266. Memorandum for the Record by the Director of the Office of International Security Policy and Planning (Sloss)1
Meeting Between Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger and German Minister of Defense Georg Leber
Participants: See Tab A.
The meeting was conducted in an informal and friendly atmosphere. The exchanges were extremely frank at times, but there seemed to be good understanding and mutual respect between the two Ministers who carried most of the conversation on their respective sides. Secretary Schlesinger opened the meeting at breakfast with a strong statement of US interests in Europe and support for NATO which was welcomed by the German side.
The Military Balance of Europe
Most of the morning session was devoted to briefings on the military balance in Europe. These were presented by officers from CIA, DIA, Systems Analysis, and JCS. While these were highly condensed versions of briefings given to the British MOD staff last week, they were crammed with data. In general, two somewhat contradictory trends emerged. First, the Soviet forces on the central front have grown by about 60,000 men in the past several years (the Germans were requested to hold this figure closely until it is revealed to our other NATO allies in MBFR). They have also increased their equipment holdings. On the other hand, DOD analyses have sharply reduced estimates of Soviet readiness and mobilization capability.
The German reactions to the briefings reflected a mixture of appreciation for being briefed so thoroughly and confusion at the large amount of data thrown in front of them in a relatively short period. Minister Leber asked for an opportunity for his experts to review the [Typeset Page 828] studies when they are completed, and urged that there be no further premature leaks until NATO had had an opportunity to fully evaluate these analyses. Underneath I detected some skepticism at some of the US findings but the German staffs were obviously impressed with the thoroughness of the analysis and were in full agreement with the new intelligence data. Perhaps the sharpest reaction came to some of the study assumptions regarding a prolonged conventional war in Central Europe. Minister Leber made clear that the Germans did not relish early use of nuclear weapons, but he also made clear that the German public would find it difficult to accept any strategy which contemplated a prolonged conventional war on German territory. Minister Leber also asked whether some of the classified figures on the Soviet buildup in Central Europe could be declassified and released in order to counteract some of the “peace euphoria” in Europe.
Secretary Schlesinger indicated that we would look into declassifying of the data. He also suggested more frequent NATO intelligence assessments provided these were conducted on a serious basis. He also stressed in his response to Leber’s comments that the prime US objective in Europe was to deter war, not to fight any type of war.
Agreement to Prevent Nuclear War
Minister Leber came prepared with a series of questions on the new US-Soviet agreement. He prefaced his questions by stating that there were many skeptics and questioners of the agreement in Germany, but he was not one of them. He made clear he was raising these questions so that he would be better able to rebut them when he went home. A list of Leber’s questions (paraphrased) is at Tab B. Secretary Schlesinger provided generally reassuring responses, particularly stressing the qualifications in Article VI of the agreement and Leber seemed satisfied. At the end of this discussion he made a point of turning to Admiral Zimmerman and asking if he had further questions. Zimmerman did not.
FRG-French Discussions (Sensitive)
Minister Leber stressed that he particularly wished to have this report on his conversations with French Defense Minister Galley held in confidence. He made three points. First Galley was more willing to discuss joint defense plans with the Germans than Debre had been. Leber was clear that this more forthcoming attitude had emerged after Galley had checked with Pompidou. Galley made a point of stating to Leber that “France could not be defended west of the Rhine.” Leber sees some encouraging movement on the part of the French. He has not yet pressed to get into details because he does not want the French to feel that they are being pressured. He did suggest to Galley closer dis[Typeset Page 829]cussions with Gen. Goodpaster. Galley replied that all Goodpaster has to do is call him. Goodpaster has been informed of this.
Secondly, they have found a willingness on the part of the French to discuss the deployment of PLUTON. They will be pursuing this. Third, the French have shown some interest in the Eurogroup. This has come after the FRG made clear to the French that growing coordination of defense production planning in the Eurogroup would necessarily narrow the range of French-FRG bilateral cooperation.
