41. Report Prepared in the Central Intelligence Agency1

Report From Valtin

  • “1. Pommerening, after expressing foreign office appreciation for Washington dispatch of special emissary, expounded for about fifteen minutes on problem, as seen by foreign office, as result of two Polish oral démarches (each accompanied by written bill of particulars).
  • “2. He emphasized that, while Poles appear persistent in their complaints, there is no indication they intend to make RFE an issue over which German/Polish negotiations are at all likely to break down. As a matter of fact, the Poles are handling the problem very cleverly in more-in-grief-than-in-anger manner, telling the Germans that they do not mind facts or even “objective analysis” and that they only object to “scurrilous attacks on leaders” and “intervention in Polish internal affairs.” Also cleverly, the Poles keep telling the Germans that the latterʼs own propaganda stations meet these criteria and that RFE is the only problem. Poles have not said so directly, but the implied intent of their comments boils down to: Is it not time that the FRG close down this foreign and out-of-step-with-the-time Cold War instrument operating on German soil?
  • “3. Pommerening advised that the second Polish démarche had requested a written German reply, to contain both reaction to specific charges and statement on FRG intentions vis-à-vis RFE. In reply to our question as to how they intend to handle this, Pommerening advised that he and his immediate superiors had recommended to Duckwitz (and felt quite certain this recommendation would be accepted) that there should be no written reply, and that an oral statement (a) not go into specific Polish charges and, instead simply assert that the matter is being looked into, and more important (b) advise Poles that both RFEʼs status in Germany and its activities are entirely within the Federal Republicʼs constitutional provisions of freedom of speech and freedom of political action, and that thus the FRG has no intention of changing RFEʼs status or charter.
  • “4. Pommerening advised that in this connection both the timing and the substance of DCMʼs démarche of last week had been most welcome. He said that receipt of this expression of strong USG interest, and of support by influential private Americans, had been most important in shaping the opinions of the upper foreign office hierarchy on how to handle Polish complaints. In effect, Pommerening said the Fessenden démarche had led to a basic foreign office decision that the RFE problem should not be allowed to become an issue of real substance between the FRG and the USG.
  • “5. Pommerening also gave flat assurance that FRG was not planning to close down RFE. He said that there were and are a few officials who wish the problem would go away, i.e. that RFE move to some other country. We told him that this might hypothetically be possible from a strictly technical point of view, but that such a move (apart from the overwhelming logistical and political problems) would obviously result in a radically different type of RFE and would thus be contrary to USG interest in maintaining RFE as a viable and effective instrument of mutual interest to the USG and the FRG. Pommerening agreed and repeated his assurance re no FRG intention close down RFE.
  • “6. Pommerening then said that, despite the stance to be taken by FRG in reply to the Poles, there remained a problem to be worked out. He said specific Polish charges had been looked into and substantiated by the Federal Press Office, and that these broadcasts (involving scurrilously personalized attacks on individual Polish political leaders and one case of direct interference in Polish elections) were of such nature that the FRG would have to agree they should not be transmitted by any radio operating from German soil. After stating that presumably there is no FRG intention or desire turn RFE into a pure news station, and after obtaining explicit Pommerening statement that it is the FRG intention to allow RFE to continue broadcasting critical analysis and commentary, we asked him for a specific definition of German request for moderation. He said that this is not an altogether easy task but what it boiled down to was: (a) No scurrilous personalized attacks on individuals; (b) No direct interference in internal affairs (such as telling people whom to vote for or not); and (c) Avoidance of shrill and inflammatory language (in terms both of choice of words and tone of voice) in news and commentary, especially the latter. In this connection, Pommerening said, RFE should take Radio Liberty as a model.
