192. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Norwegian
  • Foreign Minister Frydenlund
  • Secretary General Sverre Gjellum
  • Under Secretary Thorvald Stoltenberg
  • Defense Ministry Under Secretary Johan Holst
  • Norwegian Ambassador to U.S. Søren Christian Sommerfelt
  • Director General Political Affairs Kjeld Vibe
  • Director General Legal Affairs Kjell Eliassen
  • Polar Advisor Olav Bucher-Johannessen
  • American
  • The Secretary
  • Ambassador Anders
  • Helmut Sonnenfeldt
  • Arthur Hartman
  • L. Paul Bremer, III (Notetaker)


  • Bilateral Talks—Secretary’s Visit to Norway

Kissinger: I think, Mr. Minister, that you know all of my colleagues here. You know Mr. Hartman and Mr. Sonnenfeldt. Mr. Bremer was my Assistant before this. I had to let him go to regain a certain amount of freedom of action for myself.

Frydenlund: It was useful to get him here because he knew all of your likings and dislikings.

[Page 611]

Kissinger: Aside from the fact that you have ruined my marriage, I think this visit has gone very well.

Frydenlund: I think it adds to your attractiveness. It’s difficult to do it secretly with 8 Secret Service guys standing around you.

Kissinger: I’m saying that we discussed Spitsbergen.

Frydenlund: We are very happy to have you here. We know how busy you are and we’re glad to have you in Oslo. I believe we have you this morning for 1½ hours.

Kissinger: You’ll notice that the Minister has stored up so many resentments over the years that it all is coming out now.

Frydenlund: No, you know, several weeks ago I met with 200 press men who asked me what effect the elections would have on American foreign policy. Would there be no foreign policy at all? And I said that as long as Kissinger is there, there will be a foreign policy.

Kissinger: Yes, I saw it.

Frydenlund: Did you really?

Kissinger: Yes, I did. I sent it to my father, too. He keeps a scrapbook of nice things people say about me. (laughter)

Frydenlund: Perhaps Mr. Gjellum could introduce the people around the table. (Gjellum introduces the Norwegian side.)

Kissinger: Seriously, can I thank you for the way everything was organized at the NATO Meeting? It was beautifully done. I was here before in 1961, and I was touched by the very human warmth of the Norwegians at that time. I find the same atmosphere here now, too. We’ve been touched by the atmosphere of Norway.

Okay, Mr. Minister, now you can work me over again.

Frydenlund: Well, getting down to business. We’ve discussed before with you in the NATO Meeting, and you gave your analysis on the East-West relations and on Southern Africa. I think we could use those analyses as a starting point and talk perhaps a bit about the North and about the Law of the Sea and if time remains, about our relations with the less developed countries.

If you’ll allow me to start. We’re here to listen to you but give me a little time to explain our position on détente. Where we are located means that relations between the U.S. and USSR are of extreme importance to us. We are allied to the U.S. and a neighbor with the Soviets. It is always our policy to have good working relations with the Soviets, and to have some cooperation with the Soviets in the north, but to do that we must also have good close relations with the U.S., using that U.S. backing in our relations with the Soviets. To help compensate the gap between the size of the Soviet Union and Norway, my concept is to have good relations with the Soviets and with the U.S. Also, in terms of the internal Norwegian opinion, some people are critical of the U.S. but [Page 612] the bigger part is critical of the Soviets. It is always tempting in running Norwegian foreign policy to attack one side and then the other. My concept is to reverse: to have good relations with both sides.

Kissinger: You could do alternatively what your neighbors did which was to attack only us. (laughter)

Frydenlund: Our model is more the Finnish one. They have close relations with the Soviets and good relations with the U.S. Ours is the same but the other way around.

At the same time, to keep the pro-U.S. sentiment here, we must not be so dependent on you as to have to follow you in every part of the world on every issue—for example, in Korea or UNCTAD, etc. We must have a gentleman’s agreement that you will give us independent policy from time to time.

