151. Editorial Note
On March 24, 1971, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Henry Kissinger and Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin discussed the problems involved in coordinating their unofficial talks in Washington with the official negotiations for a quadripartite agreement in Berlin. In a special channel message to Kissinger the previous evening, Ambassador to West Germany Kenneth Rush reported that Soviet Ambassador to East Germany Pyotr Abrasimov had postponed the four-power meeting on March 25, which had been scheduled for the formal presentation of the Soviet draft agreement. “This is because he has been called to Moscow for instructions,” Rush explained, “which of course fits into your discussion with Dobrynin and his return to Moscow.” Although “extreme care” would be required, Rush agreed to meet privately with Abrasimov to discuss the initial American reaction to the Soviet draft; he also agreed that Kissinger should cover similar ground with Dobrynin. In order to facilitate the talks in Washington, Rush forwarded formulations on several issues, including Federal presence, access, and inner-Berlin transit. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Material, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 59, Country Files, Europe, Ambassador Rush, Berlin, Vol. 1 [2 of 2]) The message is printed in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XL, Germany and Berlin, 1969–1972, Document 205.
Kissinger called Dobrynin at 9:58 a.m. on March 24 to review these developments on Berlin. The conversation included the following brief exchange:
“K: I have just had a message from Bonn. I need to discuss it with you right away. We have many visitors around here. Could I come right over?[Page 433]
“D: It’s quite all right with me.
“K: I will be right over.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Henry Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts, Box 27, Dobrynin File)
According to his Record of Schedule, Kissinger met Dobrynin—presumably at the Soviet Embassy—from 10:05 to 10:26 a.m. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1968–76) No record of the conversation has been found.
After he returned to the White House, Kissinger received a telegram from the Mission in Berlin. According to the Mission, Yuli Kvitsinsky, the Soviet Counselor in Bonn, had urgently requested a private meeting on March 25 between Rush and Abrasimov. In making the request, Kvitsinsky cited “recent contact between Soviet and US Governments,” presumably alluding to the talks between Kissinger and Dobrynin in Washington. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 28 GER B) Kissinger immediately called Dobrynin at 10:45 a.m. to complain:
“K: I just found out that your super-active ambassador there has asked others too, separately, telling them all not to tell the others which is a brilliant move. Under those circumstances it would be wrong to cancel with ours. He should make it formal and make no reference to anything else.
“D: He decided probably to show them this text.
“K: That’s all right.
“D: I still don’t have anything there. It’s probably really happening.
“K: Some are on Sat.
“D: On the 26th.
“K: What he should do is have a meeting tomorrow with ours on the basis of showing advance copy of the text and no reference to anything else.
“D: I am sure he has instructions. Probably in a general way. As for reference—
“K: He must not mention names or contacts.
“D: With this it’s much more helpful.
“K: Meet and only present the paper. Can I count on that?
“D: I will have an answer today or by the morning. I will send this for additional warning.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Henry Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts, Box 27, Dobrynin File)
Rush was also alarmed by this breach in security, addressing the issue in a special channel message to Kissinger that afternoon. “When I see Abrasimov tomorrow,” Rush assured Kissinger, “I shall advise [Page 434] him that he is to make no further such reference in the future, and when I do so advise him that I will have only his interpreter, not mine, present. You may consider it advisable, through the Dobrynin channel, to warn Abrasimov against making any reference to your contact in the future.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 59, Country Files, Ambassador Rush, Berlin, Vol. 1 [2 of 2]) The message is printed in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XL, Germany and Berlin, 1969–1972, Document 207.
During a telephone conversation at 7:25 p.m., Kissinger briefed the President on the latest news from Berlin:
“K: [T]here was a little screw-up—Abrasimov asked for a private meeting with Rush to ratify some of the things Dobrynin and I had to discuss—little screw-up in the bureaucracy but Rush handled it beautifully.
“P: That’s fine.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, Henry Kissinger Telephone Conversation Transcripts, Box 9, Chronological File)
Several hours later, Dobrynin called Kissinger to relay an explanation of Abrasimov’s conduct from Soviet Foreign Minister Gromyko: “First, he would like me to tell you that our Ambassador has very strict instructions never to mention or never to mention confidential dinners. It’s just confirmation for your information. He has strictest instructions never to mention it. He hasn’t mentioned it to his associates in no connection at all.” “Second, our Ambassador there,” Dobrynin continued, “[has] dropped his request about meeting with your Ambassador for tomorrow.” (Ibid., Box 29, Home File)