48. Telegram From Fred Valtin to the Central Intelligence Agency1

Had hour and a half meeting with Minister Ehmke on 19 August, with State Secretary Bahr participating for first half. Atmosphere, while somewhat tense during period our initial presentation, was otherwise cordial throughout, and meeting ended on note that talks in informal channel should continue in next few months to seek agreement on mutually acceptable solution in effort to avoid, if at all possible, an official USG/FRG confrontation on the Radio problem.
We opened meeting by stating that position they had taken in June (i.e. that Radios “must go”) had created a potentially very serious situation. The matter had been carefully considered at highest level as a problem of inter-agency interest (i.e. not just by CIA) and conclusion had been reached that FRGʼs position is not acceptable. Bahr (who at very beginning of meeting had been in euphoric mood due “the marvelous way” in which his trip to Washington had worked out) asked whether “highest level” included the President. We advised them (per Dr. Kissingerʼs instructions at 40 Committee meeting)2 that the President is aware of the problem and, while obviously not involved in details, feels strongly that Radios constitute effective instruments and must be preserved. We then advised them that USG, while reserving the right to fall back into an official confrontation posture, has deliberately chosen to continue these talks in the informal channel, hoping thereby to be able to avoid a confrontation. They should clearly understand, however, that we were speaking to them on USG instructions and that, to repeat, the situation is potentially very serious.
Ehmke/Bahr obviously had expected to hear something quite different and seemed to be stunned that USG should take this issue so seriously. They both expressed some dismay, but both (and particularly Ehmke) stated that strong USG feeling would naturally be fully taken [Page 130] into account in further FRG deliberations on this subject. Ehmke then advised that position they had taken with us in June had been discussed with Brandt in interim and that Brandt had agreed. What we had told them today, said Ehmke, would of course also be made known to Brandt and would no doubt be most carefully weighed by Brandt. In this connection, Ehmke relayed Brandtʼs regret at not having been able to meet us at this time, and Brandtʼs assurances that he would do so on our next visit.
Ehmke asked for explanation of reasons for USG hard position. This given to him in considerable detail along lines familiar to Headquarters. Essence: The Radios constitute uniquely effective instruments, represent no anomaly in the 1970ʼs or in an era of détente (and, to contrary, are even more essential in the more complex ideological struggle in such an era), and cannot be replaced once terminated, nor can any USG or Fedrep communication media substitute for them. Ehmke/Bahr said they agreed on all points made by us, and they reiterated their position that FRG does not desire the termination of the Radios, only that they no longer operate from German soil. We countered by saying that that request amounted to termination, because none of the alternatives cited by them in June is feasible and because, after careful study of relocation possibilities, USG had concluded this cannot be done, if at all, without radically affecting the nature and effectiveness of the Radios.
We also advised them that, apart from USG position on this issue, they should give most careful thought to effect negative decision would have on Fedrep image, both in terms of reaction by peoples in Bloc countries and in terms of reaction in U.S. (and on latter we specifically referred to Congress, American industrial leaders who back RFE with contributions, influential private Americans who old friends of Germany and who sit on RFE Board, and sizable minority population elements in U.S.). Both Ehmke/Bahr acknowledged validity of this point and said it, too would have to be carefully weighed.
Ehmke said that in light non-feasibility relocation and other alternatives (Bahr chimed in that these findings showed that Fedrep in effect was being asked to carry the burden no other country was willing to even share), he might personally reach conclusion not to push the issue, if it were not for one inescapable factor: The certainty that sooner or later (and surely no later than in the months prior to 1972 Olympics when Bloc can be depended upon to mount its non-participation bluff), FRG will come under intense pressure from both the radical left and right on the sovereignty issue and, if tied to Olympic problem, from highly influential Sports/Athletics Lobby and every other non-governmental organization, including business interests. If so (and Ehmke is certain such or similar situation will arise at some point), the two Radios will become a political football in Germany— [Page 131] and Ehmke feels that no German Government (no matter how then constituted) would be able to resist the pressures that will then develop. This then, according to Ehmke, would result in worst of all possible worlds, i.e. termination of Radios under public pressure and, if related to Olympics, as result successful ploy by Bloc. In light of these considerations, Ehmke said, he had to come to the conclusion that indefinite status quo not feasible from FRG point of view, nor in his opinion in terms USG interest in Radios and larger equities. Consequently, it is essential that USG and FRG continue to talk about this problem to see whether some mutually acceptable solution can be found. Ehmke emphasized that there was no hurry since current license year had just started, and he also reiterated FRG desire that these talks continue to be conducted quietly in the informal channel.
Bahr asked whether USG was thinking in terms any specific time frame, such as two and five years. We answered in the negative, advising them that this position based on impossibility to foretell the course of world events with any accuracy and that Radios might be considered even more essential in two or five years than now. Bahr said this would make it more difficult to reach agreement.
After saying that we had not thought of this before and that our question did not imply any sort of commitment, we asked whether the FRG position against the indefinite continuation of the Radios pertained to the entire complex of both Radios, or did they feel more strongly on either the continued presence of the transmitter facilities or the editorial and programming headquarters. This query caused quite a discussion between Ehmke and Bahr, but they finally agreed (while also emphasizing that they could not make a commitment) that the transmitter facilities were the real problem. Both felt that, if these were removed or in the process of being replaced outside Fedrep, FRG could cope with domestic and Bloc pressures against Radios, i.e. they could and would defend continued operations of headquarters of both Radios in Munich. We reiterated we not in position to make any commitment and emphasized had no way of knowing whether relocation of transmitter facilities is technically or politically feasible, but we assured them that their differentiated approach to these two aspects of Radios would be reported to Washington.
After stating that we under strong impression that current nature of Radios, and their immense importance to Bloc developments, not fully understood or appreciated by FRG officialdom, we passed Ehmke the background briefing folders on RFE and RL prepared by Headquarters.3 He expressed appreciation and promised to study carefully.
We questioned Ehmke quite closely on 9 August Stern article. He maintained that it was not leaked by Chancellery and that, in fact, he had made effort kill the article when Stern called him on it prior publication. He said leak might have come from someone else who participated in cabinet meeting at which it decided that RFE license abrogation clause not to be used. (Comment: This was first word that this question had been discussed at Cabinet level.) Ehmke would not promise anything when we asked that Chancellery issue dementi on Stern article.
Ehmke lodged mild complaint re what he believes our (CIA) and/or RFE action in getting Springer Press recently to come out with articles attacking FRG for being soft on Radios. We gave him unequivocal assurances that CIA and Radios not involved.
It was agreed that next round of talks, including meeting with Brandt, should take place late September/early October.
DCM Fessenden has read this report.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 684, Country Files, Europe, Germany, Vol. VII. Secret. Repeated to Munich. The telegram was attached to a memorandum from Helms to Kissinger, August 25. Helms wrote: “Attached is a copy of Fred Valtinʼs cable from Bonn… . You will note that discussions with Chancellor Brandt are proposed for late September or early October. Prior to that meeting we will request further reviews with your office and with the State Department on the line to be taken.” Also attached was an NSC routing memorandum that reads as follows: “Ed—orig sent to Sonnenfeldt/Jessup (cy) for action. 8/26/70.” Copies were sent to Lord, Kissinger, and Haig.
  2. See Document 47.
  3. Not further identified.