214. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • June 18 Quadripartite Dinner in Ottawa


  • French (host)
    • Jacques Sauvagnargues, Minister of Foreign Affairs
    • Francois Puaux, Director of Political Affairs
    • Emanuel de Margerie, Director of European Section
  • United States
    • The Secretary
    • Helmut Sonnenfeldt, Counselor of the Department
    • Arthur A. Hartman, Assistant Secretary for European Affairs
  • German
    • Hans-Dietrich Genscher, Minister of Foreign Affairs
    • Guenther van Well, Director of Political Affairs, Foreign Office
  • British
    • James Callaghan, Foreign Secretary
    • Sir John Killick, Deputy Undersecretary
    • Charles Wiggin, Assistant Undersecretary

[Omitted here is discussion of matters other than the European security conference or MBFR.]

[Page 650]


Sauvagnargues. Now let us turn to the next subject, which is CSCE. Here we have two problems: that of the possibility of modifying borders and that of quadripartite rights and responsibilities. I personally have strong views. After having read the Bonn Group papers2 I see no method of achieving a way out given the Soviet attitude. The only sure protection is to say that existing agreements which have been subscribed to by States or which concern them are not affected. The FRG position is quite understandable, but these objections are not really valid. Nobody can really invoke the Potsdam agreement3 now. Of course the GDR can argue that a new CSCE agreement invalidates everything agreed before, but my own opinion is that such an allegation is of no significance. Now as to a simple disclaimer, I don’t think this is appropriate and we could not get a Four Power disclaimer.

The Secretary. Why couldn’t we?

Sauvagnargues. Because the Soviets won’t agree.

The Secretary. How would you handle the question?

Sauvagnargues. I would add language to the effect that treaties subscribed to by States or which concern them are not affected. I don’t see any better solution.

The Secretary. Does this mean you don’t care where peaceful change language is placed?

Sauvagnargues. We don’t care and we have told the Germans this. There is no good place; they all have drawbacks.

Genscher. Well, there can be places where it would be of overwhelming importance but it is important to decide soon.

Sauvagnargues. Normally it should be placed in the principle of inviolability of frontiers, but the Soviets strongly oppose this.

Callaghan. Not having any language makes it difficult to say where it should be placed. Shouldn’t they work on this in Geneva? In other words figure out what we want to do and where to put it?

The Secretary. Just what is the wording that you want?

Van Well. Partly it is a matter of commas, but also the Soviets put in something about international law which we find objectionable.

[Page 651]

Sauvagnargues. The whole thing is negative in tone and should be changed so as to be positive.4 That is, the positive approach is to say borders can be changed by peaceful agreement. The present language reads the other way around, i.e. can be changed only by peaceful agreement, making it sound restrictive and negative.

Genscher. Since this point is disputed, this shows the Soviets don’t want to admit the possibility of peaceful change. This doesn’t affect only Germany but all of Europe.

Sauvagnargues. The only good formula is that sovereignty includes the power to change borders when there is peaceful agreement to do so.

Callaghan. We ourselves are not draftsmen. Let us tell our people to work out language, try it out and come back for further instructions.

The Secretary. We have three problems. First, the wording of the peaceful change language; second, placement of it; third, protection of the rights we already have. We mustn’t get those confused. We will accept any placement acceptable to the FRG and our Allies. We will still have to put it up to the Soviets. Now, with respect to protecting existing rights, I am attracted to what Foreign Minister Sauvagnargues says, rather than having a separate formal disclaimer.

Van Well. The point is that before we enter the second reading, we will have to decide where to place the language. We think under the inviolability of frontiers is all right but if the Soviets say “no,” put it under the sovereignty principle, we must re-phrase it and turn it from negative to positive.

The Secretary. I have difficulty understanding why a sentence which would be acceptable in one place would be unacceptable in another.

Sauvagnargues. The Soviets want inviolability to be “pure;” that is—no possibility of change. So if one includes in the inviolability principle something about change—of any sort—this runs counter to the [Page 652] concept of pure inviolability which the Soviets seem so strongly attached to.

The Secretary. I can’t understand why this is important. In fact, I will be surprised if there are ten human beings who remain to understand the Document 30 minutes after it is signed.

Sauvagnargues. Let me see if I can sum up. (The Secretary. I am glad you have the nerve to try.) We must have inviolability of frontiers but put in a positive way. The most likely way is with sovereignty and peaceful change.

The Secretary. But this would call for us to ask the Soviets to change a text which is already registered.

Van Well. Yes, but it was registered subject to placement and to all principles being equal in value, also the text can be adjusted depending on placement.

Sauvagnargues. Let me try to sum up again. We do try again to get the best possible formula on peaceful change, making no reference to international law. Also we try in the Bonn Group to work further on the quadripartite rights problem.

The Secretary. On the second point there is no problem with us. But on the first, it is very difficult to re-open agreed language, because that means in effect that we are withdrawing a registered text.

Van Well. We can accept the text if it is registered in the inviolability principle. If the Soviets object, it is up to them to make proposals.

Genscher. I think it is understandable that this reservation was entered only by the FRG. We will not be able to sign unless the problem of peaceful change is settled. If they keep bothering us about this they must have some motive.

Sauvagnargues. Summing up again, we must put the principle in a positive way.

Callaghan. It should be put in the inviolability principle. The idea would be that frontiers can’t be violated, but they can be changed by agreement. Let’s have our experts work this out, negotiate it with the Russians, and God help them!

The Secretary. I’m in agreement it should be in the inviolability principle, but the problem of changing an already-agreed text is very difficult. As to the disclaimer problem, I like the idea of the French Foreign Minister about putting this in the Tenth Principle. Why don’t we just wait and see what happens. We never wanted CSCE in the first place.

Callaghan. I detected this in what you said earlier.

[Omitted here is discussion of matters other than the European security conference or MBFR.]

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 1029, MemCons—HAK & Presidential. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Scott George, Director of the Office of Central European Affairs, and cleared by Hartman.
  2. Telegram 9467 from Bonn, June 14, contained the draft text of a Bonn Group study on CSCE and Germany and Berlin-related questions for use as the basis of discussion at the meeting on June 18. (Ibid., RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files.)
  3. For relevant excerpts of the 1945 Potsdam Agreement, which established four-power rights in occupied Germany, see Documents on Germany, 1944–1985, pp. 54–65.
  4. The draft Bonn Group study reads in part: “The text on the peaceful change of frontiers provisionally registered with reservations on 5 April in Geneva runs as follows: ‘The participating states consider that their frontiers can be changed only in accordance with international law through peaceful means and by agreement.’” The study continues: “The formula quoted is insufficient. The reference to conformity with international law creates the impression that the admissibility of peaceful change of frontiers is not an inherent consequence of international law but is subject to additional specific conditions besides those concerning peaceful means and agreement. According to the Soviet interpretation of the inviolability of frontiers and of territorial integrity this could then amount to the exclusion of a change of frontiers in Germany through peaceful means and by agreement in realization of the option of German unity. The minimum, therefore, that must be assured is that the reference to international law should appear in the sentence in a manner which avoids that risk.” (Telegram 9467 from Bonn, June 14; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files.)