Kissinger: If we did not allow it, you would do it anyway. (laughter)

Frydenlund: I’m thinking, for example, on Korea after we had very strong pressure from the Embassy here, we voted with you, and when the next time you and I met, you criticized me for voting the wrong way. So we could have voted against you anyway. (laughter)

Kissinger: Hartman was mad that I wasn’t hard enough on you at the time, as I remember.

Hartman: That’s right.

Frydenlund: Anyway, we would like some independence.

Kissinger: We agree. We think it’s in our mutual interest to have close ties to strengthen you in the north. Whenever pressure starts, other countries will be forced into an unambiguous position. We don’t expect Norway to support us on every issue. There are issues on which we feel strongly and we will bring these to your attention. On North Atlantic issues we generally agree, I think. I can’t think of any concrete issue on which the issue of your having an independent foreign policy is a problem.

Frydenlund: We’ve told the Soviets we are willing to develop contacts, but that the basis is the continued alliance with the United States so they get no illusions about it.

Kissinger: I think that’s very smart because that way you can have a cooperation which doesn’t lead to disappointment later on. The comparison with Finland is interesting, though we won’t be as active in your domestic politics as the Soviets are in the Finns! (laughter)

Frydenlund: You don’t have to be. You have your own pressure groups here anyway. (laughter)

From this starting point, I’d be interested if you could expand on the U.S.-Soviet “rapprochment,” if you can use that word. I don’t know about the word, “rapprochment.” Are you permitted to use the word?

[Page 613]

Kissinger: It’s not forbidden. I told Giscard when he was in the United States just now that he should have done us the courtesy of using the phrase, “Peace through Strength,” at least once in our talks. (laughter)

The basic problem in our Soviet relations is to stop the oscillation between excessively cooperative and excessively tough policies. If you look at our policy until 1971, the press’ view and the view of the liberals in the United States was that the U.S. was responsible for the Cold War. We were war-mongers. Every Harvard professor who saw any Third Secretary in the Soviet Union was guaranteed that he would get front page New York Times coverage when he then asserted that the U.S. was missing an opportunity to improve relations with the Soviets. And periodically, we get spasms of extreme hostility to the Soviets. 1952 is a good example, and also now. It is dangerous when it starts to swing the other way. We want a steady course not dependent on the atmosphere of this or that negotiation. Many criticisms made today of détente are political. Some minority groups have the idea one way or another that they can thereby make points, many derived from the concept that there is peace. If there was a first-class crisis, then we would see a change in these attitudes.

We must resist Soviet expanionism in all places, other than the central part of Europe, too. This is the reason we were so concerned about Angola. I couldn’t care less which Black faction governs in Angola; it’s a matter of no significant interest to the United States. In Mozambique we did nothing, though FRELIMO was no friendlier to us than the MLPA. But if the Soviets can use military power there, then they can presumably use it even closer to home—in Yugoslavia, perhaps in the Middle East and closer to home still. That could be overwhelming. We’re not asking for Norwegian support in Angola, but for its private understanding of what we are doing. We have to resist the Soviet temptation to use political power. Once the pattern is established it will be very hard to stop. This, even for Norway, could be of possible significance.

But it is also imperative for our government to show that we saw every chance for “rapprochment.” It is easy to talk tough but when there is a crisis you have to show that you tried to avoid it. I think the Alliance is stronger now for our détente. Otherwise, in many countries, perhaps even in Norway, the problem now would be that the U.S. would be to blame for the failure of détente.

With the balance of power, the Soviets will be looking for accommodation. Pressures are already there in the Soviet society and they could come later from China, as well. I think it can be done as long as it can be done without great drama. The greatest danger in détente is a [Page 614] weakening in the will to resist. A substantial defense is essential to détente. We have said that all along. Without it it cannot work.

Frydenlund: I agree with what you said about public opinion on NATO. We always had a debate on NATO in this country but in the last several years there has been almost none. The conceptions you mentioned are understood here. NATO gives security and the possibility for détente. That makes it difficult for people to fight NATO but with the reversal of détente, it might be more difficult to get support for NATO over the long-run.

Détente and the will to resist, I think, are understood here. And today, it is easier to get our defense budget through Congress than it was through the Storting three or four years ago.

