4. Memorandum From Helmut Sonnenfeldt of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • Analytical Summary—NSSM 164, US Relations with Europe

The heart of the study is:

—The Conceptual Section on Future US-Western European Relations (pp. 9–23), which offers three options for our overall relationship. They are to (1) move toward closer more integrated relations; (2) attenuate relationships, with as a possible corollary the US moving toward closer bilateral cooperation with the USSR; and (3) follow the present policy of maintaining security arrangements while giving equal weight to improving the US economic position.

You should in any case read this part of the paper.

The second part worth reading, or at least skimming, is the section on Issues and Goals (pp. 30–53), which contains a shopping list of issues under economic, political, security, military, and science and technology headings. You might look at these headings as possible subjects for additional studies that may be needed to help us work out a comprehensive approach to US-West European relations.

Analysis of the two-part paper (I—Broad Policy Concepts;—Specific Issues and Goals) follows. A summary of agency views is at the end.

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The US and Europe in Transition (pp. 2–4)

This introductory section deals with the interaction between our security policy toward Western Europe and the Soviet Union and the economic pressures on US-European, specifically US–EC, relations. The main point made is that uncertainties in Western Europe about the consequences of US-Soviet bilateralism and strategic equivalency plus economic problems on both sides of the Atlantic create a climate in which US-European tensions can become exacerbated.

The study at the outset sets the stage here for the probable US-European trade-off, in which we give assurances in the security field, while the Europeans try to alleviate our economic problems.

The US Role: Priorities, Interrelationships, etc. (pp. 5–8)

This section points out that Europe’s integration is greatest in the economic area, where our interests are most often challenged, and least in the political and military sphere, where our interests would best be served by integration. The uneveness of development in the two spheres accounts for the ambivalence in our approach to European integration.

Stresses on US-European issues of economics and of technology export reinforce tendencies on both sides to take narrower positions, which undercut cooperation and cooperative arrangements in other fields. Moreover, we are pursuing different policies in different institutions, seemingly isolated from one another (e.g. NATO vs. the EC or the EC vs. OECD).

The chief contention of this section—hardly a startling one—is that there are many interrelationships in US-West European relations. What is more these interrelationships are “unbalanced,” (“asymmetrical” may be meant), the study says, with security and military elements binding us and many economic and some political elements dividing us. The study argues that overall relationships must be brought into a balance more favorable to the US.

After discussing how the Europeans’ economic and technology policies are contributing to a deterioration in the climate of US-European relations, the section points up European concerns about US-Soviet bilateralism. It makes clear, while obviously reluctant to criticize our policies, that this bilateralism and our unilateral economic actions, such as that of August 15, 1971, constitute our contribution to this deterioration. This is further stage-setting for the potential trade-off mentioned above.

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Concepts for Future US-Western European Relations (pp. 9–23)

This is the one section you must read. The predilection is for orderliness. The section asserts that we “cannot” pursue separate tracks in security, political, economic, etc. policies and that there “should be a synthesis” in making our policies and a coherence in carrying them out.

Comment: This is a highly desirable goal, in theory. The study hardly recognizes that in practice, however, the government has a far more difficult task imposing coherence on the pattern of our relations with such a complex and pluralistic societies as the Western European than it does with simpler but politically more centralized states such as the USSR and China. Our non-governmental and governmental affairs with Western Europe have become so intermeshed and transnational forces outside governments’ control so strong that even the USG is constrained.

This observation notwithstanding, you will want to consider the three options presented.

1. To move towards closer more integrated relations with Western Europe in all spheres, through enhanced cooperation and possibly through new treaty and institutional relationships.

2. To attenuate relationships with Western Europe, allowing institutional ties to deteriorate if necessary. Under this approach, the US would have more distant and less cooperative relations with the EC as an entity, and its members, and with the other Western European states.

As a corollary, the US could move, or not, toward closer bilateral cooperation with the USSR.

3. To pursue the present policy of maintaining security arrangements, as well as giving equal weight and attention to improving the US economic position through reform of the world economic system.

