188. Memorandum From Denis Clift of the National Security Council Staff to Secretary of State Kissinger1


  • Proposed NSSM on U.S. Policy Toward Svalbard/Spitzbergen

Spurred by negotiations with the USSR over division of the Barents Sea continental shelf and the international implications (because of the Spitzbergen Treaty) of oil exploration there, the Norwegian Government is now formulating long-term policies toward the Svalbard/Barents Sea region. Aware of the interest of principal NATO allies, including the United States, in the area for both strategic and economic reasons, the Norwegians asked for bilateral consultations during Deputy Secretary Ingersoll’s recent visit to Oslo; Foreign Minister Frydenlund also inquired about talks on Svalbard in his meeting with you in Helsinki on August 1.

The Department of State strongly favors such consultations with the Norwegians, pointing out that because key Norwegian officials, including Prime Minister Bratteli and Frydenlund, are undecided on the basic issues, the U.S. has a good opportunity to influence the outcome of policy discussions in Oslo. State rightly suggests that a coordinated interagency view of the Svalbard issue is necessary before we can deal effectively with the Norwegians to protect our own economic and strategic interests, Alliance solidarity, and our preferred positions on related legal questions concerning law of the sea. To this end, the Department of State has asked informally at the EUR Bureau level for a NSSM to address the principal issues and U.S. interests in the Svalbard area preparatory to talks with the Norwegians.

I concur that a NSSM on the Svalbard problem would be appropriate and timely. The Soviets have approached the Norwegians already with hints of working out a bilateral condominium in the area which would exclude the U.S. [Typeset Page 603] and other signatories to the Spitzbergen Treaty from economic exploitation of the Svalbard continental shelf. The Soviets are also interested in maintaining the Barents Sea as a Soviet lake—with foreign economic presence excluded, and in weakening Norway’s sovereignty over the Svalbard archipelago itself. The Soviets’ large mining operation there and their demands in connection with the new international airport on Spitzbergen are evidence of their seriousness—as is their recent unprecedented launch of three ICBMs into that part of the Barents Sea contested with Norway.

The NSSM for your signature at Tab A would direct the NSC Under Secretaries Committee to prepare a study on U.S. policy toward Svalbard to be forwarded for consideration by the NSC Senior Review Group by November 1, 1975. The agencies would be asked to examine U.S. strategic and economic interests in the Svalbard area, legal questions growing out of Norway’s boundary claims relevant to our interests and our positions in a law of the sea context, and the attitudes of our Allies who have interests in the Svalbard area. It would ask for recommendations for U.S. policy toward Svalbard, taking into account U.S., Soviet, Norwegian and Allied interests.

I recommend that you sign the NSSM at Tab A.

Alternatively, a memorandum is available for your signature to the President at Tab I which would forward the NSSM for his approval, prior to your signature.

Dick Boverie, Clint Granger and Bob Hormats concur.


That you sign the NSSM at Tab A.

  1. Summary: Clift discussed a proposed NSSM on U.S. policy toward Svalbard.

    Source: Ford Library, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box 39, NSSM 232—U.S. Policy Toward Svalbard (Spitzbergen). Secret. Sent for action. Tab A is Document 189. Tab I was not attached. Kissinger wrote on the memorandum, “We don’t need Presidential approval.” On August 1, while in Helsinki for the CSCE Final Act signing ceremony, Kissinger met with Frydenlund and discussed North-South relations, MBFR, Spitzbergen, and Israel and the UN. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, P820123–1956) In telegram 707 from Oslo, February 16, 1974, the Embassy forwarded an earlier request from Frydenlund for U.S. views on Soviets interests in north Norway and the vicinity. (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 698, Country Files, Europe, Norway, Vol. I (Jan 69–Apr 74)) The Department’s response is contained in telegram 43807 to Oslo, March 5. (Ibid.)