79. Telegram From the Department of State to All North Atlantic Treaty Organization Capitals1

223518. Subject: NATO Ministerial Meeting: An Overview.2

1. Issues of security and détente dominated the agenda of the NATO Ministerial meeting December 8–10, and restatement by Secretary Rogers of the continuing US commitment to Europe’s defense was warmly received. But it was evident in the tone and content of most interventions that Ministers increasingly are becoming aware of the complexity and sensitivity of the issues that lie ahead in preparing for unprecedented multilateral East-West negotiations on CSCE and MBFR. Reinforcing these concerns were uncertainties, expressed by many, over Soviet intentions, in light of the “reverse linkage” of the ratification of the FRG bilateral treaty with the USSR with signature of the final Quadripartite protocol on Berlin, and the Soviet failure to receive Brosio for MBFR explorations.

2. In the security sphere, the European Allies showed new vigor in their collective efforts in the EuroGroup, whose members pledged an additional billion dollars for national defense improvements in 1972, an [Page 335] increase of six percent. Moreover, they completed arrangements for funding the 1970 European Defense Improvement Program, involving a billion dollars in NATO and national defense improvements over five years. These steps to share a greater proportion of the common defense burden are a tangible earnest of European intent to meet the terms of the President’s 1970 pledge, repeated at this NATO meeting, and warmly welcomed, that the US would maintain and improve its forces in Europe, provided the Allies do likewise, and in the absence of reciprocal reductions that do not change the military balance.

3. In contrast to the encouraging degree of solidarity in defense matters, less unanimity emerged in the Allied views on next moves toward East-West negotiations, particularly with respect to CSCE. Confronted by the failure of the inner-German talks to be concluded prior to the Ministerial meeting, and by the problem of the “reverse linkage,” most Ministers nonetheless strongly favored signalling readiness to open multilateral preparatory CSCE talks only upon signature of the final protocol on Berlin. There was little support for the US proposal for a Deputy Foreign Minister meeting after conclusion of the Berlin agreement, but the Secretary indicated that, since the FRG bilateral treaties would not likely be ratified until April of 1972 at the earliest (Scheel had indicated at the 4-power dinner that this might not be accomplished until June or July), Ministers could deal with the issues next May. A number rallied to the Belgian proposal for immediate acceptance of the Finnish initiative and the start of “multiple bilateral” discussions between ambassadors at Helsinki and the Finnish Foreign Minister. France pressed upon again for opening East-West multilateral preparations following conclusion of the inner-German phase of the Berlin talks and for acceptance of Helsinki as the site of multilateral consultations.

4. A compromise on the language in the communiqué on CSCE was found through reference to the Lisbon Ministerial formulation anticipating multilateral preparations “as soon as negotiations on Berlin had reached a successful conclusion.” (With German and English opposition to consultations prior to signature of the protocol added to ours, however, only the French remain explicitly favorable to earlier multilateral talks.) To provide a sense of forward movement, all but the US favored accepting in principle the Finnish invitation to hold multilateral discussions in Helsinki. The Secretary argued, however, that Ministers need not take a decision to meet at Helsinki at this time, when we are not absolutely positive about the final conclusion of the Berlin agreement, and should simply note and express appreciation for the Finnish invitation. French FonMin Schumann, joined by the Scandinavians, took strong exception, arguing for acceptance of Helsinki now and for language that would give impression preparations for meeting [Page 336] in Finland would proceed promptly. Upshot was compromise in which Finnish invitation was noted, Ministers expressed “appreciation” for Finnish “initiative” and agreed to stay in touch with Finns “on the matter.” This was intended to be friendly language but to leave for later final decision whether and when to hold initial multilateral talks in Helsinki. The French translation of the communiqué (on Schumann’s insistence) apparently went further than the English text, however, in saying Ministers “are favorable to” Finnish invitation instead of “appreciate” it.

5. With respect to MBFR, general expressions of regret at the Soviet failure to receive Brosio accompanied a consensus (minus the French of course) that the Allies should continue to press for early explorations in Moscow by Brosio, reflecting Allied awareness that explorations are essential prior to negotiations. Though the FRG and others sought explicit linkage of MBFR to CSCE, the US successfully defended the view that these should be pursued at least for the present on separate tracks. The Allies also agreed that questions of security, including “certain military aspects of security” should figure on a CSCE agenda. They also stated in a separate paragraph of the communiqué that “reduction of the dangers of a military confrontation” should be addressed in a CSCE.

6. Particular concern was expressed by many, and reflected in the communiqué, about the situation in South Asia.

7. Many expressed appreciation for the Secretary’s discussion of the status of SALT. Similarly, many welcomed the Secretary’s comments on the President’s forthcoming visits to Peking and Moscow, and stated hopes for progress in talks there. By stressing the US intention to consult the Allies on the visits, and to avoid dealing bilaterally “over their heads” on matters affecting the Allies, the Secretary gave reassurances about US objectives that evoked generally favorable comment.

8. The domestic situation in Greece was once again raised by Denmark and Norway, and the latter also referred to the situation in the Portuguese territories of Africa. Both the Greek and Portuguese representatives responded by taking vigorous exception to the intrusion of matters of domestic Allied concern in the Council.

9. Many briefly addressed current monetary and trade issues, following the Secretary’s reference to the progress registered to date and anticipated in forthcoming talks. Communiqué reference to the issue, however, was limited to general recognition of the effect continuing difficulties could have on the Alliance.

10. Southern flank representatives gave prominence to the situation in the Mediterranean, and, following the Secretary’s discussions of [Page 337] the Middle East situation, several echoed his concern over the situation there.

11. The Secretary and Foreign Minister Scheel were present and made statements at the initialing by Deputy Under Secretary Samuels and Minister Director Herbst of the agreement renewing the FRG offset. The Secretary and the Portuguese Foreign Minister also signed and exchanged notes renewing the Azores bilateral base agreement.

12. Foreign Ministers agreed to meet again at Bonn May 30–31, 1972.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Executive Secretariat, Conference Files 1949–72, CF 529. Confidential. Drafted by Streator (EUR/RPM), approved by Pedersen, Hillenbrand, McGuire, Springsteen, and Harrington. Repeated to Moscow, Bucharest, Belgrade, Vienna, Budapest, Warsaw, Sofia, Prague, Helsinki, and Madrid;the Missions to the UN, EC, and Geneva; CINCEUR, SHAPE, SACLANT, COSOUTH, AREUR, NAVEUR, and USAFE.
  2. The meeting took place in Brussels. See Keesing’s Contemporary Archives, 1971–1972, pp. 25015–25018.