Option 1: Closer Integration (pp. 10–15)

As developed in this study, this option is a reasonably respectable alternative to the status quo and one cherished by old time Atlanticists in State and outside it. It has the attraction of creating a US-European super-super power that, in theory at least, would overawe other power centers and could by pooling them rationalize the use of its tremendous economic and technological resources.

The study, focussed as it is on Western Europe, is understandably deficient in exploring the global ramifications of this Europe-first option. Such a policy would require or result in the alienation of Japan from us and in our retreat as a power in the Pacific, where the greatest strategic confrontation of the coming decade (Russia-China-Japan) may occur. It would also involve some reduction of our cooperation with [Page 11] the USSR. Indeed a strong move in this direction would certainly be seen by the Soviets as posing a major threat to their ability to retain their position in Eastern Europe.

Consideration of this option, however, helps sharpen perception of the other two options—a distancing from Europe and preservation of the status quo—but plus.

Option 2: A More Distant Relationship (pp. 15–19)

This Option is not well developed since it runs against the ingrained predispositions of all who deal with Europe. Yet, it too, like the first Option, has some intellectual merit. A drift toward a looser relationship with competitive aspects remaining could well be the outcome of the present situation. Even if neither side deliberately sets out to divide themselves from their Atlantic partners, there are lines in the present policies of the US and the Europeans that can easily lead to an attenuation of relations.

The principal defect in the option is how to reconcile what seems to be a permanent US security interest in Western Europe with the concept of a more competitive relationship between less interdependent entities.

A) The study suggests that one corollary might be to draw closer to the USSR. This, of course, is the condominium thesis applied to Europe; the underlying idea would be that both the US and USSR would remain involved in Europe, on the understanding that spheres of influence would be respected. This is not totally inconceivable, or outrageous, as it may seem. The Europeans aspire to a position of greater independence, but want out [of] security guarantees. The principal problem might be one of credibility. How could the Europeans have any confidence, under this option, that we would retain our security interests and position in Western Europe as our relations with Moscow improved? The short term impact of this sub-option might be to precipitate a race to Moscow. The natural weight of the USSR in Europe might make it untenable in any case.

B) Mentioned (p. 16 and pp. 28–29) but not discussed much, is a second corollary—deliberate emphasis on our bilateral relationships with the individual European countries, perhaps particularly with the three majors, Britain, France, and West Germany. If bargaining on economic issues were carefully orchestrated and differences between EC members successfully exploited, this policy line might win substantial concessions for us in trade, agriculture, monetary rules and other issues of that kind. At a time when the locus of decision-making is moving only slowly from national capitals to Brussels a decision on our part to deal more with individual members rather than with the EC on these issues could affect the pace of movement toward European integration.

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This sub-option is more than just intellectually conceivable. Some elements of our government were clearly tempted in this direction (toward the FRG) on monetary issues during the fall of 1971. Although it runs counter to quarter century’s public support for European integration, it deserves consideration since it compels us to reflect whether encouraging Western Europe to create more collective authority, as we are always saying, is really advantageous to all our economic and political interests.

Also important is the problem of whether the distancing concept—and its implication of pentagonal balance, etc., permits us to pursue the general lines of China policy we seem to be developing. To the extent that the USSR relieved of its European concerns, through a deliberate US policy of disengagement, then China will become more concerned to find allies and counters to anticipated Soviet pressures in the Far East. We might find that as we loosened our relationship with Europe, we would have to draw closer to China, or we might find that the Chinese, viewing our policy with some dismay, would move to accommodation with the USSR. How Japan would find its place in this kind of maneuvering is anybody’s guess.

In sum, while we may eventually find that a loosening of relations will come about, to adopt it as a deliberate policy holds many uncertainties and dangers.

Option 3. The Status Quo, Improved to Our Advantage (pp. 20–23)

This, of course, is where the drafters’ heart is. If Option 1 and 3 seem too radical, we are back to the original issue of how to solve our current European problems. The study presents two sub-options:

Variant 1 is to seek improvements in the Western security structure, if necessary, at the expense of some US concessions in economic issues;

Variant 2 is to put greater emphasis on extracting concessions on trade and monetary issues, even at the risk of so serious a falling-out as to jeopardize our overall relations. The assumption here is that the Europeans have more to lose in both security and monetary fields than we do.

