49. Memorandum From the Deputy Director for Plans, Central Intelligence Agency (Karamessines) to the Presidentʼs Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) and the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Johnson)1


  • Discussion with Chancellor Brandt on RFE and RL
Attached is a résumé of Fred Valtinʼs meeting in Bonn with Chancellor Brandt on the presence of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty in the Federal Republic. Minister Ehmke was also present.
Mr. Valtinʼs cabled report reflects that the conversation was cordial throughout and that the Chancellor stated categorically that he does not want the problems presented by the Radios to become a matter of controversy between the Federal Republic and the U.S. Government. The Chancellor further indicated that if an earnest examination of all potential compromise solutions reveals that these are not feasible, he would be prepared to permit a continuation of the status quo. [Page 133] It appears, however, that the Chancellor is especially concerned about domestic pressures on the government if the Eastern Bloc threatens not to participate in the 1972 Olympic Games at Munich because of the presence of the Radios.
Another meeting is planned between Minister Ehmke (or Chancellor Brandt, if appropriate) and Mr. Valtin2 when the U.S. study of possible alternatives is completed.
TH Karamessines


Mr. Valtin described the evolution of the Radios into highly sophisticated instruments capable of influencing developments in the Soviet Bloc and their effectiveness was described in detail. In response to the Chancellorʼs query, Mr. Valtin confirmed that the American management controls the content and tone of the broadcasts and he described how [less than 1 line not declassified] the State Department exercise policy supervision over the Radios. Mr. Valtin summed up his presentation by emphasizing that the U.S. Government places a very high value on the Radios. They are seen as uniquely effective instruments, which are not an anomaly in the 70ʼs; even in an era of détente the Radios are essential factors in the ideological struggle.

Chancellor Brandt agreed with all of the points made and stated that he did not question either the effectiveness of the Radios or their continued validity. Moreover, neither he nor his Government wanted to terminate the Radio operations. He expressed the hope that there was no misunderstanding in Washington regarding his position on the need to continue the ideological struggle with communism, particularly in an era of “negotiation rather than confrontation.” The Chancellor said he had made it clear to Brezhnev during his visit to Moscow that their treaty concerned inter-governmental relations only and not ideological differences. Brezhnev replied that “the last thing we want is ideological fraternization.”

Mr. Valtin referred to State Secretary Bahrʼs statement in June 1970 that “the Radios must go” and commented that should the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) persist in this view, it would lead to the Radiosʼ liquidation. The position expressed by Bahr, therefore, created a potentially serious situation. The issue, which is considered to be a problem of inter-Agency interest, has been thoroughly discussed and the conclusion reached that the FRGʼs position, as enunciated by Bahr, [Page 134] is not acceptable since relocation appeared impossible and, even if technically feasible, this would affect the nature of the operations so radically as to make their continuation almost certainly not worthwhile. The Chancellor was advised, moreover, that the President had personally reviewed the problem and he feels strongly that the Radios must be preserved.

The Chancellor, while reiterating his positive view of the Radiosʼ role and effectiveness, said they do present a problem in the context of the FRGʼs attempt to establish more normal relations with the USSR and the Bloc countries. Therefore, the Radios are and will probably continue to be a problem since they provide a convenient peg for the Bloc to continue their accusations of the FRGʼs alleged revanchist attitudes. He acknowledged that it was unlikely that either the USSR or individual Bloc countries, all of whom have their own rationale for wanting more normal relations with the FRG, would permit negotiations to break down solely on the issue of the Radios and, in any event, the FRG will be able to deal with actual or anticipated Bloc pressures regarding the Radios. All appropriate German officials had been advised that it is Government policy that the Radios are not negotiable and any démarches on this question are to be rejected. The recent official announcement concerning the license renewal for the Radios was designed to reduce speculation on the status of the Radios and, more importantly, to indicate to the Bloc that the FRG position on this matter is firm.

The sovereignty aspect, as raised earlier by Bahr, did not appear to bother Brandt who said that he does not attach as much importance to this aspect as do some of his advisers. He did remark, however, that the operation of foreign owned and controlled propaganda media on German soil does constitute an anomaly so many years after the end of the occupation.

The Chancellor fully accepted the U.S. Government position that a relocation of the Radios in their entirety is tantamount to termination and thus out of the question. Nevertheless, he said the FRG seemed to carry the entire political burden of the Radios and he asked whether some degree of “burden sharing,” such as a possible relocation of the transmitters, might be feasible. The central problem is the emission of propaganda broadcasts, under German license, from German soil; the FRG is most vulnerable to attack because it can grant or withhold the licenses. The programming/editorial/research activities in Munich are not licensed and are comparable to any other journalistic activity, whose freedom to exist and function is guaranteed under the German constitution. In response to Mr. Valtinʼs comment that if a relocation of the transmitters was feasible and agreed to, we might later be asked to move the Munich Headquarters, the Chancellor unequivocally [Page 135] stated that as long as he had anything to say he would not ask that the two Munich Headquarters be removed.

The Chancellor, in response to his question, was told that a study on transmitter relocation is in process but far from completed; it is already apparent, however, that the chances of relocation appear to be slim. The reasons for this include such factors as the paucity of locations which are feasible from the technical standpoint, the uncertainty of the outcome of negotiations with Spain and Portugal regarding augmentation of current facilities, the financial costs involved and the two-year lead time which is necessary for the installation of equipment. Even if an immediate decision to relocate were made, the transmitters located in Germany would be needed through the 1972 Olympic Games. The Chancellor appeared to be dismayed at these findings although he made no specific comments.

The Chancellor wondered whether some other solution, such as a contractual U.S. Government/FRG arrangement on the Radios, might be feasible as the FRG would be able to deal with Bloc complaints on that basis. (In a subsequent discussion between Mr. Valtin and Ehmke, it was agreed that this particular proposal would, among other factors, radically change the Radiosʼ image and was not, therefore, a desirable solution.)

The Chancellor also suggested that, as one possible alternative, it would be helpful if only a portion of both Radiosʼ transmitters or all of the transmitters of one of the Radios were moved from Germany. Mr. Valtin did not comment on this proposal other than to say that it would be included in his report of the meeting.

The Chancellor stated that he was especially concerned about the intensive domestic problems which will result from Soviet Bloc pressures in connection with the Olympic Games. He agreed with Mr. Valtinʼs analysis that the threatened Soviet and Eastern European boycott of the Olympics was a bluff; nevertheless, he feels that sport, business and political groups will fall for the bluff and he is apprehensive over the Governmentʼs ability to cope with such a situation. Mr. Valtin said public reaction to such a Bloc ploy is directly related to how the FRG handles it. The Chancellor agreed but said there are situations wherein public opinion is dominant no matter what the Government does and emotions are likely to be so intense on this issue as to make it impossible for any German Government to contain them.

The Chancellor emphasized that he does not want the Radio problem, serious as it is, to become a matter of controversy between the FRG and the United States. He hoped that some mutually agreeable formula could be found to reduce the political burden on the FRG and he urged that all possible alternatives be examined by Washington in [Page 136] good faith. However, should such potential alternatives be found technically or politically impossible, “things will remain as they are.”

It was agreed that another meeting between Mr. Valtin and Ehmke (and, if appropriate, with the Chancellor) should take place once the U.S. Government has completed its study of possible alternative solutions.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 379, Subject Files, Radio Free Europe & Radio Liberty, Vol. I. Secret.
  2. No record of this meeting was found.