Kissinger: Really?

Frydenlund: Yes, though it could change.

Vibe: Of course, this has been against the backdrop of very strong Soviet military activity all the time.

Frydenlund: People understand that to keep détente, you need to keep up defense.

Kissinger: If you have another Cold War blamed on us, we could even have trouble in the United States.

Sommerfelt: You have the problem additionally of oil defense, too.

Frydenlund: By the way, Mr. Secretary, we adhered yesterday to the IEA before you arrived. I thought we should have this out of the way before you came, though we did put in some reservations.

Kissinger: Pretty soon, we’ll be the only ones who have not adhered. (to Hartman) Have they passed the safety net yet?

Hartman: No, not yet.

Kissinger: Part of the problem is that Proxmire wants me to go up there and testify, and I know he won’t ask a single question about the safety net.

Frydenlund: If you have “rapproachment,” this must affect the European scene, too, including Italy.

Kissinger: You contradicted me, my press tells me, on that subject.

Frydenlund: Yes, I was asked what the Norwegian position was and I told them.

Kissinger: There really are two problems. We can’t tell the Italians how to vote; that is their business, but with respect to the foreign policy consequences we draw, that is our business. We accept the results of pluralistic election. No law says we have to maintain the same policy with a Communist government.

Frydenlund: I said in Parliament that the Secretary of State can express his views on the matter.

[Page 615]

Kissinger: I’m not protesting your statement.

Frydenlund: I know.

Kissinger: Our press is really in a state of hysteria these days. They don’t want to report the news; they want to make it. Almost every statement I make is provoked; the last one, for example. Three leading Democrats had told a meeting of press editors that it was “desirable,” not just “acceptable” but “desirable,” for the Communists to enter the Italian government. I went before the same group later in the day and I was naturally asked what I thought of what three Democrats had said. Obviously, to have not replied at all would have made a story, too. I simply had to answer. But we have not been going around making propaganda about Italy. I was asked about it yesterday in my press conference and I said nothing.

Frydenlund: I know, the journalists were disappointed. (laughter)

Kissinger: The fact is—and I think our friends must understand this—it is inconceivable to me that over time our relations with Europe in which several key countries have Communists in the government will be unchanged. That is not a policy statement but a fact of life.

I know all the intellectual theories about how the Communists in Italy will be trouble for Moscow. I heard the same arguments back in 1962 about the historical opening to the Left—the idea then being that the opening to the Left would knock off the Communists by strengthening the Socialists. They were wrong then, too. There is nothing we can do about it. We will simply have to face the fact if it happens but we cannot pretend it won’t affect our relations with Italy. If it is followed by the same thing in France, I think we would find over time a change in the psychological basis for our relations in the U.S.

Frydenlund: What is the Soviet attitude towards the Communists in Italy?

Kissinger: I think they are not an adventurous group these days in the Soviet Union. Italian Communists in many ways will be a nuisance for Moscow. It will give them new problems in Eastern Europe, but if I were them, it would be a good problem to have. If we had parliamentary democracy in some Warsaw Pact country, it would give us trouble, but I wouldn’t resist the problem itself. I would think the probable course of relations with Communists in Italy with Moscow would be sort of like our relations in the U.S. with DeGaulle. He was a pain in the neck but in a crisis he was always on our side as a man of the West. The Italian Communists would be trouble for the Soviets but in a crisis where would they stand? Tito, after all, is better than Kadar, but Tito in Rome would be lots of trouble for us. If the foreign policy of Rome slides towards the group of ’77 which is the minimum that will happen, it will be unfortunate for us.

[Page 616]

I have read the theories about how annoying it would be for the Soviets. In 1962 the idea was that by taking the Left-wing Socialists into the government in Italy, it would destroy the Communists. It did exactly the opposite, of course. It destroyed the Socialists.

Frydenlund: The problem is when you have 30–35% of the people in a democratic society and you leave them out of the democratic governing, it’s a problem.

Kissinger: There is no question about that. And Italy’s governing party has not done much to gain public support.