The favored middle ground (pp. 21–23) involves the following specifics:

—enhance political consultations, possibly including new institutional machinery;

—reaffirm military commitments, including “off-setting” concerns in MBFR and SALT (what this means is not clear);

—multilateralize offset of financial costs for troop deployments;

—reform of world economic system through multilateral monetary and trade negotiations (p. 22 for specifics).

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—Allow more European access to US technology, through joint projects and programs in part.

Obviously, this is where the study winds up. The problem, which is not thoroughly analyzed, is how to proceed.

Comment: The paper correctly notes that Options 1 and 3 are not exclusive. We could improve on the status quo and if successful move on to even closer more integrated relationships. While the paper does not say so, it is also possible that if we fail to improve on the status quo (option 3), we could drift into option 2, the more distant relationship.

Institutions (pp. 24–29)

Here the study offers some rather routine suggestions on how to realize Options 1 and 3—new consultative institutions, summit meetings of various sorts, and an emphasis on bilateralism. This is not worth your going into now, until we have made decisions on the broad policy options. Then we will have to give institutional questions more thought.

PART II (pp. 30–53)


This gives a good catalogue of current issues between us and the West Europeans. It is all well and good to favor a better “balance” in our relations, as Part I of the study does, but what we need is a specific program of action (or deliberate inaction) on the issues discussed in this part of the paper.

A few of these issues seem key from a political point of view. A drawback of this part of the study is its failure to rank order the economic issues in terms of importance, or at least timing. It seems generally agreed within the government that certain trade issues, such as preferences, need to be addressed before monetary reform, for example.

It is also no great accomplishment to define, as the paper generally does, what we want. In dealing with the West Europeans, the problem—and one which you need to focus on (see the talker)—is to define

—those aspects of our economic relationships where we can afford to be forthcoming, making concessions in return for counterconcessions on other matters of greater interest;

—those aspects where we cannot afford to budge and must have European concessions.

It may be difficult to do this without laying down maximum and minimum demands, which of course the economic agencies do not want to do.

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The following issues in Part II seem to warrant special attention:

Economics (pp. 30–37)

—In surveying the presentation in the paper, the EC preferences and our demands for compensation (p. 34a) seem to be the most illogical and contradictory area of our approach. We cannot really urge the Europeans into greater political responsibilities and support the concept of Europe, and at the same time, put a price on every aspect of expansion. Our political and security interests are well served, for example, by a strong European role in North Africa and the Middle East.

Politics (pp. 37–38)

The first issue is one of approach: do we want to deal with the major European powers bilaterally or move toward some institutionalized dialogue with the EC? This is not sufficiently analyzed in the paper.

—If we adopt the EC option, we will almost inevitably help encourage an EC bloc within NATO. We will have to resolve the conflict between our economic relations with the EC and our security relations with all the NATO countries.

—Because of French hesitations if nothing else, we will still be dealing largely bilaterally in practice for some time to come. But we should decide whether we should put forward an institutional arrangement as a goal.

—If we do, do we also want to consider some treaty relationship with the EC countries collectively? What would this do to NATO flank countries that are excluded?

Security East-West (pp. 3a–42)

We could probably engineer a small US-Soviet reduction in MBFR. Do we really want this, or should we go for a constraints freeze approach that leaves forces intact for now?

—Do we want to give priority to promoting East European independence through the CSCE or to get the conference over with? The latter course could be facilitated by changes in the US position.

—Do we want to allow the Europeans, East and West, some institutional links, for example, in a permanent CSCE secretariat or other machinery?

Military (pp. 43–49)

Despite all its faults, there is much to be said for not tinkering with the status quo in NATO force deployments, doctrine, etc. To reopen basic issues is hazardous, especially for a second term American Administration.

