27. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Sir Burke Trend, Secretary to the Cabinet
  • Sir John Hunt, Secretary-designate to the Cabinet
  • Sir Thomas Brimelow, Foreign and Commonwealth Officer
  • Richard Sykes, Minister, UK Embassy
  • John Graham, Political Counselor, UK Embassy
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Mr. Helmut Sonnenfeldt, Senior NSC Staff Member
  • Mr. Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff

Dr. Kissinger: What should we start with? Let’s start with the so-called Year of Europe. The only other thing I want to discuss—on the nuclear program—is to make sure there is no misunderstanding of what I said to Rowley on the West Coast. Why don’t we discuss that first.

What I thought I said to Rowley was that the MIRVed Poseidon presents significant difficulties for us, with Congress and the bureaucracy. But the chances are 50–50 if, after considering it, there were a formal request. While the other one was certain, I wanted to make sure you didn’t think we had turned it down on discretionary grounds. The President is personally disposed to do it but there is the difficulty.

Sir Burke Trend: Yes. The way it came to us led us to discount it positively.

Dr. Kissinger: Our view is, it is a quarrel we don’t insist on taking on. But if in your judgment it is worth doing, we will be basically disposed to be helpful.

Sir Burke Trend: But you would still see formidable difficulty with the Congress.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes. [To Sonnenfeldt] Don’t you?

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: Yes.

[Page 118]

Dr. Kissinger: And a major brawl with the Soviets. We had gotten word that you felt we had turned it down as a matter of executive discretion.

Sir Burke Trend: No, we got it as you have just put it. That it was 50–50, that you can’t guarantee it, but you were favorably disposed.

Dr. Kissinger: It would probably succeed.

Sir Burke Trend: It would probably succeed?

Dr. Kissinger: Yes. But blood will be spilled. Schlesinger thinks the Mark III would suffice. I am also told you question our cost estimates. We understand the Mark III will be more expensive, because of the modifications required. There is a discrepancy in the estimates. We think it is $620–700 [M] more, and you think it’s a billion more. Our experts should get together and reconcile the estimates.

Sir Burke Trend: I’ll see about the cost estimates. On the sheer merits, we are still mulling it.

Dr. Kissinger: I am told you are leaning now to Superantelope. We frankly think that is a mistake. But it is the easiest for us. So we won’t tout you off it!

On the Year of Europe. We are all familiar with the exchanges that have taken place. [Exchange of messages between Heath and the President, Tab A] Can Burke or someone sum up what happened at Copenhagen?

Sir Brimelow: What it comes down to is, by mid-August we have to make available to the Danish chairman of the Nine Foreign Ministers texts which are contributions to what may be said by the Nine if and when President Nixon comes to Europe later on. These contributions will be worked on by the Danish chairman, then by the political directors, in order that the texts as approved may be reviewed by Foreign Ministers. The work of the Danish chairman will be considered by the correspondents, the juniors, on August 31, to be considered by the political directors 4–5 September, for review by Foreign Ministers 10–11 September—which is when you will go to Europe.

Dr. Kissinger: I am not sure I will go to Europe.

Sir Brimelow: Some mentioned that possibility.

Dr. Kissinger: That I would not go?

Sir Brimelow: Yes.

Dr. Kissinger: They had no basis at the Copenhagen meeting.

Sir Brimelow: It was mentioned.

Dr. Kissinger: By whom?

Sir Brimelow: [Looks through his cables] I don’t seem to have it.

Dr. Kissinger: There was some discussion when the Italians were here about whether it was more useful for me to go before or after the Foreign Ministers’ meeting.

[Page 119]

Sir Burke Trend: There was general expectation that you would come.

Dr. Kissinger: That was my intention.

Sir Burke Trend: You are reconsidering?

Dr. Kissinger: Yes.

Sir Brimelow: [Reading a cable] It came from the North Atlantic Council.

Dr. Kissinger: I was hoping to give a speech to the Atlantic Treaty Association. It can be given any time between 10–12 September, but they would prefer it be the opening speech.

