111. Minutes of the Senior Review Group Meeting1


  • European Security (NSSM 83)


  • Chairman—Henry A. Kissinger
  • State
    • U. Alexis Johnson
    • Martin Hillenbrand
    • Leon Sloss
  • Defense
    • David Packard
    • Reginald Bartholomew
    • John Morse
  • CIA
    • Gen. Robert E. Cushman
    • Bruce Clarke
  • JCS
    • Adm. Thomas H. Moorer
    • Col. John Wickham
  • Attorney General John N. Mitchell
  • ACDA
    • Vice Adm. John M. Lee
    • Thomas J. Hirschfeld
  • Treasury
    • Anthony Jurich
  • NSC Staff
    • Helmut Sonnenfeldt
    • William Hyland
    • K. Wayne Smith
    • John Court
    • Col. Richard T. Kennedy
    • Marshall Wright
    • Jeanne W. Davis


[Page 309]

It was agreed that the paper would be revised to:

  • —include an analysis of the things that could go wrong in Ostpolitik and what questions this would raise for US policy; and
  • —state more explicitly the assumptions on which Brandt’s policy is based.

Mr. Kissinger: I want to express our appreciation for the State Department’s work on this paper. Its main thesis is that a process of qualitative change is underway in Europe which is to some extent irrevocable. The combination of SALT and Ostpolitik will produce a different situation in Europe based on the status quo and strict parity between the superpowers. Whether or not this trend is compatible with our interests, we probably can’t affect it unilaterally except at a very heavy price in our relations with our allies. We should now address both the immediate tactical situation and our longer term policy. The President has indicated that he wants an NSC meeting in September on the issues. If agreeable, we will skip the discussion of unilateral US force reductions since we should not entertain such unilateral reductions until we have a clearer analytical base for discussion, particularly since unilateral reductions do not appear necessary even under reduced budgetary guidelines. (to Mr. Hillenbrand) Okay, Marty?

Mr. Hillenbrand: Okay.

Mr. Packard: I agree for now. However, we will have to discuss this question at some time. We should not assume that there will be no reductions.

Mr. Kissinger: Once we have a firm line on MBFR, we will get to this discussion. We might decide to hold out some things for bargaining purposes, but we haven’t done sufficient homework on it to discuss it at this meeting.

Mr. Johnson: It is essential that we do the work on MBFR first.

Mr. Kissinger: For this meeting let’s focus on Ostpolitik and Berlin. The Germans have made a treaty with the Soviets in which the quid pro quo is some Soviet move on Berlin. The Germans say that they cannot ratify this agreement without a new Berlin agreement. This means, in effect, that we will be negotiating on Berlin in the Four Power forum in which the Germans do not participate; thereby, we run the risk of being blamed for any failure. Also, the current Berlin negotiations assume a certain significance which was not originally intended. Bahr can put forward exalted ideas of what is achievable, but the US has to be the negotiator and we will be in a bad position if it does not work.

In addressing the immediate tactical problem we have three options. The first option—let the negotiations die—is not realistic. The [Page 310] second option calls for obtaining certain tactical improvements without necessarily negotiating a long-term arrangement, while the third calls for a broad long-term agreement. If we should choose to let the negotiations die we would be blamed for sabotaging Ostpolitik. Therefore, our choices fall between Options 2 and 3 although the outcome is not really up to us. Bahr believes a broad long-term agreement is achievable. If so, would we not snap it up?

Mr. Hillenbrand: Yes, if it were the right kind of agreement. However, our aims are more modest and more realistic, along the line of Option 2.

Mr. Kissinger: What are the differences between 2 and 3?

Mr. Hillenbrand: Option 2 would bring improvement on access and elimination of the harassment typical of the Berlin situation. In return, we would concede the elimination of West German political activity in West Berlin although they would retain economic and other ties. Option 3 would call for a more fundamental agreement which might take several forms. We could acknowledge the status quo in West Berlin. We could attach moves to improve access. The status quo in West Berlin would permit present political ties and the Soviets would propose that West Berlin be separated and made an independent entity. It would retain some ties to the FRG but access to it would be within the control of the GDR. We have already given the Soviets a proposal and it might be wise tactically to see how they react after the Moscow treaty.

Mr. Kissinger: Would Option 2 give Brandt enough to ratify Ostpolitik?

Mr. Hillenbrand: Yes, with the proper public treatment; if the reduction of ties with Berlin are within the range of what Kiesinger was willing to do earlier; and if the Soviets are reasonably forthcoming on access (between West Germany and Berlin and between East Berlin and West Berlin) and the elimination of harassment of West Berlin traffic to Eastern Europe. It would also include some representation of Berliners abroad by the FRG.