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—It might be preferable to devote the next year to improving the NPG as the start of a more rational consideration of tactical nuclear doctrine, which is the area of greatest disarray.

—Do the Europeans seem to be moving toward a European Defense Community?

—If so, are we contemplating withdrawal as it comes into being?

—How are we to deal with the probability that the UK will want the Poseidon, and that even the French may anticipate using the Poseidon in their sixth SLBM. (They have asked about design compatibility.)

Technology (pp. 50–53)

Do we want and are we able to preserve our advanced technology for ourselves or do we want to export it?

—What room is there for closer cooperation in common projects with the Europeans in outer space, etc.?

Agency Views

Because of the short original deadline for preparing this response, a larger share than usual of drafting initiative was left in the hands of State. The other agencies have sent us subsequent memoranda giving their views, which some of them complain were unsufficiently taken into account in the response.

Commerce (memo at Tab A), Agriculture (Tab B), and Treasury (Tab C) insist that the options are cooked so as to make only option 3 (“present policies”) sensible. They argue further that this option does not provide for vigorous enough pursuit of our monetary and trade objectives. Commerce and Agriculture virtually deny the NSSM’s basic thesis that there is an important interrelationship between political/security policies and economic ones. They insist that at a minimum the US can successfully pursue our objectives in both areas in a parallel fashion. Treasury acknowledges that there may be an interrelationship but maintains that global monetary and trade reforms beneficial to us should be determining.

Commerce wants to adopt an option that would, like option 3, provide for parallel attention to security/political arrangements and to improving our economic position but wants to do the latter “vigorously”.

Agriculture, little concerned with broad policy options, objects to option 3’s implicit proposal that solution of our short-term economic problems with the Europeans be delayed until the GATT trade negotiations next September; it wants to push hard now, with the EC, with threats of retaliation, on grain rights and export subsidies.

Defense (memorandum at Tab D) believes that for policy-making purposes it is impossible to assign relative weights to political/security [Page 16] elements and economic elements in the interrelationship. It sees nothing in the NSSM 164 response that would justify any significant departures from our present security and military policies. It thus favors option 3 but also stresses that bilateral defense links with the European countries are important.

ACDA (memorandum at Tab E) is concerned that the SALT non-transfer issue and the possibility that MBFR could have beneficial effects in our relationship with Western Europe are not given sufficient attention.

CIA (memorandum at Tab F) points out that the response fails to refer to our world view in its discussion. It would also like to see an Atlantic Union option considered.

Final Comment

A review of the individual security and military issues outlined in Part II of the paper again brings to the fore the basic question—do we want to remain in a close security association with Western Europe and, additionally, to assist in its military protection?

Assuming we do, then the key policy issue, as I see it, is simply whether we:

(a) adopt an economics over politics approach for a finite period, perhaps for the next year, during which we will be conducting important economic negotiations; or

(b) put political security issues immediately first, allay Europeans’ apprehensions, and draw on the resultant political capital to help us through the economic problems and trade negotiations.

These issues are discussed in my memorandum to you on the meeting in this briefing book.

  1. Summary: Sonnenfeldt provided an analytical summary of the study prepared in response to NSSM 164, United States Relations with Europe.

    Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–66, Meeting Files, SRG Meeting—Europe (NSSM 164). Secret. An unknown hand initialed the memorandum on Sonnenfeldt’s behalf. Attached but not published are Tabs A through F. Tab A is a January 4 memorandum from Acting Assistant Secretary of Commerce Lawrence Fox to Hyland; Tab B is a January 11 memorandum from Assistant Secretary of Agriculture Carroll Brunthaver to Sonnenfeldt; Tab C is a January 26 memorandum from Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Treasury John Hart to Kissinger; Tab D is a January 2 memorandum from Assistant Secretary of Defense John Morse to Sonnenfeldt; Tab E is a December 29, 1972 memorandum from Special Assistant to ACDA Director A. M. Christopher to Davis; and Tab F is a CIA memorandum. For NSSM 164, see Document 84, Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. XLI, Western Europe; NATO, 1969–1972.