Sir Brimelow: In the North Atlantic Council on the 26th, DeStaerke said Dr. Kissinger’s trip was uncertain, but the important thing was to have results in time for President Nixon’s visit.

We are working on material to give to the Danes before August 15.

Dr. Kissinger: Which we will see or not see before it is given?

Brimelow: I don’t think you will see it before. We have to put it in the European machinery first. Then we expect to talk to you and really get a move on.

Dr. Kissinger: What do you mean by talk to us and really get a move on? Who do we talk to? The Danish Foreign Minister?

Sir Brimelow: Yes.

Dr. Kissinger: We would negotiate with him?

Sir Brimelow: If you regard it as negotiation.

Dr. Kissinger: Then we would have to go back to you. No one can believe he would have independent judgement.

Sir Brimelow: Yes, this is a great difficulty. It is cumbersome and slow.

We have felt the French are holding back but it may accelerate at the last minute. For the Common Market summit, the French held back but produced a document at the last minute, and it was a good document.

Dr. Kissinger: There are two problems. Whether there should be a European document—which is your problem—and the question of an Atlantic declaration, which is partly ours.

It is incompatible with our previous relationship to be presented by a fait accompli like this. I have just spoken to the President. This is not simply my personal view, though it is my personal view.

Sir Burke Trend: Why do you think this?

Dr. Kissinger: Let’s review the evolution. The President and the Prime Minister had a close talk in January; we discussed what needed to be done. We thought it would be done in close collaboration with [Page 120] London. We never thought it would be done through the Copenhagen Foreign Minister. When I made my speech, I thought we were operating within a consensus. We saw it as in the common interest in the long term and almost exclusively in the European interest in the short term. We did not see it as an adversary relationship.

I have told you our philosophy: We wanted to anchor the Atlantic relationship emotionally in this country.

When I came to London in May, the Prime Minister proposed a small steering group—which we accepted. Then Sir Denis Greenhill proposed an ad hoc group—which we accepted. We thought it was a cooperative enterprise.

Then in deference to the French, we accepted a bilateral process. But we always preferred a multilateral framework, at least among the big powers. We were told you would use your influence to move it into a multilateral framework at the earliest moment.

Then we were told by you, by the French, and by the Germans, that we would have your ideas on a draft declaration—which we haven’t received from any country. Now three and one-half months afterwards, we are told not only that there can be no multilateral talks but that even the bilateral talks have ended. And that we won’t hear any views from you until you have talked with Luxembourg, Denmark—and probably Ireland too. And this from the one government we’ve been more open with than any other government.

This is incompatible with our relationship, and even insulting.

The President is supposed to decide whether he wants to come to Europe—in a situation where no ally wants to talk to him before they talk to each other, and where he is to see Foreign Ministers. I can tell you he won’t go to Europe to attend a Foreign Ministers meeting or sign a communiqué to be signed by Foreign Ministers.

If our allies won’t talk to us except through Europe, we will deal with you bilaterally as we deal with Luxembourg, and at the same level. We proposed this in order to anchor the Atlantic relationship. If this is the European response . . . . This is our attitude. There should be no mistake about it in Europe. It is particularly painful for this President, and for me.

Sir Burke Trend: You should not think that the painfulness is exclusively yours.

Dr. Kissinger: But you were participating in the decisions.

Sir Burke Trend: Why do you see it as an adversary process?

Dr. Kissinger: After three months, the Europeans have refused to give us a response or a comment on our drafts. And now the Europeans refuse to talk to us except through the Danish Foreign Minister, and [Page 121] then they will present us a document. I am sure he is an estimable man. I don’t even know who he is.

Sir Brimelow: His name is Andersen.

Dr. Kissinger: But he is a messenger boy, not a negotiator.

Sir Brimelow: In our presentation we have gone rather further than what was actually decided. I was talking on the basis of the usual procedures.

At Copenhagen, we were acting to counter the attitude of the French.

Dr. Kissinger: . . . who have totally misled us. They said they would produce a document.

Sir Brimelow: The French told us they have never been committed to produce a draft, but that if there was a draft it would be better if the French did it.