Frydenlund: Portugal’s experience, I think, was more encouraging. There, they had the Communist threat, but it has worked well, so far.

Kissinger: But the U.S. position was the same as it was in Italy. Many Europeans were encouraging us to give money to the Goncalves government. We said we would cooperate with any government which did not have a major Communist role.

Frydenlund: You were lukewarm to Soares, too.

Kissinger: No, we liked Soares, but we thought he might be a Kerensky. Once we saw that he wasn’t, we changed.

Sonnenfelt: He changed, too.

Frydenlund: I think his change had much to do with his contacts with European Social Democrats.

Kissinger: We always favored that. I wish there were a Social Democratic Party in Italy, too.

Frydenlund: All of the papers say that the main subject we will discuss will be the northern areas, so at the press conference you can say we did discuss it.

Kissinger: Let’s discuss it then. I’d like to hear your views. I have not studied Svalbard really until this visit so I know very little. Two weeks ago, the Soviet Ambassador told me he heard we may be making a commitment here on Svalbard during my visit; proving again my colleagues’ inability to keep their preparations to themselves. I told him I was studying the problem. I have trouble making up my mind.

I know your position with respect to Spitsbergen. As I understand it, there is no disagreement. On the Shelf you want exclusive sovereignty, and that the Spitsbergen Treaty should not apply to the Shelf. Is that correct?

Frydenlund: Yes, that is correct.

Kissinger: Here is my own thinking. We really have no clear-cut government position on this, but I start from the position that I want to strengthen the Norwegian position in the area to the maximum extent possible. My first instinct was to support your claim to full sovereignty. [Page 617] In fact, we had developed a position in which we’d say we’d support sovereignty if you would give us guarantees for U.S. economic rights. I don’t know what we mean by that frankly. Do you? (looking at Hartman) (Hartman shakes his head No.)

If we have a governmental position, we were certainly moving towards that position, but I’m not sure that’s in your interest or ours. For example, what if the Soviets decide to claim that they will apply this Spitsbergen principle to that area and decide to challenge this interpretation. Who will defend that area then? Will you use force? Will we use force to support you?

Assuming we use the Spitsbergen principle on the Shelf and could get the other countries to put a presence into that area, what’s more useful to you—to have a presence in the area and then appeal to the 40 signatories, or to say it’s a purely Norwegian matter? The Soviets can either accept the principle in that case and demand bilateral talks or they can contest it and say they will act unilaterally. If we say you are sovereign there, then it’s a question of whether we can get NATO to help you if you need help, if the Soviets challenge you.

This is just my own thinking and I must say I’ve changed my thinking. A week ago, if you’d have asked me, I might have said we’d support your sovereignty in return for economic guarantees. But I’d like your reaction. I agree that we want to strengthen your position. I talked briefly with my colleagues from the UK, the FRG and France about it, and I don’t think they’ve made up their minds either. I asked if they were prepared to put a presence into the area, you know oceanographic research and that kind of thing. And I had the impression that they said “yes,” but I could be talked into another position, too. I just have not thought it fully out yet.

My own thinking is that I’m uneasy about supporting your sovereignty—not on a legal basis; we’re glad to find a legal position to support you. We have to strengthen the Western position there, and that’s the most important thing.

Frydenlund: Thank you. I’m glad we’ve established these contacts on these questions. We think it is necessary to use the relatively low tension that already exists in these areas to find some way . . .

Kissinger: I was just looking at the map over your shoulder, Mr. Minister. I hadn’t realized how far north all of Norway is.

Frydenlund: Spitsbergen is not even on that map. Of course, we have the Gulf Stream and that makes the climate milder. If you were here one day more, we would take you up there to the north. Perhaps we can do that the next time. Norway is so long that if you revolved it on its axis, it would reach all the way to the south to Sicily.

Bucher-Johannessen: Why don’t we do it? (laughter)

[Page 618]

Frydenlund: Anyway, we want to use the low tension in the area to find some settlement. I won’t explain the legal basis for our reasoning. Mr. Eliassen can if you want. Our motive is essentially political. We see the situation there, if the Spitsbergen regime could be applied to the Shelf, as very complicated. If you have Western companies and Soviet companies and the various treaty parties acting on the same rules as the Spitsbergen situation it would be a very complicated situation to deal with.

