moment be managed by compromise phraseology. The most critical of the issues to be addressed before the Deputy Foreign Ministers Meeting are outlined below, together with recommended US positions on each.

The explorer’s itinerary—No alliance consensus has emerged to date on the exact itinerary to be followed by the explorer. None of the Allies object to his beginning the explorations in Moscow; most also support [Page 311] subsequent visits to certain Warsaw Pact capitals; a few further think that he should go to certain neutral capitals as well.

The Department of State believes that the explorer should begin his soundings in Moscow, and that the specifics of his later itinerary should be scheduled on the basis of Allied decisions following his Moscow trip. Possible East European capitals that might be visited are Warsaw and Prague. Visits to Pact capitals other than these might suggest a different area of reduction than those now being considered. We do not favor a visit to neutral capitals, which we feel would be irrelevant to his basic mission and might subsequently tie the neutral countries to the negotiating process.

The explorer’s mandate

1. Geographic Area—The Alliance agrees that any negotiations should consider Central Europe as the area for reductions. Although several allies, including the US, would prefer the Rapacki area (FRG, GDR, Poland and Czechoslovakia), all, bowing to FRG insistence, are prepared to accept the NATO Guidelines area (Rapacki plus Benelux). In addition, at this point Belgium is insisting that if it is to be included, Hungary should be added to the Guidelines area.

Addition of Hungary to the reduction area expands the area on the Soviet side and may be desired by the Hungarian Government. For the moment it appears acceptable to all but the Netherlands and us.

The US has recently stated to the allies that it was not prepared to accept the inclusion of Hungary pending examination of the political and military aspects of the issue. These include:

—the question of negotiability if the NATO Guidelines Area is expanded on the Warsaw Pact side alone;

—the possibility that the Warsaw Pact may seek to add territory on the Western side to the reduction area;

—the possibility that the USSR may take its reductions relatively more in Hungary than elsewhere, i.e., on the Central Front.

Because of the strong FRG views and also because of considerations of negotiability, the Department of State believes we should support the NATO Guidelines Area. At the October meeting, we should resist either the addition of Hungary to or the unilateral withdrawal of Belgium from the reduction area. The reason for opposing Belgium’s withdrawal is that if it withdraws, Luxembourg would almost certainly follow, and possibly the Netherlands as well. The result would be the Rapacki area which would be unacceptable to the FRG. However, we should be prepared to accept the addition of Hungary in preference to the withdrawal of Belgium, if this is the only choice.

2. Nationality of forces—The majority of the Alliance favors reductions of both stationed and indigenous forces with little or no emphasis on stationed forces.

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The Department of State believes that the US should continue to make clear its strong preference for emphasizing stationed force reductions so that Soviet and US withdrawals would be maximized. To reach a consensus in Brussels, we may need to accept, at least for the present, a formulation in line with that preferred by the others, i.e., that stationed forces “could” be emphasized.

3. Categories of forces—Differences persist within the Alliance concerning the degree to which special attention should be paid to manpower, combat aircraft, tanks, and where appropriate, nuclear delivery vehicles. Brosio would prefer to be as specific as possible on this issue.

The Department of State believes that it would not be appropriate for the explorer to be more specific than a statement that the Allies envisage ground force reductions, that they do not envisage naval reductions since the geographic focus is Central Europe, and that other categories of reductions have not yet been excluded, i.e., air and nuclear weapons.

Future MBFR Preparations—The United States faces the need to join in developing a design for allied work, and a possible approach to negotiations. The period between the October Deputies Meeting and the December Ministerial must be used by the Alliance to focus its thinking on possible reduction objectives and negotiating approaches so that the Ministers will be in a position to make necessary decisions to continue forward movement towards actual negotiations. Otherwise the Congress may well question MBFR as a viable alternative to unilateral reductions.

This focus will not be possible without some indication of our thinking on the subject, including an idea of the type or magnitude of reductions that the US envisages. We continue to believe that the best way to do this would be to table a preferred US symmetrical option in a sequential framework, as outlined in my memorandum to you of September 17.10 If it is impossible to reach a consensus within the USG on a particular approach, we could submit selected options from among those under US study with a signal as to American preferences.

We believe that the attainment of eventual reduction objectives could be approached sequentially. This approach would entail refinement of the basic FRG proposal. Depending on the political climate, proceeding sequentially could give us more flexibility to begin negotiations at a time of our choosing, and subsequently to slow down or accelerate the process.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, DEF 6 NATO. Secret. A handwritten note indicates the letter was signed by the Under Secretary and that the drafting office was omitted.
  2. At the meeting, the Verification Panel agreed that:

    “—A preferred U.S. position cannot be ready in time for the NATO Deputy Foreign Ministers Meeting in early October, but we must present something at that meeting. We require a clear elaboration of the options open to us and a specific statement of the mandate the Explorer is to be given. The Working Group will prepare a paper along these lines.

    “—The U.S. proposal must be reasonable, realistic, attainable and must represent a serious effort.

    “—The Allies cannot be permitted to use MBFR reductions as a rationale for further cuts of their national forces or defense budgets.

    “—The Rapacki Plan Area is our first choice of area, but we could accept either the NATO Guidelines Area plus Hungary or the NATO Guidelines area alone as fallback choices.

    “—The Explorer should not present alternatives to the Russians. His visit is intended merely to feel them out and ascertain their thinking on MBFR.

    “—The Explorer should visit Moscow first, report back to the NATO Foreign Ministers and then go to Eastern Europe only if his Moscow visit showed signs of promise. There appears to be no compelling reason for the Explorer to visit neutral nations and this should not be encouraged.

    “—Another meeting of the Verification Panel will be held on September 30 to discuss the options to be presented to the Explorer.” The full text of the minutes is printed in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXXIX, European Security, Document 70.

  3. The meeting took place in Brussels.
  4. The meeting was held December 9–10 in Brussels.
  5. Draft minutes of the September 30 Verification Panel meeting are printed in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXXIX, European Security, Document 72.
  6. Apparent reference to an NSC Staff Draft Paper on MBFR Issues prepared on September 29 for the meeting. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, DEF 6 NATO)
  7. Document 71.
  8. Secret.
  9. Brosio accepted an official invitation to assume the position at the Deputy Foreign Ministers meeting.
  10. Not printed. (National Archives, RG 59, Executive Secretariat, Files on Select National Security Study Memorandums, 1969–70, Lot 80D212, NSSM 92)