Dr. Kissinger: That is a lie. We have the record. I spoke with Jobert in June, and in July in San Clemente.

Sir Brimelow: At Copenhagen we worked to break a procedural deadlock. The French agreed for the first time that at Copenhagen we should discuss substance rather than procedure. But we had to agree that, in the absence of the Commission, we should deal only with questions, not with affirmative answers. It was obvious that the Copenhagen meeting would be the first step, and it was also obvious that this first meeting would be disappointing to you. Therefore, it was better for Sir Burke to come afterward.

The gist of the meeting was that if President Nixon comes to Europe, the Nine will be ready to meet him, in a forum to be determined. The Nine agreed to exchange information on consultations with the U.S. and to harmonize responses. It is a beginning of coordinating our responses. It may be slow, but it is a beginning. Then the Nine agreed to harmonize with the responses in other frameworks, i.e., NATO.

This is the difficulty we have seen—that Europe has different institutions. Not all questions are within the competence of the Nine.

Dr. Kissinger: But all are in the competence of the heads of government.

Sir Brimelow: That is not quite true. On many issues the initiative lies with the Commission.

Dr. Kissinger: When Scheel was here, we accepted his suggestion that there could be a communiqué of NATO and a communiqué of the Nine plus the U.S., on the subjects within the competence of each, and an embracing declaration that could be made and done by the heads of government.

It seemed to be a way of reconciling the positions.

[Page 122]

Sir Brimelow: But it was not accepted by the French.

Dr. Kissinger: We will make no further initiatives and will make no further responses. It is up to the Europeans. We reserve on the acceptability of the procedures until we see what emerges. But you should not assume we will accept to negotiate with someone who can’t negotiate.

I have no objection to him as a person, but it’s totally incompatible with our relationship with the European countries.

Sir Burke Trend: You want us to tell our masters that the President is not coming to Europe?

Dr. Kissinger: We will reserve our position until we see. In the present situation, I expect he won’t go.

The draft will constantly have to go back to the Nine. It will have to be synchronized with the NATO one—which we haven’t seen at all. There is no way to get it done in time for the trip, which has to be by November 15th.

This is the President’s view.

Sir Burke Trend: Having announced the trip, it is a big decision to announce that it is off.

Dr. Kissinger: That’s your problem as much as ours.

Sir Burke Trend: What will you say?

Dr. Kissinger: We haven’t decided.

Sir Burke Trend: People will ask.

Dr. Kissinger: Come now, Burke. It will be hard to prove we didn’t want it. The President saw every Foreign Minister, and you. There is no issue we devoted more of our time to than Europe.

Sir Burke Trend: How will it look in five to ten years time?

Dr. Kissinger: The Europeans should have thought of that in June, and July.

Sir Burke Trend: You want it to move faster.

Dr. Kissinger: No, we object to the procedures and to the change in the traditional relationship.

Sir Burke Trend: We’ve achieved that the Europeans have agreed to have a coordinated response by autumn.

Dr. Kissinger: We wanted a coordinated Atlantic response.

Sir Burke Trend: Can’t it work next year?

Dr. Kissinger: I don’t know. Next year, there will be the MBFR negotiations, and maybe a CSCE Summit—on the part of the same heads of government who say they can’t meet with the President of the United States. There will be another visit to the Soviet Union, and a SALT agreement. You look at the symbolism. See what pressures will be. These are events that should have been guided by what we are doing this year.

[Page 123]

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: And the trade negotiations will begin.

Dr. Kissinger: And the cheap shots that are taken against us. Any U.S. journalist can go to the bureaucracy in Europe and get quotes about how the U.S. is abandoning its alliances. We will be outstripped by events. You are strengthening the very people here who want to dismantle the Alliance.

As far as we are concerned, the Year of Europe is over. We will do nothing further until we hear from the Europeans.

Sir Burke Trend: You will hear in September.

Sir Brimelow: The result will fall far short of your requirements.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes.

Sir Brimelow: But it doesn’t preclude further progress.

