111. Editorial Note

After his meeting with Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin on February 10, 1971, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Henry Kissinger began to use “back channel” diplomacy to negotiate a quadripartite agreement on Berlin. On February 11, Kissinger accompanied President Richard Nixon to Key Biscayne, Florida for a four-day weekend. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1968–76) The next day, he sent the following message, via the special Navy channel in Frankfurt, to Ambassador Kenneth Rush in Bonn:

“Had long and extremely cordial talk with Dobrynin. With respect to Berlin, Dobrynin said that our draft agreement was unacceptable as it stood. We then talked about access and Federal Presence. About access Dobrynin said that the Soviet Union wanted its obligations stated in a manner analogous to the Western statement regarding Federal Presence as defined in Annex III. In other words Soviets wanted to state the principles on access after prefatory sentence along lines: ‘The USSR [Page 330] has been informed that the following principles will guide access.’ They would then include these in the guarantee of the last part. Do you believe the approach of a unilateral Soviet guarantee is acceptable if the principles are? If so, it would be best for many reasons if word came in this channel for Presidential reasons.

“About Federal Presence Dobrynin said draft would have to say something about committees and meetings of Fraktionen, though he indicated that he might settle for limitation rather than prohibition. If we agreed, you and Abrasimov could work out the details. What do you think?

“I made your points about the guarantee section to him. He indicated this would cause no problems after all other sections are agreed.

“Can you answer fairly urgently—especially on access question? President for other reasons seeks to be forthcoming but sensible.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 59, Country Files, Europe, Ambassador Rush, Berlin, Vol. 1 [2 of 2])

Although he did not discuss the details of his strategy in the message, Kissinger mentioned several “Presidential,” or “other,” reasons in his memoirs: “Clearly, if I linked Berlin to SALT,” he recalled, “the Soviets linked Berlin to a summit.” (Kissinger, White House Years, page 814)

In a special channel message to Kissinger on February 14, Rush replied that he was “[v]ery pleased to hear of your cordial talk with Dobrynin.” “With regard to access,” he observed, “I believe the approach of a unilateral Soviet guarantee would be acceptable, provided the principles were adequately covered.” The issue of Federal presence in Berlin, on the other hand, was “very sensitive” in Bonn. Neither the governing coalition nor the opposition supported the limitation on the meetings of parliamentary committees and party groups in the former German capital. Rush concluded: “If we take a strong position, however, I believe some limitations on such meetings could be worked out.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 59, Country Files, Europe, Ambassador Rush, Berlin, Vol. 1 [2 of 2])

Kissinger returned to Washington with the President in the evening on February 15. (President’s Daily Diary; ibid., White House Central Files) The next day, he sent a follow-up message to Rush: “One question put by Dobrynin which I neglected to ask. With respect to the question of Federal Ministries, Dobrynin said that our proposal was unacceptable but that they were prepared to compromise. Do you have any suggestions?” (Ibid., NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 59, Country Files, Europe, Ambassador Rush, Berlin, Vol. 1 [2 of 2]) Rush replied on February 17 that a “cosmetic approach” might be acceptable; perhaps the Federal ministries could be placed under a single Federal authority. After further discussion of political sensitivities in Bonn, Rush continued:

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“As an ultimate, fall-back position, some consideration might be given to some limitation on the number of offices or the number of employees, for example, the same as at present, that the F.R.G. might have in West Berlin. Another possible limitation would be with regard to the nature of the ministries, for example, those dealing with economic, cultural, monetary, but not political, activities might be permitted. As of now there is no indication that any such limitations would be acceptable to the F.R.G., but the issue has never been seriously raised with them.” (Ibid.)

The full text of the messages cited above, as well as a similar exchange between Kissinger and West German State Secretary Egon Bahr, are printed in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XL, Germany and Berlin, 1969–1972, Documents 180, 182, and 183.