  • “7. After assuring Pommerening that USG and management radio are not insensitive to the problem that operation of radios here might pose for the FRG, we expressed the hope that the FRG will in fact handle reply to Poles as described above with Pommerening agreeing that any substantially different handling would inevitably constitute encouragement of salami tactic. We then stated we felt sure of our [Page 117] ground in being able to assure him that RFE management was completely responsible in its position on the problem areas raised by him and were doing everything possible to ensure compliance with its own already existing strictures along this line. In fact, if FRG request for modification did not go beyond the points raised by him (which he confirmed), then there is no problem. Pommerening expressed satisfaction but at the same time wondered whether RFE management, whose skill and good will he did not doubt, were always able to control its broadcast desks, especially members of the more recent emigration. We pointed to the [highly?] responsible RFE handling of the 1968 Czech crisis as evidence of what RFE management can do along this line even in an emotionally highly charged atmosphere. Pommerening acknowledged this, saying the FRG was very worried about RFE at the time but had found everything just right. We then made the point that in an undertaking of this type and magnitude, control could not be absolute and that the occasional exceptional slip has to be accepted as a fact of life. Pommerening agreed and said this presented no problem. On the other hand, what the FRG could not live with would be a situation wherein Poles (and other Bloc regimes with whom FRG has, or will establish, diplomatic relations) are able present the FRG with a steady stream of documented infractions of above strictures.
  • “8. In reply to our query, Pommerening advised that it was his impression that the Polish complaints relate largely (and perhaps altogether) to the period prior January 1970. We said that this was not an unimportant factor, since it was our impression that RFE had made some adjustments in its broadcast policy since the advent of the FRG negotiations with Poles and Soviets. In fact, RFE had gone to great lengths to present FRG Ostpolitik along lines the FRG would find eminently satisfactory. Pommerening acknowledged that he had so far not had time to study RFEʼs compilation on this subject.
  • “9. After stating that the only way to address ourselves to Polish complaints is to know their precise nature, we requested that the FRG make the papers available. Pommerening acknowledged the validity of this request but, while undertaking to give it a try he could not guarantee it, as the entire file they had was with Duckwitz and it would take the latterʼs authorization to turn over Polish material. It was in this connection that he advised that the FRG had gone all-out to prevent any leak on Polish complaints on FRG handling thereof, including making no copies of any papers relating thereto.
  • “10. Pommerening then advised that the Poles had also complained on the detailed nature of the questionnaire used by organizations which on behalf of RFE question Polish visitors to the West. The Poles said such questions are clearly only within the sphere of intelligence and security services, not a radio station.
  • “11. After Pommerening had advised that RL presents no problem, we said that in USG opinion the two radios are inseparable, i.e. basic change in one will inevitably affect the other sooner or later. Pommerening agreed.
  • “12. The Olympics as a factor in FRG thinking on RFE was discussed. Pommerening agreed that Bloc threats on this angle are bluff on which the Bloc is not at all likely to follow through, unless there is a basic deterioration in FRG/Bloc relations for other (and more important) reasons. He expressed apprehension, however, about public reaction in Germany (and on the part of non-political Federal officials) if the Bloc undertakes a major overt campaign on the RFE issue in relation to Bloc participation in the Olympics. He felt this might produce strong pressure against continuation of RFE. Pommerening did not react to our comment that the volatility of such a reaction from the public would no doubt be very much dependent on how the FRG reacts to an overt Bloc campaign if in fact the Bloc mounts it.
  • “13. Walter briefed on above. We concluded that, as defined by Pommerening, meeting the FRG request for modification requires little (if anything) more than RFE closely adhering to its own (already existing) strictures. On the other hand, since it is clear the Pommerening (and others who figure in this equation) are not really aware what RFE represents today, both in terms of what it does and what political factor it truly represents in the evolving Bloc situation (and Pommerening acknowledged his own gaps of understanding), Walter agrees that RFE must devote considerably more time to an educational effort in the next few months vis-à-vis German officialdom.
  • “14. DCM Fessenden has read this report. Since none will be sent by the Embassy, he requests that it be made available soonest to Sutterlin and Coerr.”
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 379, Subject Files, Radio Free Europe & Radio Liberty, Vol. I. Secret. A June 24 cover memorandum reads: “Attached herewith are two copies of Mr. Valtinʼs detailed report on his initial 22 June conversation with Dr. Pommerening of the West German Foreign Office…. As you will note in paragraph 14, Mr. Fessenden does not intend to forward this information separately and he requests that… [it be made] available to appropriate Department officials, Mr. Kissinger and Mr. Shakespeare.” A typed note at the top of the page reads: “USC Attachment to CA–15, 24 June 1970.”