18. Minutes of Defense Program Review Committee/Senior Review Group Meeting1


  • NATO Security Issues and Atlantic Charter


  • Chairman
  • Henry A. Kissinger
  • State
  • Kenneth Rush
  • Leon Sloss
  • George Springsteen
  • Seymour Weiss
  • Defense
  • William P. Clements, Jr.
  • Robert Hill
  • John H. Morse
  • JCS
  • Adm. Thomas H. Moorer
  • Vice Adm. John Weinel
  • CIA
  • James Schlesinger
  • Bruce Clarke
  • [name not declassified]
  • ACDA
  • Philip J. Farley
  • Ira Richards
  • Treasury
  • Paul Volcker
  • John Hennessy
  • John Hart
  • CIEP
  • Deane Hinton
  • NSC Staff
  • Helmut Sonnenfeldt
  • Philip Odeen
  • Richard T. Kennedy
  • Jeanne W. Davis


It was agreed that:

—the JCS would prepare an analysis of how a single commander would defend the central front with single-country forces if he were facing a single commander attacking the central front;

—the Defense Department presentation to the DPC will be reviewed in a smaller group for its relationship to the general framework;

—there should be no action on the Defense Planning Questionnaire until after the Pompidou meeting; a Presidential decision will be obtained before the DPC meeting.

[Page 84]

Mr. Kissinger: I wanted to have a fairly brief meeting to go over what we have in mind for the Year of Europe and to make sure that we are going ahead with some energy. We have no intention of getting absorbed in a lot of bureaucratic liturgy. The President is serious about this. He wants a high-level exercise, as he made clear at the Cabinet meeting this morning. One way or another we are going to give this a big try. In what form and through what channels are open for discussion. Most of the objections so far have been captious. For 20 years the Europeans have been saying they didn’t want global responsibilities. If they want them now, they’re more than welcome to them. But they have got to face up to the linking of political, economic and defense factors. An organization not linked by reality is not worth defending. We can’t have a trade war and keep troops in Europe. It just can’t be done.

We want to have by the end of the year a statement of purpose, a work program for the Atlantic area for the next two or three years. The Europeans can’t complain about the dangers of a condominium and then refuse to cooperate in getting some Atlantic consensus. If they won’t, there will be a de facto condominium, and all problems will be solved in relation to the attitudes of the Soviets and the Chinese. In effect, they would be giving them a veto over the policies of the European countries. That’s what we’re heading for.

We’re open-minded about the forum. We want an understanding with the French as to how to proceed, both substantively and procedurally. On substance, I think we’re all right. But on procedure, I’m not so sure. There can be different opinions on procedures, but we are determined not to get absorbed in liturgical paper-shuffling; not to repeat the MBFR nit-picking exercise. We’re serious about getting some emotional commitment by both sides to some statement of objectives. I don’t believe it is beyond the wit of man to get some idea of where we’re going. We can’t avoid a confrontation in the economic area if we don’t know what we want in other areas so we can have some trade-offs. The Embassies need to understand that this is a matter of policy. Forget about the word “charter.” We can’t let people score cheap victories as Brandt has been doing. We can give up the word but not the substance. If they prefer “declaration of principles,” that’s fine. We’re trying to get a sense of direction so that when we have political negotiations we will know what the limits of autonomy should be.

On defense, we need to see a draft on what we should propose at the DPC meeting. This could be the place where we state our philosophy. There’s a great reluctance to admit that there are problems. We don’t want to change the strategy of flexible response, but we want a complete concept. We’re not eager to bug out. But we won’t be kept in by a refusal to face the problems. We want to get at the realistic content [Page 85] of the problem. If we can decide what we want, we will defend it. If we wanted to get out, we could get the Congress to vote us out and become extremely popular thereby.

