275. Editorial Note

In late February and March 1975, the Department of State continued its efforts to find a compromise formula on the peaceful change of frontiers, acceptable to both West Germany and the Soviet Union, for inclusion in the CSCE final document. In telegram 3086 from Bonn, February 24, the Embassy sent a German position paper, approved by Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher, on peaceful change. It reads in part: “We welcome the efforts of Secretary Kissinger to try to reach a compromise with the Soviet Union on the question of ‘peaceful change.’ We also see a desire to cooperation on the part of the Soviets by the deletion of the word ‘only.’ Nevertheless, we are obliged to state that a dangerous element lies in the revised order of ‘in accordance with international law,’ ‘by peaceful change,’ and ‘by agreement.’” The German paper continued: “Our clearly preferred formula is: ‘The participating states consider, that, in accordance with international law, their frontiers can be changed by peaceful means and by agreement.’ Should the American side consider it necessary, in view of the discussion with [Page 808] Gromyko in Geneva, we could also agree that a comma be inserted in the sentence concerning peaceful change between the words ‘changed’ and ‘in accordance with international law.’ It appears to us to be essential to attain as a goal the insertion of the comma.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, P850081–2083)

On February 26, the participants in Secretary of State Kissinger’s morning staff meeting discussed the German response on peaceful change: “Mr. Hartman: CSCE, I talked to Vorontsov—I am going to go very easy on this German reply—because we now have further evidence that the Germans have told the French that they are prepared to cave and have that language go down in the lower part of the formulation, and just settle for a comma, as you [Kissinger] say. We have to tell him [Vorontsov] they still have not bought that formulation. In other words, give him a status report, rather than press him to accept this formula. Secretary Kissinger: But why don’t you try that comma? Mr. Hartman: Yes. We will tell him about that. I don’t think he will be surprised, because I really think the Germans fixed this up with the Russians. Secretary Kissinger: And making us the sucker? Mr. Hartman: No—it is not a sucker. I think from their own political point of view, they would like to be able to say this is what their allies felt they could say. And that is something I think we can serve their purpose with. Secretary Kissinger: Except if they told us that, we would do it. I don’t like the duplicitous maneuvering. Because if we take their instructions literally, we are going to get into trouble with the Russians.” An attached summary of the minutes of the staff meeting reads in part: “CSCE: Mr. Hartman will see Vorontsov about CSCE.” (Ibid., Transcripts of Secretary of State Kissinger’s Staff Meetings, 1973–1977, Entry 5177, Box 6, Secretary’s Staff Meetings)

The same day, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Hartman met with Soviet Minister Counselor Vorontsov to discuss the formula on peaceful change. Telegram 45297 to Bonn, February 28, reported on the meeting: Hartman pointed out to Vorontsov that “following recent discussions among US officials, Gromyko and Kovalev in Geneva, US and FRG had discussed possible approaches to a compromise on the peaceful change issue. He said that if the text were placed in the sovereign equality principle, US would support clear FRG preference to include the phrase ‘in accordance with international law’ before the phrase ‘can be changed.’ Vorontsov asserted, echoing earlier Soviet view, that Moscow was strongly opposed to this approach, and could not accept placement of ‘in accordance with international law’ apart from ‘by peaceful means and agreement.’” Hartman then quoted to Vorontsov another formulation, “stating that if it were acceptable to Moscow, US would be prepared to encourage its acceptance by Bonn. He then handed to Vorontsov full text of proposed peaceful change formulation as follows: ‘The participating states consider [Page 809] that their frontiers can be changed, in accordance with international law, by peaceful means and by agreement.’ Vorontsov said he would refer the new text to his authorities and report their reactions as soon as possible.” (Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Presidential Country Files for Europe and Canada, Box 6, Germany, State Department Telegrams, From SecState, Nodis [2])

On February 28, Vorontsov phoned Kissinger. A transcript of their telephone conversation reads in part: “V[orontsov]: I have got a piece of news about the Old European Conference.” Vorontsov continued: “I got a cable from Gromyko. The phrase about the peaceful change of border—he says to tell you directly that the formula suggested by Mr. Hartman is acceptable to the Soviet Union. K[issinger]: Good. V: The participating states consider their frontiers can be changed by peaceful means and by agreement—this is acceptable and we would not mind that this phrase will be put in the text of the principles of sovereignty as the Germans have agreed to do. K: That is my impression. Should we notify the Germans? V: Since Mr. Hartman told me that is your compromise language—K: Why don’t we notify the Germans, and we’ll get it to Geneva.” (Department of State, Electronic Reading Room, Kissinger Transcripts of Telephone Conversations, http://foia. state.gov/documents/kissinger/0000BBB3.pdf)

Telegram 46561 to Bonn, March 1, reported that the Soviets had accepted the revised formulation “for placement in the sovereign equality principle.” “With regard to placement,” it continued, “you should inform FRG that we have not discussed with Soviets specific details of placement suggested by FRG” because “we believed issue of formulation should be resolved prior to dealing with placement question which might well be handled in framework of CSCE discussions rather than in bilateral channels.” (Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Presidential Country Files for Europe and Canada, Box 6, Germany, State Department Telegrams, From SecState, Nodis [2]) Telegram 3454 from Bonn, March 1, reported that the FRG had accepted the United States’ tabling of the revised formula prior to a decision on its exact placement in the sovereign equality principle. (Ibid., Box 7, Germany, State Department Telegrams, To SecState, Nodis [3])

Telegram 56434 to Geneva, March 13, instructed the U.S. delegation to CSCE as follows: “After appropriate consultations with allies and others, you should move promptly to table, for placement in the sovereign equality principle, the English-language version of peaceful change text: ‘The participating states consider that their frontiers can be changed, in accordance with international law, by peaceful means and by agreement.’” The telegram continued: “In tabling peaceful change formulation, you should point out that we consider its precise placement in the sovereign equality principle remains to be determined in ongoing negotiations of the principles subcommittee.” Telegram [Page 810] 1835 from Geneva, March 17, reported: “USDel tabled peaceful change text at outset of subcommittee’s March 17 meeting, proposed its early registration in first principle on sovereign equality, and suggested that subcommittee return to question on March 20. However, we added that consideration of exact placement of sentence within first principle could be deferred for time being. FRG and Soviets led in warm expressions of support on both the text and its placement in the first principle, and France, GDR, Italy, Spain, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Portugal, Ireland, Bulgaria, UK, and Belgium spoke in same vein. France, although favoring text and placement in first principle, demurred on early registration and asserted that a linkage exists between the peaceful change text, quadripartite rights formulation, and language on the interrelationship of principles.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files)