103. Telegram From the Embassy in Germany to the Department of State1

9011. Subj: CDU Leader’s Views on Current Situation in FRG.

[Page 287]
Summary. In a conversation with EmbOff August 4, CDU Bundestag faction leader Barzel reviewed the current political situation in the FRG. EmbOff gained impression that Barzel is not now considering an all-out CDU effort to bring down the Brandt government. End summary.
Barzel began by reviewing Scheel’s discussion with him on June 20 (to which Strauss had already made us privy without consulting with Barzel), in which Scheel asked Barzel to designate CDU participants in his negotiating group for Moscow. Barzel said he had never heard further from Scheel as to Barzel’s request to obtain Soviet views as to whether Soviet leaders would be prepared for serious negotiations other than mere acceptance of the Bahr paper. Barzel said the coalition had mishandled this approach to him, in that it had concentrated on the question of whether the CDU would participate in the delegation without dealing at all with the substance of the negotiations. He said he thought the coalition had made an even more serious error in the general sense by not taking advantage of his own offer at the outset of the new government to have a bipartisan foreign policy. The SPD were paying for this in public opinion and would continue to do so.
Barzel said he had not yet decided on his next tactical move, but he might decide to convene a special Bundestag session immediately after Scheel initialed the agreement with the Soviets. He assumed that Scheel would only succeed in obtaining minor changes in the text of the Bahr paper. Barzel referred to these minor changes as “arabesques.” Barzel said his line of attack for a special Bundestag session would not be to try to deal with the whole content of the agreement with the Soviets at this juncture, but instead to focus on the specific point that the government had been wrong to conclude this agreement before a satisfactory solution on Berlin had been achieved and should not sign the treaty until this was done.
Barzel said there would almost inevitably be a debate on the FRG-Soviet treaty following signing. Resolutions would probably be brought in. He was not yet sure what course he would follow.
Barzel said some of his associates wanted to go all the way under such circumstances, but he did not feel it right for the CDU to be pushed into this decision at this time. It would be better to wait for the Landtag elections. Barzel said that the leadership situation was such that he did not yet have full authority. However, he was content to wait for party opinion to come to him. If the party decided that he had everything it took except that he was poor at baby kissing (a reference to his poor TV qualities), we would accept this decision. He was not going to get out and campaign for leadership position. At the same time, he did not see any other serious contender.
Regarding the CDU position on Bundesrat consideration of the FRG-Soviet treaty in the ratification process, Barzel said he was not sure that the Bundesrat could or would be a serious barrier to ratification of the treaty. First, he had some doubts about whether the CSU would do as well in Bavaria as it hoped. The FDP might still get into the Landtag there. If it were possible, the SPD and FDP would form a government even if they had only a one-vote majority. This would change the voting relationship in the Bundesrat in favor of the governing coalition. It was an open question whether the FRG-Soviet treaty did affect or change the Federal constitution and therefore required a two-thirds vote in the Bundestag and Bundesrat. This question could only be determined through a long drawn-out court case. If the treaty were not considered to have constitutional character, then the ratification law passed through the Bundestag and Bundesrat would not be of the type which required explicit Bundesrat approval. Hence the Bundesrat could not block it effectively.
In a discussion of the US attitude toward Ostpolitik, Barzel said that as he understood it, the US would support any legally elected German Government, hence was supporting the present coalition government and presumably would support a CDU government if such arose from new elections. He also understood that the US desires to maintain a close overall relationship with Germany, and consequently that the US would as a matter of course give generalized support to the major policies of its German ally. As opposition leader, he accepted this situation and considered it wholly appropriate. What he did object to at present was that Brandt and Scheel were both arguing privately that the FRG had to have an active Ostpolitik because the US Government insisted on it. Brandt had told him this in a private conversation in March, and Scheel had said the same thing in discussing the present Soviet treaty with Bundestag faction leaders. This was an argument that was only used internally, but it was effective and he did not believe it accurate.
Barzel said that in the event he decided to make an all-out effort to unseat the coalition government, he would inform the US in advance and subsequently also the Soviet Government through the Soviet Embassy here. At that time, he would indicate what his policy platform would be in the event of a CDU government. He did not wish to go into specifics now, but he could state quite clearly that that policy would not be a return to cold war status vis-à-vis the Soviet Union. It would show where the CDU differed from the SPD and which things it could accept and could not accept, but it would be a continuation of a policy of reconciliation and negotiation with the East, perhaps with more substance and constructive content that that of the coalition government.
Comment: Barzel appears to be taking a relaxed approach at this stage to the possibilities of unseating the SPD government, preferring to let events develop and possibly come his way rather that to try to shape them in an all-out effort to achieve his end. We find his statement on the Eastern policy which would be pursued by a CDU government interesting and significant. It conforms with our own appraisal that a CDU successor government to the present coalition would continue much of the present government’s Eastern policy, with the significant exception that it would probably not take actions which explicity entailed formal German acceptance of the postwar status quo.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 12–6 GER W. Secret; Limdis; Noforn. Repeated to Berlin, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Bremen, Munich, and Stuttgart. Sonnenfeldt summarized the telegram in an August 6 memorandum to Kissinger: “Yesterday, Barzel told our Embassy that he may decide to convene a special Bundestag session as soon as Scheel initials the treaty (he probably did not know that Scheel may initial as early as tomorrow). He was uncertain, tactically, whether to ‘go all the way’in attacking the government’s foreign policy. Barzel said that he would inform us and the Soviets when he had decided to make an effort to oust the coalition. He made clear, however, that a CDU government would not revert to cold war policies, but would continue a policy of reconciliation and negotiation.” (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 684, Country Files, Europe, Germany, Vol. VII)