291. Telegram 27061 From the Department of State to the Mission to North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the Mission to the United Nations European Office, and to UNESCO 1 2


  • Enhanced East-West Cooperation on Environmental Problems

For Ambassadors from Under Secretary

As a function of US attention to national and international efforts on environmental issues, and to follow-up on para 12 of December 1969 NATO Ministerial Declaration, decision has been taken that US will play in months ahead a more vigorous leadership role in efforts to enhance East-West cooperation in environmental matters through the ECE. This message sketches [Page 2] rationale for new US initiative in this area, together with scenario for pressing our objectives initially in NATO subsequently in OECD and thereafter in ECE, with a view to raising the level of participation in the 1971 ECE environment conference and to ensuring that substantial practical results flow from it.
Our basic rationale is simply that all industrially advanced societies, regardless of their social systems, share increasingly urgent environmental problems, many of which cross national boundaries and can only be solved in international context. Moreover, serious and practical joint endeavors of this kind could, in the long run, help to allay the suspicions and reduce the tensions that impede progress on resolution of fundamental East-West political issues. A sense of the urgency of these objectives underlay the NATO Ministers’ call in December 1969 for enhanced cooperation on environmental matters. Finally, this initiative will extend into another international arena the emphasis the President has already given to fostering domestic and international cooperation in improving environmental quality.
After consideration of possibility for enhanced East-West environmental consultation, we have concluded that, rather than a special international meeting, it would be preferable to build on ongoing ECE environmental work. ECE has been conducting programs in various environment fields for over a decade. These include permanent groups concerned with water and air pollution and urban environment. The EE’s and Soviets have been active participants in meetings of these groups. Recently, Soviets proposed and had approved an ECE meeting on desulphurization of fuels, scheduled for Fall 1970.
Specifically, our target is to begin planning the work necessary to upgrade the ECE Conference on environmental problems already scheduled in Prague in mid-1971, as well as the preparatory meetings prior to the Conference. As a step in this direction, Christian A. Herter, Jr., Special Assistant to the Secretary for Environmental Affairs, will [Page 4] head US group at March 2-5 preparatory meeting in Geneva. We would also envisage participation in the conference itself by Ministers, or officials of equivalent rank, in order to help insure, within the various individual government bureaucracies, the kind of interest and impetus that will be required for the success of the conference and the specific cooperative efforts that should flow from it. We would hope to use the momentum of this high-level conference to give ECE programs greater action orientation. For example, ECE programs could call for governmental action along general lines of pilot Projects US is currently sponsoring in CCMS; ECE could also convene working parties on specific problems, leading to negotiations of international agreements of environmental nature, following pattern of ECE’s role in drafting Vienna Road Traffic Convention of 1968. (As a step in this direction, we plan during April ECE plenary to submit resolution calling for establishment of Group of Senior Advisors to ECE Governments on Environmental Problems.)
Environmental programs in ECE context should, of course, be compatible with ongoing CCMS effort, which represents major Presidential initiative. We would thus envisage that subjects for East-West environmental cooperation would emphasize those in which Alliance members have already developed experience and capability for dealing with successfully among themselves, especially within CCMS. Moreover, discussions of specific subjects appropriate for East-West cooperation should also take place within CCMS (during next regular meeting in April or in special meetings called for the purpose) and draw upon its experience in development of pilot projects.
To begin building broadest Allied and other European support for enhanced ECE conference, addressees should be guided by following scenario:
USNATO should brief Brosio fully on our thinking, seeking his advice as appropriate, requesting early discussion in NAC, and indicating that, prior to NAC discussion and in order to alert capitals, USNATO would be prepared to discuss US views informally at PermRep lunch or other session. Prior consultation at NATO Headquarters with the UK and FRG Dels might also be useful in preparing ground. There were indications of considerable UK interest in East-West environmental cooperation before and during the December Ministerial, and any East-West meeting of course raises the problem of GDR participation. (FRG is member of ECE but GDR is not, although individual East Germans sometimes attend ECE meetings as experts; ECE’s Executive Secretary has mandate permitting him to invite non-UN members to ECE meetings, though it is extremely doubtful he would use it without concurrence of all ECE [Page 7] members.)
Discussion in NATO of enhancement of ECE conference of course should be held closely by all Allies in order to preclude possibly adverse impact if initiative appeared to be of NATO origin rather than product of effort by individual countries acting in harmony. Indeed, though we propose to consult in the first instance in NATO, we are aware that this effort could fail if it were advanced solely as a NATO initiative, or if the Soviets, East Europeans and neutrals came to believe that it were put forward merely to serve allied political interests.
Accordingly, after initial launching, discussion and development of broad consensus in NM, including possible preliminary discussion in special CCMS meeting called for the purpose, and before matter is taken up by ECE, at its April Plenary, we believe main locus for consultation on Western side should be shifted to OECD. [Page 8] We would wish to see other countries playing an active and visible role in carrying this initiative forward.
Preparatory to NAC discussion, and following informal USNATO discussions with other PermReps, we believe it might also be useful if International Staff (ASYG Randers) were to draft and circulate scenario for further Allied steps. This would help organize PermRep discussion, permit a measure of consensus to be developed on next steps, and possibly flush out further constructive suggestions from NATO capitals. In any case discussion in NATO should not drag on, and we hope to see tangible action taken by NAC within two-three weeks, followed by OECD discussion on unclassified basis during March. From OECD session should flow first major signal to East Europeans of Western interest in raising level and enlarging scope of 1971 ECE environmental conference.
The 25th Plenary, meeting in Geneva April 13-24, would be appropriate occasion for raising this issue formally for first time in ECE context.
Manner of raising our proposal for high-level ECE Europeans conference with Soviets and Eastern Europeans will require careful thought. A first step, after OECD discussion, might be presentation by third party or parties to Exec Secretary of ECE Stanovnik for his suggestions on best procedures with EE’s and Soviets.
We would expect that approaches in Allied and other capitals will be called for at some stage, paralleling multilateral consultations in NATO and OECD, and we will send all addressees background material on East-West [Page 10] environmental cooperation, underway or proposed, and on ECE activities in this field.
We would welcome comments and suggestions from info addressees.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970-73, SCI 41-3 NATO. Confidential. Repeated to all NATO capitals, all Eastern European capitals, Bern, Helsinki, Madrid, Stockholm, Tokyo, Vienna, Dublin, Belgrade, Strasbourg, Moscow, and USUN. Drafted by Arva C. Floyd and Edward J. Streator (EUR/RPM) on February 9; cleared with EUR, SCI, IO, BMI, EE and the White House; and approved by Richardson.
  2. The Department of State outlined a rationale for a new U.S. initiative in East-West cooperation in environmental matters.