Dr. Kissinger: We have no minimum requirements, because we don’t need it. We thought that, given the domestic situation here with respect to the Atlantic relationship,—I fear the Europeans saw another aspect of the domestic situation and misunderstood what we wanted.

Sir Brimelow: The misunderstanding is well documented. But the moment of such progress is not the moment to lose heart.

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: There is also the danger of having something that’s worse than nothing.

Sir Burke Trend: How could it be worse than nothing?

Dr. Kissinger: If it was worth doing, it was something to bring enthusiasm to the Atlantic relationship, to make clear that we distinguish friends and adversaries. A paper that rehashes old pap is nothing. Jobert was very clever. But we saw no one giving positive affirmation even to the concept. If the Europeans can’t bring themselves to do it, so be it.

We wanted it to ally all the unending suspicions about the American guarantee, etc. On economic matters, I see that our position has been less than responsible—but there is no way for us to get a grip on it in the White House without this. Let NATO have a slightly-better-than usual communiqué in December. We have wasted three months in procedural inanities.

I admit, we made a terrible misjudgment. We thought Europe wanted it. How will we survive the MBFR negotiations? The SALT negotiations, with its FBS component? The unilateral troop cuts?

Sir Brimelow: It was a major problem of timing. The Nine have been working on the XIV:6 issues. There was unease about your “global” approach. You said you wanted it for moderating the U.S. position, but the Europeans saw it as an effort to get the Europeans to moderate their position.

Dr. Kissinger: If I knew then what I know now, I would certainly never have given that speech.

[Page 124]

Sir Burke Trend: Why not?

Dr. Kissinger: I thought, naively, that we could create a sense of something significant; and that we would have a significant document by now. You remember our talks in May. It turns out to be one of the worst misjudgments we made since we took office. We had discussions this year with the Prime Minister. We misjudged the French reaction.

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: Pompidou even welcomed it.

Dr. Kissinger: I first thought Jobert was managing it in his own way and would come along.

Sir Hunt: The Prime Minister in January said it would take time. It was the problem of a European response to an American initiative at a moment when Europe was just putting itself together.

Dr. Kissinger: It didn’t have to be on a Community basis. The mere fact that the Europeans insist that the political unity of the Community must precede Atlantic progress is one of the causes of this.

The timetable wasn’t chosen in order to please the President. Look at the Congressional pressure, the summits, the negotiations. There will be another Soviet summit next year and possibly a Chinese summit.

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: And the intra-Western negotiations.

Sir Hunt: But progress was made at Copenhagen.

Dr. Kissinger: I am not fighting that decision. We will adjust to it—at the cost of a number of relationships. Why did it have to be assumed this was over-whelmingly in our interest? We told you why we wanted it. We told every European. I can recite the speech in my sleep. I had no reason to suppose your leaders and the German leaders didn’t agree with this.

There is no point in recriminations. We’ll see what the Nine come up with in September.

Sir Burke Trend: You are losing heart just when we are gaining it.

Dr. Kissinger: We’re not losing heart. We didn’t do this to promote European unity. Our timetable was imposed by events. What we needed was to promote Atlantic unity this year, and to include in it a ringing reaffirmation of European unity. You’re using it to help form European unity.

Sir Burke Trend: We could do both.

Dr. Kissinger: There is no way to do it. There has been no reaction from the Europeans.

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: Or the opposite—a negative reaction.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes. Any magazine can go around to the Europeans and get quotes about how our Summit betrayed Europe and how dropping Hungary wrecked Europe. This only strengthens those who are less committed to the relationship than we are.

[Page 125]

We will get a communiqué with a grudging statement about Atlantic unity.

Sir Brimelow: Why only grudging?

Dr. Kissinger: Let’s see.

Sir Bruke Trend: Let’s see what happens.

Dr. Kissinger: On the procedures adopted, this is your problem.

Sir Bruke Trend: No visit.

Dr. Kissinger: Well, I wouldn’t go that far. But now, it looks like it.

Sir Burke Trend: Even by you.

Dr. Kissinger: What would I do?

Sir Burke Trend: There is no point in our doing a contribution if we can’t hold our partners to it.