We’re desperately trying to stay in. But they can’t put us through the wringer as they did on MBFR without threatening everything. First they complain about being neglected, and now they complain about being dominated. They have to understand that, while this is a tougher period, it is comparable to the late 40’s. They really don’t have a choice—it is Finlandization or some Atlantic relationship. We have a choice, and they can drive us to it. If there is no response from them, there will be a gradual erosion. But we won’t get absorbed in nit-picking.

Mr. Schlesinger: The primary nit-pickers are the French. Everything depends on what progress you can make in Iceland.

Mr. Kissinger: Absolutely. The French haven’t opposed the concept. In my conversations with Pompidou he has been obsessed with the monetary question. Perhaps that’s because it is the only subject of which he has any independent comprehension.

Mr. Rush: On MBFR the British were the nit-pickers.

Mr. Kissinger: That’s right. I have talked to (Secretary) Shultz about this. It’s possible Giscard and Pompidou don’t see eye to eye. The French don’t want to settle this question in this forum. They want to discuss it and get a sense of direction. We want to discuss the direction in which we want the Atlantic relationship to go over this year. If we can get the French to cooperate, we can get a pretty good result.

Mr. Schlesinger: We already have a framework in MC 14/3.

Mr. Kissinger: (to Schlesinger) When are you going to be confirmed? Can you go to the DPC?

Mr. Clements: Senator Symington plans three days of hearings beginning Thursday. We’re trying to accelerate this. After the hearings, it will take a day or two, then a weekend. It will be close, but I think we’re okay.

Mr. Kissinger: It would be highly desirable if Jim (Schlesinger) could go.

Mr. Schlesinger: Even if I’m not confirmed, I can probably go as a Special Representative.

Mr. Kissinger: May we look at your presentation before it’s firmed up?

Mr. Schlesinger: You bet.

Mr. Kissinger: We want to orchestrate it with other things to show how it relates to other areas. This can give them an idea of what we mean by a serious defense dialogue. We’ve got to get some common understanding. The British talk about a three-day conventional de[Page 86]fense. The Germans say there should be no nuclear weapons on their territory for more than demonstration purposes. I don’t know the answer, but I do know that we can’t improvise an answer under combat conditions if we don’t know what we want to do.

Mr. Rush: But aren’t there differences among ourselves? Between (General) Goodpaster and Systems Analysis?

Mr. Schlesinger: These are differences of emphasis rather than differences of opinion. The JCS see a higher risk in relying on a conventional defense but they’re not opposed. Systems Analysis believes there is more capability already there.

Adm. Moorer: There is no difference as to objectives. But we have begun to use the expression “short war.” This impacts on the incentive of the European countries to build up their stockages. We believe they should stockpile not for a specific number of days but to cover their expenditures until they can get replacements by other means. The Germans point out they have a shorter LOC than we do. That’s right. Also, we can make substitutions. And we use a different planning factor than NATO does. I have recommended to the Military Committee that we standardize this.

We have only two choices: we can maintain a conventional force to provide an initial situation which would permit the stopping of the aggression, or we can use nuclear weapons at the outset. MC 14/3 called for direct defense, a directed escalation, then general nuclear war. The problem is not one of strategy, but of the linkage between overall economic, political and military requirements. We want the Europeans to improve their war reserves and communications. We don’t want a radical initiative to change the strategy.

Mr. Kissinger: But the only way to avoid a radical initiative is to get a concept which we share. The British say 3 to 5 days of conventional warfare. Others say 60 days. All say “flexible response.” But the content is sufficiently different to permit the present anomalies.

Adm. Moorer: It comes down to the assumptions as to the warning we would have. If we are surprised, we won’t be facing a full Soviet effort. If they are prepared to mount a full effort, we would have some warning of it. If we have sufficient warning, we could bring REFORGER into play and do some other things. We can work it out for four days or 400 days. It depends on your assumptions.

