324. Memorandum From Helmut Sonnenfeldt of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1 2
SUBJECT: Memo to the President on Soviet-Five Power Conference
You asked Gerard Smith for a memorandum commenting on the Soviet proposal for a Five Power Conference. He finds it “serious” and worth taking seriously. He wants to consult with the British and French and suggests we thoroughly explore the issues before making a definitive reply.
Obviously, we should think about the best way to handle the Soviet proposal since, whatever else its purpose, it is patently designed to put us in a bind.
— On the one hand, we cannot oppose “disarmament,” no matter how unrealistic and absurd the Soviet proposals may be.
— On the other hand, the Soviets are presumably banking on a Chinese rejection, which they will use to isolate Peking as much as possible on the “Peace” issue.
— We can end up in the role of “colluding” with the Soviets to put pressure on China.
Your memorandum to the President (1) points out this aspect, (2) requests authorization for a preliminary analysis of different ways of handling the Soviet proposal and the issues it raises, and (3) includes interim guidance, taking a positive stand on the idea of a conference, if all other powers agree.
- That you forward the memorandum to the President (Tab A).
- That you sign the NSSM (Tab A of the President’s memo).
It seems fairly obvious that we are undergoing a barrage of disarmament proposals, as outlined by Brezhnev on March 30. Some of his list, reduction [Page 2] of budgets, worldwide disarmament conferences, nuclear free zones, are yet to come. The point is that we should give some thought to organizing (presumably under the Verification Panel?) whatever work will need to be done. For example, Brezhnev’s naval limitations proposal should be studied not only in the Indian Ocean but for the Mediterranean, Cuba, etc.
While the Soviet list is for the most part window dressing, it should be recalled that in previous periods the Soviets have usually wound up claiming credit for their shopping list, and, at some point, prosecuting us for our failure to reply or take them seriously.
In any case, it might be worth having the entire Soviet list reviewed in order to select those which we might respond to, or originate.[Page 3]
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 491, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger 1971, Vol. 6 (Pt. 1) Soviet Ambassador to the United States. Secret. Sent for action. Sent through Haig. A note at the end of the memorandum indicates that Wayne Smith concurred. Kissinger wrote the following on the top of the first page: “See my redo of NSSM-Issue (after conv. with Eliot) [illegible] waiting for [comeback?].” Kissinger’s memorandum to the President and the revised NSSM are Documents 325 and 326.↩
- Sonnenfeldt forwarded, with his commentary, a memorandum for the President from ACDA Director Smith on the Soviet proposal for a five-per nuclear conference. Smith concluded the proposal was worth serious consideration and wanted a more thorough analysis before making any commitment. Sonnenfeldt attached a draft memorandum and a draft NSSM on the issue for Kissinger to forward to the President.↩