Dr. Kissinger: But there have been occasions when we did. I must say that our relationships are hurt.

Sir Brimelow: I don’t think that’s a fair comment, Henry. We want a positive declaration. The French are the maverick; this means a labyrinth. There are signs that their thinking may be evolving. It may be that they won’t agree to anything that helps your basic concept. That is their tradition. But it would be better to explore patiently than to try shock tactics.

Dr. Kissinger: There are two problems: one is the content of the declaration, and the slow progress. If the Prime Minister had said to the President, and to me, that we have to understand that Britain would make no move without concerting with the Europeans, it would be different. But the Prime Minister had the bilateral idea, and Greenhill suggested getting all 15 involved. We could have combined these approaches.

If you had said you couldn’t go further than the French, that would be understandable—and perhaps even correct. But we now have a preliminary fait accompli. This is what we object to, and particularly object to on the part of Great Britain.

If the Prime Minister and Brandt, or Pompidou, or Scheel had expressed the view—we wouldn’t have liked it, but . . . . I’m saying this to explain our present position.

Our position has two attributes—how we will conduct the Year of Europe, and how we will conduct our relations with the European countries—both of whom have been severely affected by the turn of events.

Sir Burke Trend: Our impression is the mirror-image of yours. You launched the initiative.

Dr. Kissinger: After consulting with you.

[Page 126]

Sir Burke Trend: Yes. The Prime Minister agreed with it in January at Camp David.

We have just entered the European Community. The economic and defense aspects are in two different forums. We have to organize the responses in both forums.

Dr. Kissinger: In the defense forum, nothing is organized by anybody. Well, the NATO Foreign Ministers will take care of it.

Sir Burke Trend: And the trade preparations are not going so badly.

Dr. Kissinger: Maybe the thing will take care of itself in the existing forums.

Sir Burke Trend: What you want is an overriding political framework. This is an appallingly difficult task among sixteen countries. But it is beginning to happen at Copenhagen. Do you want to wash your hands of it and let it wither on the vine?

Dr. Kissinger: It is up to you.

Sir Burke Trend: It is not entirely up to us. But if you want to wash your hands of it, you had better let us know.

Dr. Kissinger: I have spoken with great precision. If the results of Copenhagen warrant it . . . . I can certainly tell you the President won’t sign a communiqué with Foreign Ministers. If you want the President to appear, he will have to be met by his colleagues. Whether he appears depends on two things: who meets him, and whether the content warrants it.

Sir Burke Trend: What about the content?

Dr. Kissinger: We gave you a draft, which we knew wasn’t adequate. We gave you literally a first draft because we didn’t want to freeze it into an American position. If you accepted our draft—which you won’t—it wouldn’t necessarily be acceptable to us.

Sir Brimelow: That is not what is happening. Not all the Nine have your drafts.

Dr. Kissinger: They will eventually, I am sure.

You must admit it’s a novelty in our relations that one of us is submitting something on a matter of such importance to the other without consulting with the other. It is the first time in the postwar period, certainly the first time since we came into office.

Sir Brimelow: As members of the European Community, we have to behave very circumspectly on matters covered by the Treaty of Rome.

Dr. Kissinger: But it is unique in our relationship. It will be obvious in a year or two’s time, and will bring about adjustments here.

[Page 127]

Sir Burke Trend: We have got to be ready by 10–11 August on the Copenhagen thing. What more can we do?

Dr. Kissinger: It would have been conceivable that you discussed it first with us. We’re not asking for it now.

Sir Burke Trend: You know our ideas. We entirely agree on the need to reaffirm Atlantic relations.

Dr. Kissinger: Everyone agrees with us on that, even Jobert. Now that we’re out of supplicant business, we’re just noting that this is the first time either has engaged in negotiations of such concern to the other without notifying the other.

Sir Burke Trend: We won’t know what it will look like until Copenhagen.

Dr. Kissinger: We’re not asking for a preview of the result, but for a preview of your thinking. Then we’d at least be in a substantive discussion. It couldn’t be inconsistent with your European obligations because you and the Germans and the French all promised it to us. I’ll show you the Jobert record.

