83. Memorandum From William Hyland of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

    • Soviet Démarche on Berlin Negotiations2

Most of this note is a politely worded but fairly clear charge of bad faith, based on the Soviet interpretation of Gromyko’s conversations with Secretary Rogers and with the President, and what the Soviets expected to flow from those talks.

At that time Secretary Rogers made quite an issue over the Soviet negotiators’ unwillingness to discuss the question of Berlin access, without first reaching an understanding on their demand for a reduction in West German presence in West Berlin. Gromyko made a “concession” and agreed to discuss both issues simultaneously. On this basis the Soviets apparently expected the negotiations would go more rapidly.
This note suggests they believe we have not lived up to the bargain of simultaneous discussions. They expected to learn more of our position on West German presence, while they would reveal more of their position on access. In fact, Abrasimov did make a new proposal on access, and accompanied it with a reminder that he expected “parallel” progress on all the main issues.
Ambassador Rush, however, replied that the question of West German presence would have to cover activities to be excluded and those permitted. This latter point was new, Abrasimov claimed and in [Page 258] contradiction of the understanding reached by the Foreign Ministers, including Secretary Rogers and Gromyko.3
The third complaint is that we have permitted continuing West German meetings and activities in Berlin, which force the Soviets to react. Probably, the Soviets believe we could prevent these incidents if we wanted to, and they expected us to following the Gromyko visit.

On the more positive side:

  • —The Soviets indicate they are willing to move into more intensive discussions if that is desired (picking up the Brandt proposals).4
  • —The negotiators should be empowered to work out detailed texts and to put agreements in “formal shape.”
  • —The Soviet “package” already introduced (i.e., a four power agreement, an intra-German agreement, and a subsequent covering document for the entire package) will provide a “definite assurance that the agreement will be observed in all parts.”

If this latter could be translated into similar language in the negotiations one of our principal concerns would be met, since what we want is a Soviet assurance and not merely for the Soviets to pass on, as a kind of honest broker, the unilateral assurances of the GDR.

What do they expect of us?

Apparently, the Soviets expect some sort of procedural signal from us, either to hold the sessions more often, or perhaps break them down into working groups to come up with detailed language.
On substance, they are looking for us to reveal some of the fall-backs on German presence that their contacts with Bonn and other intelligence probably inform them we have considered.
Since the Soviet offer of December 10 did come some distance toward our position, they probably want a sign that we appreciated what they had done.

The note makes a special point that when the conversations start in mid January it will be “very important” what they start with and how they will be “arranged.”

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The Soviets probably are beginning to have some doubts that a Berlin agreement is possible. But they have a major stake in an agreement, because of the treaties with Bonn. After the discussion with the President in late October, it does appear that the Soviets decided they would have to loosen up their own position. In the session of November 4, Abrasimov was generally conciliatory, and accepted our general concept that traffic should be unhindered and preferential.5 About that time Brezhnev originated new formula, adopted at the Warsaw Pact meeting in early December, that was unusually conciliatory (i.e., an agreement would have to meet the “wishes of the Berlin population”).6

The Soviets may believe our response has been to harden our terms and challenge them on the Federal German presence. Since the Polish riots and purge, the Soviets must have come under fire from the East Germans, and perhaps within the Politburo for investing too heavily in Ostpolitik and accepting Western precondition of a Berlin settlement. This note seems to be a sort of appeal at the highest level for a show of responsiveness.

The Soviets may have some considerable concern that they cannot go into a Party Congress in March with their Western policy in a shambles—no Berlin progress, no move to ratify the treaties, no prospect for economic assistance from the West Germans—but that we hold the key.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 691, Country Files, Europe, Germany (Berlin), Vol. III. Top Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only. Printed from an uninitialed copy. Kissinger later incorporated most of Hyland’s analysis in a January 25 memorandum to the President; printed in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XL, Germany and Berlin, 1969–1972, Document 166. Kissinger and Hyland were both in San Clemente on January 6, drafting the President’s annual foreign policy report. According to Hyland’s memoirs, during this trip Kissinger “indicated he thought that we had reached a turning point with the Soviets. And he plotted a strategy for his talks with Dobrynin. His plan was to bring matters to a conclusion in the German–Berlin negotiations, which he now took into his private channel with the Soviet Ambassador. Second, he said he would try to negotiate a breakthrough in the SALT talks, which had become bogged down. And he intended to undertake this plan while signaling strongly to China that Washington was ready for a significant move.” (Hyland, Mortal Rivals, pp. 34–35)
  2. Dated January 6; see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XL, Germany and Berlin, 1969–1972, Document 159.
  3. This exchange between Abrasimov and Rush took place at the quadripartite ambassadorial meeting in Berlin on December 10, 1970. Sonnenfeldt assessed the meeting in a December 11 memorandum to Kissinger; see ibid., Document 144.
  4. On December 15, 1970, Brandt sent identical letters to Nixon, Pompidou, and Heath, urging the Allies to intensify the Berlin negotiations by turning the periodic ambassadorial meetings into a “continuous conference.” The letter to Nixon is printed ibid., Document 145. For the letter to Heath, see Akten zur Auswärtigen Politik der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, 1970, Vol. III, pp. 2273–2275.
  5. Sonnenfeldt assessed the November 4, 1970, meeting in a memorandum to Kissinger the same day; printed in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XL, Germany and Berlin, 1969–1972, Document 134.
  6. The Political Consultative Committee of the Warsaw Pact met in East Berlin on December 2, 1970. During the meeting, the Communist Party leaders released a statement on strengthening security and promoting “peaceful cooperation” in Europe. For the text of the statement, see Current Digest of the Soviet Press, Vol. XXII, No. 49 (January 5, 1971), pp. 2–3.