Eliassen: It is true, because the only regulation we have is a 50-year old Mining Code which applies to the land territory. It is an automatic process. Any nation has the right to search under that law and the right for exploitation of anything it finds. There is no possibility, therefore, of a balanced development.

Kissinger: I am clear that to extend the Spitsbergen Treaty to the Shelf without arranging for a substantial Western presence would be trouble.

Frydenlund: That’s what we’re afraid of.

Kissinger: We’ll have to have more consultations with the other countries and to stay in touch with you. Suppose we support your sovereignty claim here? In that case, we really have to think through what we do when it’s challenged by the Soviets. We need for that a fair amount of unanimity among the allies. To accept the Spitsbergen Treaty in principle for the Shelf without commitments to move Western presence in fast would be a mistake. I’m not thinking of it economically but I’m thinking in terms of preventing Soviet encroachments.

Frydenlund: That would get into a real conflict with the Soviets who see the area as sensitive. It would lead to a competition and we have no regulations to prevent them.

Kissinger: What do the Soviets think?

Frydenlund: Well, as you know, you have reserved your position. They have actually disapproved of it on legal grounds. As opposed to reserving, they have actually disapproved.

Kissinger: Therefore, they insist on the Spitsbergen Treaty being applied?

Frydenlund: Yes, though they have indicated they can be flexible. We can see that they are possibly thinking of some kind of a linkage or a package deal. We have heard such statements from them anyway. But our notion is to prevent a klondike atmosphere up there.

Kissinger: What would you want us to do?

Frydenlund: We have received your paper.

Kissinger: Which one?

Anders: The aide-mémoire.

[Page 619]

Sonnenfeldt: They got it in Washington about 10 days ago.

Kissinger: It reserves our position, you mean? (At this point, Mr. Atherton enters the room to show the Secretary a cable. They discussed the cable and Mr. Atherton leaves the room.)

Frydenlund: That’s an interesting insight into what it’s like to be in the center of things.

Kissinger: I just did it because I wanted to impress you. (laughter)

Frydenlund: I remember in our meeting at the State Department you had a secretary come in with some note to say the meeting was over.

Kissinger: I did?

Frydenlund: Yes, you know, it said something like “Get this guy out of here right now.” (laughter)

We are satisfied with what you have said about preserving the calm up in the north. I’m glad of that.

Kissinger: Our line is to adopt a course which will strengthen your position up there. I’m not sure which the best course is. I’m agreeable with you that we should continue our discussion. We’ll keep you informed of any talks we have with the other allies, too, and if you have any suggestions or ideas, we’ll look at them very sympathetically. The objective is to strengthen the Western presence in the north, not economic objectives.

Frydenlund: We’ll keep in contact and we’ll need time to study your memo. We envisage a meeting in August or September in Oslo.

Kissinger: What level would that be at?

Hartman: Vine conducted the last meetings.

Kissinger: Well, those guys will just push papers all over the place unless we give them some guidance. This will get high-level attention, Mr. Minister, and you can be sure that our side will be more firmly instructed than the last time. Until three weeks ago, I really had no idea of the issues.

Frydenlund: The basic interest of all of us is to keep the tensions down. The Soviet Ambassador here has indicated that Gromyko might come sometime this autumn. He has a standing invitation, you know.

Kissinger: He doesn’t recognize the Sonnenfeldt Doctrine, I don’t think. (laughter)

Frydenlund: No, but he recognizes Sonnenfeldt. (laughter)

Kissinger: You should have seen him when Brezhnev and he went hunting together. It was the most awful slaughter. Sonnenfeldt shot only small boars and females. (laughter) He also gave Brezhnev his gold watch in return for nothing.

[Page 620]

Sonnenfeldt: No, that’s not true. I got an awful lot out of him for that gold watch. (laughter)

Frydenlund: To be serious, Mr. Secretary-General . . .