Sir Burke Trend: You’ve given up?

Dr. Kissinger: Now, we haven’t given up.

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: It is hard to understand why it is so difficult to put this reaffirmation into words.

Dr. Kissinger: And precisely to reassure the Europeans on those points they were concerned about. In the long term it is in the common interest, and in the short term in the European interest. It was certainly not achieved.

Sir Brimelow: I can understand why the delay seems excessive, but things are beginning to move in a positive direction. The problem was the ascription to you of motives which you didn’t have.

Dr. Kissinger: And which some of our allies knew perfectly well weren’t our motives.

Sir Brimelow: There was a French remark that you are seeking to restore “transatlantic discipline.” A silly remark.

Dr. Kissinger: But it can only seem bad faith to make these promises. The price paid in our bilateral relations can only outweigh any possible benefit.

Sir Hunt: You are communicating this to others in Europe?

Dr. Kissinger: Yes.

Sir Hunt: But the others share the feeling that things are beginning to move. If you give the impression that the deadlines are off and the heat is off, this won’t accelerate things but just the opposite.

Dr. Kissinger: We won’t tell the French anything. But we will tell the Germans that whether we come to Europe depends on the results of Copenhagen and on the content of the declaration.

[Page 128]

Sir Burke Trend: Why not communicate with the French?

Dr. Kissinger: Because we owe them no communication.

Sir Burke Trend: If you don’t, who will?

Sir Brimelow: There is the problem also of how to get the most favorable reaction among the political directors of the Nine. Your attitude is of great significance.

Dr. Kissinger: We will instruct our people to give no further American views.

Sir Brimelow: Jobert was very pointed in implying that we had had talks with you before Copenhagen and were holding back on them. We hadn’t met with you before Copenhagen. This issue—openness about consultations with the United States—is becoming an issue among the Europeans.

Dr. Kissinger: It comes with particularly bad taste from the French, who insisted on bilateral talks.

Sir Burke Trend: It was an awkward moment for me when Jobert flatly denied they had agreed on a Deputy Foreign Ministers meeting which you said they had.

Dr. Kissinger: What interest could we have in announcing something like that unless we thought they had agreed? We each gave the same guidance to our press secretaries.

Sir Burke Trend: To avoid similar misunderstandings, and for our relations with our European colleagues, we should tell them of our discussions here.

Sir Brimelow: With a suitably mild version, as Henry says.

Sir Burke Trend: Wait a minute. The message was not meant to be mild.

Dr. Kissinger: I have been very precise. I must say there cannot be any more attacks on American motives.

We will tell the Germans—we will express our surprise at the Copenhagen decision and the fact that the Copenhagen decision was used as an excuse not to give us any papers. We will want to know how the discussions proceed after September 11. Whether the President will go will depend on whether the content warrants it. Thirdly, in no circumstance will he go and sign with Foreign Ministers.

Sir Burke Trend: That puts the Germans into the picture. But we have to communicate this to the French. We’ve got to get this Europe licked into shape.

Dr. Kissinger: It is your problem.

Sir Burke Trend: We can’t do it unless we know you are behind us.

Dr. Kissinger: I can tell you the Danish Foreign Minister procedure is unacceptable.

[Page 129]

Sir Brimelow: There is no precedent.

Dr. Kissinger: I can’t tell you what the correct procedure is, but that is the incorrect one. We will play along with it but I am telling you how we will treat it.

Sir Hunt: If you want to get away from the bilateral and into multilateral procedures, there is no other way, then, except one great gathering.

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: We thought there would be four.

Dr. Kissinger: We could have the Nine delegate to three who have some flexibility.

Sir Brimelow: The chairman need not do it personally. We handle it at lower levels when we draft texts.

Dr. Kissinger: The Foreign Minister of Denmark, estimable man though he may be, can’t go beyond his literal instructions.

Sir Burke Trend: I wish you’d make this clear to the French.

Dr. Kissinger: As soon as they communicate with us we will.

Sir Hunt: This makes it harder, with the French sitting back and saying there is no rush.

