144. Editorial Note

On March 17, 1971, Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin called Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Henry Kissinger at 7:25 p.m. and reported: “tomorrow I would like to give you in a sealed envelope a new suggestion on a Berlin question.” Although he did not divulge any details, Dobrynin asked Kissinger for a response to the proposal before the next quadripartite meeting in Berlin. The two men agreed to postpone their next meeting until Monday, March 22, thus allowing Kissinger more time to prepare a “more thoughtful answer.” According to the transcript, the conversation also included the following exchange:

[Page 416]

“K: The only other question I have, you will not object if I show this to our man in Berlin—Rush?

“D: Very privately?

“K: On a very private basis.

“D: I am afraid even our Ambassador [Abrasimov] knows nothing of this, no one knows about it, and if he should—

“K: Let me worry about whom I show it to.

“D: I understand how you do it.

“K: You can be certain it will remain in the Presidential channel.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Henry Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts, Box 27, Dobrynin File)

During a telephone conversation at 8:13 p.m., Kissinger briefed President Richard Nixon: “Put off the meeting with Dobrynin till Monday, partly at his request because he is coming in with a big request for Berlin and I need time to study it.” Nixon replied: “We got till Monday then.” (Ibid., Box 9, Chronological File)

The next afternoon, the Soviet Embassy delivered two documents on Berlin to the White House: a handwritten note from Dobrynin and a Soviet draft agreement. The handwritten note presented several complaints on the conduct of the quadripartite talks, especially on the issue of West German Federal presence. According to Dobrynin, contrary to assurances, Bonn had failed to curtail its “demonstrative actions” in Berlin and Rush had failed to contact Abrasimov to negotiate an “appropriate formulation” limiting such activity. “Moscow wouldn’t like to make conclusions from these and some other facts,” he observed, “that the channel Ambassador-Dr. Kissinger does not function effectively when matters concern practical steps. But at the same time these facts do attract attention.” (Ibid., NSC Files, Box 491, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1971, Vol. 5 [part 2]) Dobrynin adopted a different tone in a letter to Kissinger, which accompanied the Soviet draft agreement on Berlin:

“I would like to point out that the suggested formulations take into account the considerations transmitted through you as well as the exchange of opinion at the Four Power talks.

“We hope that the American side will duly appreciate the desire of the Soviet Union to achieve a breakthrough in the principal questions by giving favorable examination to the considerations and formulations transmitted by President Nixon.

“It is expected that the Soviet proposals will receive objective and favorable attitude.

“If, in the opinion of the American side, the Soviet proposals could form a basis for further Four Power talks and for drawing up final [Page 417] formulations, the Soviet Union could officially table them on its behalf at the Four Power talks.

“If the reply of the American side could be received promptly, the Soviet side could then submit the above mentioned draft for consideration already at the next meeting of the Ambassadors.”

In a handwritten postscript, Dobrynin added that he hoped to receive a response no later than March 22. (Ibid.) Kissinger forwarded for comment the full text of the draft agreement in a special channel message to Rush on March 18. “I would appreciate as full talking points as you can prepare,” Kissinger remarked. “I would not bother you this much without major Presidential interest.” (Ibid., Kissinger Office Files, Box 59, Country Files, Europe, Ambassador Rush, Berlin, Vol. 1 [2 of 2]) The original Russian text of the Soviet draft agreement is ibid., NSC Files, Box 491, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1971, Vol. 5 [part 2]. Dobrynin’s letter and the English translation of the draft agreement are printed in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XL, Germany and Berlin, 1969–1972, Document 201.