15. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1


  • Next Steps in The Year of Europe

Following my talks with the British in London, I feel there is good reason to look forward to major progress in European-American relations by the end of the year. The British leaders are in strong sympathy with your initiative and are gearing up to support you in the effort to establish a new set of guidelines for Atlantic relations that would have [Page 64] significant political appeal on both sides of the ocean and would help override the tendency to haggle about technical issues. These guidelines would cover all aspects of our relations. The prospect thus is for a period of genuine creativity in adapting Atlantic relations to new conditions and setting all of us on a course that would be difficult to reverse by successor governments both here and in Europe.

At the same time, there are many problems to overcome, including the hesitant attitude of the French and the ever-present German temptations to be diverted by siren songs from the East. Above all, there will be need for managing our initiatives and policies with the utmost discipline within the Administration, both in preparing your European trip itself and in maintaining control over negotiations involving the Europeans that are already in progress (e.g., MBFR, European Security Conference, trade issues, monetary reform).

It is clear that there will have to be a high degree of American leadership, as regards both ideas for the content of Atlantic relations and the push needed to bring our efforts to fruition. Yet we must also enlist European initiative, so that political leaders over there acquire a major stake in this common endeavor. Our leadership must therefore be exercised with great restraint and delicacy and ways must be found to stimulate European initiatives.

The British had already done some thinking about this problem as a result of your meeting with Heath and of talks I had here just before the April 23 speech. In my latest talks in London, we were thus able to develop the elements of a concrete game plan leading up to your European trip.

Thus, the UK is very receptive to the idea that your visit to Europe next fall should culminate in new guiding statements that will give fresh momentum to trans-Atlantic policy. During my discussions in London we were able to go into considerable detail for a general plan of action for this summer.

The British feel—correctly—that the French are the key, and their attitude will determine to a large extent how far it will be possible to go in the economic, military and political field, and in establishing the machinery needed to move forward. There are Heath-Pompidou talks in Paris beginning on May 21 and the British will sound out the French. I will also talk to the new French Foreign Minister and possibly Pompidou while I am in Paris, and then we can concert with the UK on how to move ahead when you meet Pompidou in Iceland.

—The general game plan would be for you to initiate private discussions through letters to your counterparts in London, Paris, and Bonn, and perhaps the other Allies. Then, assuming French agreement, a sort of four power steering group would be quickly designated to decide on what questions ought to be addressed in which forums. The French [Page 65] may find this appealing because it gives them a leading role from the outset. Over the course of the summer these private discussions would proceed; as general concepts are developed in economic, political and military aspects, more concrete tasks would be spun off to working groups. Such an overarching four power group will be delicate and will have to be deftly managed to avoid offending the other Allies.

On defense the MBFR discussion would also be pressed in the regular NATO forum, which would force the Alliance to face up to the question of maintaining conventional defenses in an era of budgetary restrictions and détente. Simultaneously, the Defense Ministers would launch an analysis of such long-neglected issues as force deployments, equipment levels, role of tactical nuclear weapons, the Alliance command structure and burden sharing. The steering group would monitor these discussions and provide a forum for relating them. French participation in some form might be obtained as long as no pressure is put on them to rejoin the integrated NATO structure. If the French are unwilling to participate under NATO aegis, the four power steering mechanism could provide a means for their contribution.

In economics we have the problem that our key difficulties are with the European Community, and the French may be highly reluctant to begin a USEC dialogue. In this area the four power steering group, however, might hold some discussions before putting issues to the existing machinery in Brussels. This again will depend on the French reaction.

In the political and international fields, especially East-West relations, the same pattern would apply, beginning with the four power group and then possibly using the NATO machinery.

—These various strands could be brought together at the Deputy Foreign and Defense Minister level and then firmed up by governments before your visit.

The fact that defense and diplomacy fall naturally in NATO’s purview, while economics is within the EC is complicating. It could mean two separate summit meetings, and the interrelationship would have to be worked out.

That the discussions in London have passed to the stage of thinking about an actual game plan is an encouraging sign. There is no question the British take the European project seriously, and have, in fact, gone out on a limb in talking to us so frankly just after entering the Common Market. They agreed that what is needed is to accomplish something positive in trans-Atlantic relationships soon, so that the next American Administration will be operating in an established and an agreed framework. They appreciate that if we have a major achievement early in your term, you will be able to defend a strong Alliance policy.

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The positive British attitude is also in large part due to your basic decision to continue defense cooperation bilaterally with the UK on their nuclear deterrent. We discussed this at some length in London and made clear that nothing would be done with the Soviets in SALT that would impede it.

In sum, given the new, perhaps more delicate, phase we are entering with the Soviets, and therefore also with the Chinese, the Year of Europe project has already matured into a major and essential component of your strategy. It will require careful cultivating and handling, firm White House control and total bureaucratic discipline to prevent it from falling into a meaningless set of generalities, or provoking new disputes. If this happens, a Western summit, or summits, perhaps in later October could have historic significance.

  1. Summary: Kissinger discussed the Western European response to the Year of Europe initiative and assessed the likelihood of its success.

    Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 64, Country Files, Europe, General, Exchanges with the UK, Other, July 12, 1973 (2 of 3). Secret; Sensitive. Sent for information. Memoranda of conversation on Kissinger’s May 10 discussions with British officials in London are ibid., Box 62, Country Files, Europe, General, UK Memcons HAK London Trip (originals), May 1973. On April 23, Kissinger delivered a speech entitled “The Year of Europe” to the Associated Press editors’ annual meeting in New York City in which he called for a reinvigoration of the Atlantic alliance. For the text of Kissinger’s speech, see Department of State Bulletin, May 14, 1973, pp. 593–598.