This led to a discussion of two potential cooperative production projects. Leber added it would be very helpful if the US could agree to the purchase of the French-German ROLAND air defense missile. This is important on political grounds because it would bring the French into a cooperative venture. Leber also said that the Germans were trying to reach NATO-wide agreement on a single weapon system for the Leopard II tank. While he did not suggest US purchase of the Leopard, he did suggest that the US consider putting the same gun on its future tank so as to standardize tank armament in NATO.
Minister Leber noted recent press articles regarding US development of so-called “mini-nukes”, and asked what the US position was on this matter. Secretary Schlesinger stressed that we had no revolutionary concepts in mind. He said that we were continually examining possibilities for improving and modernizing our nuclear stockpile but that new concepts were still in research and development and before they were deployed, if they were, there would be consultations with our allies. Schlesinger and Adm. Moorer stated emphatically that command and control over any new nuclear weapons would be as tight as over present weapons. They added that we definitely did not see small nuclear weapons as a substitute for conventional forces. The German side appeared to be reassured by this statement of US views.
Minister Leber restated the well-known German views regarding indigenous forces. He suggested that any agreement might call for reductions in indigenous forces after a stated period of years, say four or five years. He said this would help to reduce pressures for European force reductions in the interim. In reply, Secretary Schlesinger said that we understood the German view but he felt bound to note that there was a difference between withdrawals and reductions. If we did withdraw forces from Europe as a consequence of MBFR, we did not intend to demobilize (the Germans indicated some skepticism on this point). Schlesinger also noted that if our allies made reductions it would be im[Typeset Page 830]possible to resist Congressional pressures for US reductions. He also noted that equal percentage reductions in stationed forces were advantageous to NATO, while equal percentage reductions of indigenous forces were not. Schlesinger thought that something could certainly be worked out but we could not resolve it here. Leber agreed. Schlesinger suggested the possibility that if indigenous forces were reduced the Europeans might increase their reserve forces disproportionately to compensate. However, he added, we need to explore these matters with great care as reductions can be contagious.
There was also brief reference to burdensharing and offset; to reorganization of command and control for tactical air in Central Europe; and use of additional German air fields to alleviate the centralization of US augmentation forces. Minister Leber stated that the FRG was fully committed to negotiate in good faith on a new offset agreement, but they were not prepared to assume a great burden in relation to the European members of NATO. Leber expressed full agreement with the US views on reorganizing tactical air in Europe and expressed willingness to consider means of working out the air field overcrowding problem.
A copy of the communiqué is attached at Tab C.
List of German Minister of Defense Leber’s Questions
1. Why did US want this agreement?
2. Do Soviets know about NATO agreements, and are they taken into account?
3. Brezhnev stated agreement has started gradual disintegration of the deterrent. Do we agree?
4. Would this vitiate alliance strategy based on escalation because [they?] would know we had to consult before use of nuclear weapons?
5. Does this agreement imply a legal commitment or is there an unwritten agreement to consult after a conventional attack and before use of nuclear weapons? If not, is status quo unchanged?
6. Are there any agreed criteria as to what constitutes an imminent threat to peace?[Typeset Page 831]
7. Is it true that consultations are contemplated before any use of force, conventional or nuclear?
Summary: Sloss reported a meeting between Schlesinger and Leber.
Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–1973, POL GER W–US. Secret; Exdis. Sloss did not initial the memorandum which was sent to the Assistant Secretary of State for Politico-Military Affairs Spiers. The meeting was held on July 17. Attached but not published is Tab A, a list of participants and a schedule; and Tab C, an undated draft communiqué. A more detailed memorandum of conversation on this talk, prepared by DOD, is in Washington National Records Center, OSD Files: FRC 330–78–0011, Germany 091.112 30 Jul 73. In a July 18 discussion with Rush, Leber said that his July 17 discussions with Schlesinger had clarified all of the misunderstandings that had arisen in the FRG and Western Europe with respect to U.S. policy. (Memorandum of conversation, July 18; National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–1973, POL GER W–US)↩