56. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • RFE and RL (Part III of III)2


  • German
    • Egon Bahr—State Secretary, Chancellorʼs Office
    • Guenther van Well—Assistant Secretary, Foreign Office
  • American
    • Henry A. Kissinger—Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
    • Helmuth Sonnenfeldt—Senior Member, National Security Council
    • James S. Sutterlin—Director, Office of German Affairs

As the final of three subjects covered in the conversation, State Secretary Bahr referred to RFE and RL and asked whether there was a special White House interest in the radio stations. Mr. Kissinger said that there was. Bahr then noted that the Federal Government was under a bit of pressure on the subject from the Poles who had recently sent an official letter raising this issue.3 The Czechs have also made [Page 155] public complaints but have not approached Bonn officially. Bahr did not think that the Eastern European threats to boycott the Olympics should be taken seriously. He added that the Federal Government would withstand Polish pressure. The fact was, however, that the Federal Republic and Poland were only surrogates in this dispute. The two radios were really an element in East/West relations in which the U.S. and the USSR were the main players. He did not know exactly how the United States could introduce this issue in the American/Soviet dialogue. It should be understood, however, that the Federal Government could not solve the problem. It could only ensure that the programs broadcast were in line with the policies of the U.S. and the FRG. This could not and should not be achieved through a system of pre-censorship of broadcasts. It could only be accomplished by clear guidelines to those who prepared the programs.

Bahr said that insofar as the Polish letter was concerned he had proposed that the Federal Government take its time in responding. We could be sure that the reply would be coordinated with Washington.

Mr. Kissinger asked what precisely Bahr was suggesting that the United States should do. Bahr replied that Washington should take up the radio question with the Russians directly. If this were done then the FRG could forget about giving notice on the stations for another year. Bahr mentioned in this connection that the contracts would come up for renewal in August or September. He was told by the others present that the contracts had in fact already been extended and that the next occasion on which notice could be given would be in April 1972. Bahr then commented that in this case the radios would have to continue through the Olympics in any event. Herr van Well interjected that this was not necessarily so, since the Olympics would not take place until the summer of 1972. Moreover, there was a secret letter in connection with the radio contracts which permitted the FRG to give notice at any time if circumstances warranted. Mr. Sutterlin said that in his understanding there were differences in the FRGʼs contractual relationship with RFE and RL.

Mr. Kissinger then stated, on a personal basis, that a unilateral action by the FRG on the radios would not be well received in Washington. We are interested in their continued operation, although we have to be realistic about the problems they entail. He asked what it was that the United States should raise with the Soviets. Should we ask what the Soviet Union would offer us for removing the radios? Bahr said that this was what he had in mind. Mr. Kissinger proposed that we look into the question. We could consider whether it might be possible within some broader context to raise the radio subject with Moscow.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL GER W–US. Secret; Exdis. Drafted by Sutterlin on June 18. The meeting took place in Kissingerʼs office.
  2. Part I, which dealt with Mutual and Balanced Force Reductions (MBFR), is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XIII, Soviet Union, October 1970–September 1971; Part II, on the Berlin negotiations, is ibid., volume XL, Germany and Berlin, 1969–1972, Document 257.
  3. See Document 54.