Mr. Kissinger: The point I’m making is that the political leaders don’t have a unified concept of what they’re facing. We need some common comprehension of something other than empty phrases. In these days, the impact of a nuclear war on Europe and on the US is not basically different. It would be as disastrous for us as for them. We need some systematic analysis of the problem. To the extent agreement [Page 87] exists as to the nature of the problem, it should be easy. If it doesn’t exist, we should try to get it.

Mr. Weiss: I agree with you, but we should be careful. Such an examination might surface the view that tactical nuclear war in Europe may be better than general, nuclear war.

Mr. Kissinger: Would you handle this by ignoring it?

Mr. Weiss: That might be the danger of driving it to its absolute logical conclusion.

Mr. Kissinger: There’s a difference between driving to an absolute logical conclusion and refusing to tackle the problem year after year by refusing to face it. Marshall Wright tells me that we’re going to have a vote for a 75,000 troop cut by September. We have to get organized.

Adm. Moorer: One problem is that these countries change Ministers every six months. Sometimes they have a different outlook.

Mr. Rush: How can we state a basis for discussion with our allies if we don’t have a position ourselves?

Mr. Kissinger: We can say these are the questions we see. We are having some difficulty making up our minds on some things. This can enhance our credibility when we say we want to consult with them.

Adm. Moorer: One problem is that only the President has the authority to release tactical nuclear weapons. If we have to get the reaction of each country, the situation would change in the meantime so that we would have another problem. The NATO machinery can’t respond to the question of the use of tactical nuclear weapons, so we would just go ahead and use them.

Mr. Schlesinger: But we can’t say that.

Adm. Moorer: That’s the problem.

Mr. Rush: Suppose we did say so.

Mr. Schlesinger: We won’t get any agreement on force structure or strategy to implement MC 14/3 if we say we will tell SACEUR to do what he pleases.

Adm. Moorer: We would never say it.

Mr. Kissinger: I know what will happen. Every agency will say that the existing policy is the best one.

Mr. Schlesinger: Not so.

Mr. Rush: You’re too pessimistic.

Mr. Schlesinger: Everyone recognizes the irrationalities and anomalies in the present situation. The problem is to achieve some cohesion with the Europeans. They agree to MC 14/3 but pay only lip service to it and won’t implement it. We can go along with any objective. We can go to nuclear weapons if they want. Or to a fleshed-out conventional [Page 88] posture. If they won’t fight at all, we can go home and save a lot of money.

Mr. Rush: I question that we would save money. It would cost us more money if we went home.

Mr. Kissinger: If they don’t give us something we can defend to Congress, we will have to pack up.

Adm. Moorer: Jim (Schlesinger) can make a forcible statement to this effect in the DPC. Of course, they have been told this over and over, but it’s always a different group.

Mr. Kissinger: But the basic structure never changes. It’s easier for them to hope that the problem will go away or to do just enough so that we won’t carry out our threat to leave. They figure that there will be no war, or if there is, that we will fight, or that they won’t be in office when it comes. They will have to pay the price sooner or later.

Adm. Moorer: We only have two options: we can use nuclear weapons at the outset or we can try to stem the tide with a flexible response using conventional forces.

Mr. Kissinger: But which one we decide on determines deployments. It has to be decided.

Mr. Schlesinger: All the problems of 1964 are still there.

Mr. Kissinger: This Administration is prepared to look at the issue and to do something about it if we can get Congressional support.

Mr. Weiss: Suppose the consensus should move toward a shorter nuclear fuse? Can we get agreement here at home?

Mr. Kissinger: If they want a nuclear defense, we can make the decisions. We can mount a substantial conventional defense only with substantial input from the Europeans. If they want nuclears we can decide what kind, the strategy, etc. If we really decide on a conventional defense we can fight a rear-guard action of troop cuts. I think the White House would tend to lean toward a strengthened conventional defense.

Mr. Rush: How can they not use NATO troops for a conventional defense?