Kissinger: Why do you keep calling me Mr. Secretary-General? Are you preparing for your trip to the Soviet Union? (laughter)

Frydenlund: When I get letters from you, I know which ones are from you and which ones aren’t. The ones that say “Dear Henry” must be the ones from the staff. The ones that say “Dear Mr. Minister” are the ones you send yourself.

Kissinger: Actually, it’s the other way around.

Frydenlund: Anyway, I think it would be good to get our work done before Gromyko comes. There are 40 signatories to this treaty including the Chinese. If there is oil there, we will have a real run on the place. The Soviets already are in the area with 2,000 people.

Kissinger: How do you answer the British argument? They say “how can you have an island without a shelf?”

Eliassen: The general principles are set down in the Continental Shelf Convention of 1958. They say that there is a Continental Shelf to the distance at which the depth no longer permits exploitation. The depth between Norway and Svalbard is 500 meters.

Kissinger: What is the distance?

Eliassen: About 400 miles.

Sonnenfeldt: But your position is that this is the Shelf of Norway and not of Svalbard.

Eliassen: However you like it, whether you take it from Norway or Svalbard, it is our Shelf.

Kissinger: Your position would be that the regime on Svalbard is exceptional?

Eliassen: Yes, the only question is whether the regime applies to the part of the area around Spitsbergen where the Treaty signators have equal rights to mining. The Treaty says “on land and in the territorial waters.”

Hartman: When the Treaty was written, the distance was 3 miles.

Eliassen: Actually, it was 4 miles.

Kissinger: Where is the sector line, and why should we reject it?

Eliassen: That has nothing to do with Spitsbergen. It was drawn by the Soviets in the Barents Sea in 1926. It goes straight north to the Pole with a slight deviation around the Svalbard area. The purpose at the time was simply to define which islands were Soviet and which were not.

Kissinger: As a practical question, please tell me why you reject that concept?

[Page 621]

Eliassen: We haven’t done so clearly yet.

Kissinger: I see it has no legal status but could it lend itself to the solution of the problem?

Eliassen: The purpose of the 1926 decree was to define which were Soviet islands. The sector was not applied to the seabed or to the sea itself. Now the Soviets want to apply it, though they have not said so in such terms. They say that “special circumstances” would justify a line which by coincidence follows the sector line. They have not actually said the sector line itself is applicable to the sea.

Kissinger: Well, when our consultations resume at the end of August, we’ll have a clearer position.

Frydenlund: On the delineation, the limitation of the border question, we don’t need a clearer position. You already support us.

Kissinger: We may consider sending higher level people here at those talks but we must get a governmental and allied position before the issue becomes acute.

Frydenlund: We do not want tension now.

Kissinger: Nor do we. What should we say to the press about this?

Frydenlund: I think we should say we discussed the questions and decided to keep up our contacts. The position on the U.S. side is still under study.

Kissinger: With all respect, I’m not sure if that’s a good thing to say. If you say we have not taken a position, the Soviets will hit us. Next thing I know, Dobrynin will be in with an aide-mémoire to try to head us off which we will then have to answer. I think it might be best to say we are continuing our contacts on the issue but not to state that we’ve reached any conclusion because the Soviet Ambassador may come in with an aide-mémoire which I will have to answer.

Frydenlund: We need time to study your aide-mémoire, too.

[Omitted here is discussion of the OECD, 200-mile maritime sovereignty, Law of the Sea, the Cod War, Norwegian shipping, and remarks to be made to the press.]

  1. Summary: Kissinger, Frydenlund, and U.S. and Norwegian officials discussed bilateral and multilateral issues.

    Source: National Archives, RG 59, Records of the Office of the Counselor, Helmut C. Sonnenfeldt, 1955–1977, Entry 5339, Box 10, POL 2 Norway. Confidential; Nodis. The meeting took place in Frydenlund’s office. Kissinger was in Oslo from May 20 to 22 to attend a NATO Ministerial meeting and also met with Prime Minister Odvar Nordli, as well as with Defense Minister Rolf Hansen; memoranda of conversation on both May 22 meetings are ibid.