16. Memorandum of Conversation, Washington, May 12, 1976, 11:05 a.m.1 2


Memorandum of Conversation


  • Proposed Revision of NSDM 212

DATE: May 12, 1976

TIME: 11:05 a.m.

PLACE: Secretary’s Office


  • State
  • The Secretary
  • Mr. Helmut Sonnenfeldt, Counselor
  • Mr. Arthur A. Hartman, Assistant Secretary for European Affairs
  • Mr. John A. Armitage, Deputy Assistant Secretary for European Affairs
  • Mr. Nicholas G. Andrews, Director, Office of Eastern European Affairs, Bureau of European Affairs
  • Mr. Carl W. Schmidt, Notetaker, EUR/EE

The Secretary: I’m not sure I understand the purpose of this meeting.

Mr. Hartman: It concerns our current policy toward various Eastern European countries.

The Secretary: When am I going to get a paper on Portugal?

Mr. Hartman: It came up last night; it must be up here somewhere.

The Secretary: I haven’t seen it yet. Do you have a paper on what to do if the Communists win the election in Italy?

Mr. Hartman: No, I really haven’t yet. But I have one person working on it and we also have a NSM exercise.

[Page 2]

The Secretary: The hell with the NSM exercise. I want to see what the Department’s views are. I want to do everything possible to make them understand how they would cut themselves off from the rest of us. First I’d like to see spelled out the various ways in which the Communists can come to power.

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: That looks less and less likely now.

Mr. Hartman: It looks clear that if they can gain any strength at all then they will be able to be the brokers in forming a new government.

On Eastern Europe, we are continuing to keep Romania and Poland out in front in our relations, including visits, trade, and industrial cooperation. There are more U.S. business people going there than to the others, and in fact they are more welcome there. We have a problem now with Romania since the trade agreement needs to be renewed, but their recent record on emigration is quite bad. It almost looks like a deliberate attempt on their part to sabotage our efforts with the Congress. American Jewish groups are aware of the recent emigration figures and they’re not happy. And they’ve been talking to the Congress. Barnes has been in and talked with Macovescu and we’ve been talking with Bogdan here, but we still are left with a problem. I think in the end we will get it through Congress but we may have to go into the waiting period.

The Secretary: What do you mean by “the waiting period”?

Mr. Hartman: If Congress takes no action during the month of June then the law provides for a 60-day waiting period. Isn’t that correct?

Mr. Armitage: Yes. The legislative papers must go to the Congress by June 3. If there is no action in June, then there is the additional 60-day waiting period.

Mr. Hartman: Congressman Green is the fellow up there who has been very helpful to us on this problem in the Past, but now it is hard for him to devote much time to it because he is running for the Senate in Pennsylvania.

[Page 3]

The Secretary: The Congress won’t have the nerve to cut it out. Haven’t you noticed that no pro-Jewish candidate has won this year?

Mr. Hartman: I hadn’t made that correlation.

The Secretary: Being pro-Jewish emigration hasn’t helped Jackson at all. It really seems that to be a successful candidate this year you need to be anti-Jewish, anti-black and anti-foreigner.

Mr. Hartman: And anti-Washington.

Coming back to the substance, we wanted to review with you the question of timing for taking some steps with certain Eastern European countries.

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: Yes, there’s a rather old NSDMNSDM 212 — which sets up a sort of pecking order for dealing with the Eastern European countries. In the meantime, since NSDM 212 was drawn up, issues have moved on with the Czechs, East Germany, Hungary and Bulgaria. They have responded in different ways, although the East Germans are clearly still at the end of the line. Now we need to look at how we respond to them. It seems on the one hand that it would be absurd to be accused of advocating Soviet domination of Eastern Europe and then not respond when Eastern European countries show movement. Yet it might mean we’d be rewarding first the countries which have deviated least from the Soviet line.

Mr. Hartman: The question here really arises now only with regard to conclusion of science and cultural cooperation agreements.

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: Yes, it so happens that Bulgaria is ready to sign with us before anyone else. In theory, it should be Hungary that we sign with first since they are more advanced in their diversity. It’s really a shame in a way.

The Secretary: Why is it a shame? Why do we have to do it that way? How did we arrive at this situation?

[Page 4]

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: Well, the Embassies and the desk officers and the rest of the machinery has taken hold and been pushing along on these negotiations and this is the result.

The Secretary: We can control the desk officers. They’re right here.

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: But in fact the situation results from the way in which the Eastern Europeans — Kadar and Zhivkov and the others — have responded to our drafts. We gave them all draft texts of agreements and, in reacting, they have moved at differing speeds.

The Secretary: But we don’t have to submit to this if we prefer not. Why did we start all the negotiations at the same time?

Mr. Hartman: At Helsinki we told each of the three countries that we would be starting negotiation of science and technology agreements. They have simply responded in different ways.

The Secretary: We could have given them the texts at different times. Why did we promise them all at the same time that we would give them the texts?

Mr. Hartman: We were looking for something to tell their Foreign Ministers at Helsinki.

The Secretary: That’s the problem with including things in my briefing papers among the options. One bureau here recently slipped in a new option among an entire range of options including such things as flying to the moon and having a Chiefs of State Summit with Kosygin. I can tell you it wasn’t EUR. But they did slip in an option like that.

On this question, anyone should have known that I wanted to have differential treatment.

Mr. Andrews: Mr. Secretary, I should point out that we have had before us a long time the question of negotiating such cooperation agreements with Czechoslovakia [Page 5] and Hungary. We first exchanged drafts with Czechoslovakia and Hungary long before the Trade Act was considered.

The Secretary: All right, then what is the issue here?

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: The issue is how to respond to the countries when they are ready to sign with us, and whether we shouldn’t revise NSDM 212 to take this into account. Also, there is another point in that Commerce wants to move ahead more quickly for trade reasons. That issue is more or less finessed here.

Mr. Hartman: You don’t really have a trade issue here.

The Secretary: I’d like to keep the pecking order even if we violate it for this purpose. I don’t want to revise the NSDM. Also, I don’t want Commerce and other agencies running wild in Eastern Europe.

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: If we don’t go the route of revising the NSDM, why don’t we have Scowcroft do a memo spelling out that we can sign these agreements as they come? That would be an alternative.

The Secretary: Yes, that would be preferable.

Mr. Hartman: Let me then take up some questions concerning your schedule.

[Omitted here is a discussion of travel arrangements and Cyprus.]

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Records of Helmut Sonnenfeldt, 1973-1977, Entry 5339, Box 9, Eastern Europe—General. Confidential; Nodis. Drafted on May 13 by Schmidt. The meeting took place in the Secretary’s office. NSDM 212 is Document 8. The Helsinki Conference’s Final Act of 1975 included clauses about territorial integrity and the inviolability of national borders in Europe, thereby solidifying the Soviet territorial gains at the end of World War II.
  2. Kissinger met with Sonnenfeldt and members of the staff of the Bureau of European Affairs to discuss current policy in Eastern Europe and to discuss possible revisions to the priorities for trade as set out in NSDM 212.