Dr. Kissinger: We have seen the French Foreign Minister more than any other leader.

Sir Brimelow: You referred to the first draft of the Nine as a partial fait accompli. I don’t think that’s true. There will inevitably be difficulties in it, and they will certainly expect to hear your views and take them into account. There can be no other assumption.

Dr. Kissinger: But it is a qualitative change in our relations when our allies won’t show us any text and then only through Andersen. And we will then have to give a formal reply. It is the total antithesis of our relationship particularly with London, and even with Bonn and Paris.

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: And the draft will have spread through the bureaucracy.

Dr. Kissinger: And we’re in a legalistic negotiation.

Sir Brimelow: This is a fundamental matter, because the Europeans are trying on a modest scale and with difficulty to begin coordination on certain aspects of foreign affairs. The Nine would probably hold that consultations must take place in the first instance among themselves. This is not a decision, but a working assumption.

Dr. Kissinger: I notice they don’t do this on the European Security Conference. They’re perfectly willing to operate as separate countries.

Sir Brimelow: I am not sure this is correct.

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: You remember when your Prime Minister went over to see Brandt on monetary issues—we raised precisely the same issue.

[Page 130]

Dr. Kissinger: Yes. If this went through the normal processes and it resulted in a European consensus and you felt you had to side with it, that would be understandable. It is an extraordinary attitude that the Europeans want unconditional American nuclear guarantees but our closest allies refuse to tell us their views.

Sir Brimelow: The Nine weren’t discussing the nuclear guarantee—that is in NATO—but general principles. It is not a negotiation but a drafting exercise.

Dr. Kissinger: That makes it more astonishing. The procedures are unprecedented in our relationship. You know we have never treated Britain as just another country.

Sir Burke Trend: I think, Henry, we must let this ride until September.

Dr. Kissinger: That is all right with us, because we have taken the decision not to do anything further at the moment.

I agree. We should talk again. I think in discussing their internal relationships the Europeans must consider not just the content of the declaration—which now is less important—but how they conceive their bilateral relations with the U.S. It doesn’t have to be settled now, but it should be considered.

Sir Burke Trend: You are telling us we should tell the Europeans: “The Americans are cross with us because we won’t maintain a relationship with them which none of you had.”

Dr. Kissinger: No. You couldn’t have considered it incompatible with your European relations when you proposed bilateral consultations among the four. The sensible thing would have been multilateral discussions. That has always been the preferred course. But we were willing to have bilateral meetings with the UK, France, Germany, and even Italy. We did tend to speak more intimately with you, but we told everybody the same thing, everything we thought. We have the same problem with the Germans—but it is more painful with you.

Sir Burke Trend: This is where we began. I told you the painfulness is not solely on your side. But I don’t see how we can do other than what we are doing. And if you are sending us back to put a real cold douche to Europe, I don’t know . . . . You’re fighting your own purposes.

Dr. Kissinger: No, there is a total misapprehension of the American position—that we are the supplicant, that we are seeking some devious hidden advantage, that they have time to engage in petty maneuvers . . . . What is it we are giving a cold douche to?

Sir Burke Trend: We are engaged in a complex exercise of sixteen.

Dr. Kissinger: You have reversed it: you are using the American initiative to make European unity.

[Page 131]

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: The procedures reverse it.

Sir Burke Trend: You are still open to consider it, to discuss it?

Dr. Kissinger: Yes.

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: The Europeans still have to recognize that there are some results that would be worse than nothing.

Sir Burke Trend: Like what?

Dr. Kissinger: If the result is banalities. The mere fact of a common European position on Atlantic relations doesn’t guarantee it’s worthwhile. But the second point is the procedure.

Sir Burke Trend: We produced them very rapidly because the Europeans said they couldn’t respond until they saw something. If we knew we had until July 15 we could have produced a better paper. If we had had the benefit of Tom’s subtle mind as we had on the Nuclear Agreement, we would be much further along.

The only substantive comment we have gotten is Scheel saying commitment of U.S. troops is stronger as a unilateral commitment by the President than in a common document. We are living in a never-never-land. We are looking for ways to keep them there, not ways to take them out.