Mr. Kissinger: How can they use them in their present state? It’s like the French army in 1940—there are too many weak spots, too many anomalies. It may be that the best way out is a substantial conventional defense with the fixes needed to make it more effective. Then we could defend the need for forces in Europe as being essential or desirable for political reasons. But we can’t keep 300,000 American troops in Europe so that Brandt can use them to bargain with the Soviets.

Mr. Volcker: And create a monetary system so that we can’t pay for them.

Mr. Kissinger: Yes.

[Page 89]

Adm. Moorer: I don’t disagree. We should tell them that unless they are willing to take the actions necessary to correct the deficiencies, we can no longer provide the forces required for the present strategy.

Mr. Rush: A dialogue without our knowing where we’re going will not be very profitable.

Mr. Kissinger: Jim (Schlesinger) can say these are the problems. We will give you our views. On one or two matters, we haven’t made up our minds. We have to the end of the year to come up with some general principles.

Adm. Moorer: In AD–70 we addressed the weaknesses and the requisites to improve the forces. EUROGROUP estimated $1 billion for shelters, communications, some reserves. I recommend we update AD–70—determine the status of our defenses. Jim (Schlesinger) can ask what actions they will take.

Mr. Kissinger: That should be done. But we should also think about where we want to be in 1980 and what do we do now to get there. It goes beyond AD–70.

Mr. Rush: That was $1 billion over five years.

Mr. Kissinger: When the NATO military structure disgorges a paper it usually reflects some obtainable consensus and they are all very conscious of how difficult it was to put together. They suffer at the prospect of going through the process again. We should stress AD–70 and get them to look further ahead. It’s their own bloody security. We have more options than they have.

Have we ever had an American analysis of how General Abrams would fight this war? Suppose we had no allies to worry about—only American forces? This would be a good yardstick against which to measure what we’re doing. How would a single commander defend the central front if he were facing a single commander attacking the central front?

Adm. Moorer: That’s a good idea. We already have part of it; we will do it.

Mr. Clements: That’s a great way to start.

Adm. Moorer: When the Military Committee considers the problem, of course one view they look at is General Goodpaster’s.

Mr. Kissinger: He’s a statesman. His view must be shaded by what he thinks will sell.

Mr. Schlesinger: The Germans won’t live with anything but a forward defense.

Mr. Kissinger: Jim (Schlesinger), we will discuss your paper (for the DPC) in a smaller group as to how to fit it into the general design. Could we get from State a draft of an Atlantic Charter or some principles?

[Page 90]

Mr. Springsteen: You have it—two drafts, also a Japanese draft. One is broad and simple and the other is more detailed.

Mr. Kissinger: I haven’t had a chance to look at them. I will do so and get back to you.

Adm. Moorer: May I raise one more item. The Defense Planning Questionnaire is due July 31. With the reduction in Naval forces, in a quantitive sense we can’t meet our commitment. The only realistic thing to do is to make our report in accordance with our capabilities and send a briefing team over to explain to NATO what we’re doing. The truth is that we have greatly increased qualitatively to compensate for our reductions.

Mr. Kissinger: Why do we have to decide this now?

Adm. Moorer: There are many budgetary fall-outs.

Mr. Kissinger: Send a memorandum to the President.

Mr. Odeen: We have it.

Mr. Clements: We’ll put Jim (Schlesinger) in a helluva position if he can’t address this issue.

Mr. Kissinger: We will get you a decision, but I would prefer no action before the President meets with Pompidou. We’ll get a decision for Jim (Schlesinger) before he goes.

Mr. Schlesinger: It’s Hobson’s choice. We just don’t have the money.

  1. Summary: The Defense Program Review Committee and the Senior Review Group considered the studies prepared in response to NSSM 168, U.S. NATO Policies and Programs, and NSSM 183, Principles for a Declaration on Atlantic Relations.

    Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–113, SRG Minutes (Originals), 1972–1973 (3 of 4). Secret. The meeting took place in the White House Situation Room.