Sir Burke Trend: But you saw serious discussions as following up the principles.

Dr. Kissinger: Yes. It would be the prelude to serious discussion. The declaration was to make a political commitment that goes against the trend of the times, and to give impetus to the bureaucracies.

Sir Burke Trend: I don’t preclude this coming out of the September meetings.

Sir Brimelow: There are two problems: The Dane is not a very effective spokesman, and the French will not be helpful.

Dr. Kissinger: I don’t know what the French want.

Sir Brimelow: There is nothing new in this. The French always act like this until the last minute. They are creating a bargaining position.

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: What are they bargaining for?

Dr. Kissinger: We have offered them what they want! They want to extort from us what we’ve already offered.

Sir Burke Trend: The problem was the French fear that we wanted all these negotiations in one forum.

Dr. Kissinger: I explained all that to Jobert on May 18. That could explain only the time lag from April 23 to May 18.

Sir Burke Trend: You want one page or ten pages?

Dr. Kissinger: Certainly more than one page. It should be more than we had with the Soviets and Chinese. By now we could have had [Page 132] our lousy draft, and yours, and the French, and the German—and we could have all met. I can’t tell you in the abstract what we want.

Sir Burke Trend: Until we have a joint view, what do you want from us?

Dr. Kissinger: We want your views.

Sir Burke Trend: We can’t give you our view until we have sounded them out.

Dr. Kissinger: We have told you the procedures we object to.

Sir Brimelow: We will still try to make progress.

Dr. Kissinger: Keep in mind that the procedures—a series of unilateral démarches—will outweigh any content that emerges.

Sir Brimelow: Yes, we understand. The procedures after September will be complicated. As you see, Europe stumbles over procedures.

Sir Burke Trend: You really mustn’t despair, Henry.

Dr. Kissinger: We are deciding on the realities. I don’t despair.

Sir Burke Trend: I certainly don’t despair.

Dr. Kissinger: We have to consider where we will be in terms of European relations with the U.S. and bilateral relations with the U.S. It can’t be that countries choose unilaterally what they deal with us bilaterally on and what they can’t. We don’t ask for a veto; we ask for discussions.

Can I assume this discussion will be kept out of the press?

Sir Burke Trend: We certainly won’t talk to the press.

Dr. Kissinger: Also, it is not a good time for your MBFR briefer to get on to his favorite themes—castigating us.

We won’t tell the press anything on our attitude.

Sir Bruke Trend: You can’t assume your present attitude won’t become known in Europe. Indeed it should, at the appropriate level.

Dr. Kissinger: We can’t control an irresponsible press, but there can’t be these guided stories—because we will be forced to respond and tell what we have done. This will be popular here. It will strengthen the wrong people.

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: We have taken a frightful beating in the European press on the Soviet summit, and on the whole Year of Europe.

Dr. Kissinger: The European press doesn’t hurt us. But you see Time magazine. You can’t control it—but the pattern is that our initiative is a fiasco and the Europeans are doubting us. And you know better than others, Burke, how committed we have been. Foreign Office officials are quoted as saying we are too soft.

Sir Brimelow: What was the quote?

[Page 133]

Dr. Kissinger: We will send it. If the pattern emerges . . . . We don’t want this in the press, because we don’t want to throw in the towel.

Sir Burke Trend: That’s important, Henry.

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: It is important in the MBFR talks now beginning. Your briefer is already making comments about who is hard and who is soft.

[The meeting broke up. Dr. Kissinger and Sir Burke conferred alone in Dr. Kissinger’s office for about five minutes.]

  1. Summary: Trend, Kissinger, and other British and American officials discussed Poseidon and the Year of Europe.

    Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Kissinger-Scowcroft West Wing Office Files, Box 23, United Kingdom (8). Top Secret. All brackets are in the original except “[M]”, added for clarity. The meeting took place in Kissinger’s office at the White House. Tab A is published as Documents 25 and 26. Kissinger and Trend reviewed their July 30 meeting by telephone later that evening. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Kissinger Telephone Conversations, Box 21)