Mr. Kissinger: The problem is not in access procedures but in the unwillingness of the Soviets and the GDR to live up to them. It isn’t that the arrangement is bad, but that the goodwill to make it work is lacking. There can be some procedural improvements but, short of some agreement that access is practically free, why would any new arrangement be better than the old in the absence of goodwill? If there is goodwill, we don’t need a new agreement.

Mr. Hillenbrand: On the question of access, the Germans want the presentation of identity to be the only requirement. They want sealed cargoes and elimination of all tolls and taxes. Short of that, the most we could hope for would be some sort of guarantee that whatever access modality is agreed upon it would be a standardized system similar [Page 311] to that agreed upon by the US and Soviets on military traffic which has worked for some 13 years.

Mr. Kissinger: It has worked except when they want a crisis. Whenever they want to tell us something, they stop traffic to show us what they can do. I agree that there has been no substantial harassment between 1957 and 1970, but the chief ingredient was that the Soviets did not want a confrontation. Any new legal arrangement would be subject to a GDR willingness to confront the FRG.

Mr. Hillenbrand: This will always be true as long as Berlin is an exclave.

Mr. Kissinger: Is Brandt not really after the domestic political effect of a temporary, possibly permanent, improvement of relations with the GDR?

Mr. Hillenbrand: There are two possible phases in Berlin negotiations: (1) the present phase which might produce a limited agreement; (2) assuming the success of Ostpolitik, the phase immediately prior to the entry of the two Germanies into the UN. We might have more influence in the second phase because of our UN veto power. The four powers (US, USSR, France, UK) will probably agree that the two Germanies should work out the details of an access agreement which could then be blessed by the four powers.

Mr. Kissinger: Will the Germans not ratify the Soviet agreement without a detailed access agreement with the GDR?

Mr. Hillenbrand: The Four Power blessing of the negotiations would probably be enough within the time frame.

Mr. Kissinger: Then would not Brandt be in trouble? If the access agreement must be negotiated between Bonn and Pankow, the GDR can delay the agreement and the Soviets would have no great incentive to squeeze the GDR. What is the bargaining position?

Mr. Hillenbrand: The significance of the Four Power negotiations has been exaggerated by the timing of the agreements. Brandt had expected concurrent negotiations between the FRG and GDR, with the GDR getting some goodies. GDR unwillingness, however, shifted the emphasis to the Moscow talks.

Mr. Kissinger: Then they will go back to Bonn-Pankow negotiations?

Mr. Hillenbrand: They believe the Soviets will now press the GDR.

Mr. Kissinger: This may be true prior to ratification of the treaty but Brandt can’t play games by holding up ratification. How can Brandt make anyone understand the nature of the problem—how can he explain the access issues?

Mr. Hillenbrand: The Germans are proceeding on the basis of certain assumptions as to Soviet motives. They think the Soviets want an [Page 312] agreement. The only way to prove them right or wrong is to go ahead with negotiations with the Soviets.

Mr. Kissinger: If this is true, it would be okay if they could get a substantial agreement before ratification of the treaty. It would still require GDR goodwill to implement it over any period. The geography makes it imperative to have a neat procedure even though it is subject to the will of the government. If the four powers agree to improvement of access, with the details to be negotiated between the two Germanys and blessed by the four powers, would this not remove any initiative by Pankow to come to an agreement or for the Soviets to press them to do so. Does this not give the Germans the disadvantage of every course open to them.

Mr. Hillenbrand: Brandt did not want to attach any conditions to the agreement with Moscow but his internal political situation required that Berlin be made a condition of ratification. The importance of Berlin is not as great privately as publicly. Brandt always believed his bargaining power in negotiating with the GDR, was his willingness to see them acquire status as a nation, including membership in international organizations. The FRG still has great potency with other governments. There has been no rush on the part of other countries to recognize the GDR, which is a tribute to the economic policy of the Federal Republic.

Mr. Kissinger: We don’t really have the choice of options. We will have to take a broader agreement if one can be negotiated—there is no U.S. reason not to. I don’t believe the Soviets will give it, however, so we should try for Option 2. Is it agreed, however, that there are dangers in this course and that it will not necessarily end the Berlin problem?

Mr. Hillenbrand: It will be a psychological message for Berlin, however.

Mr. Kissinger: If the Germans are not careful, they might be left holding the bag on details and not get any improvement except in general terms.

Mr. Hillenbrand: Brandt has a high regard for the FRG’s ability to influence the GDR through economic pressure.

Mr. Kissinger: There is no empirical evidence of this.

Mr. Hillenbrand: In 1961, when the FRG denounced the interzonal trade agreement, the GDR came crawling to them one month later.

Mr. Kissinger: There was a different political situation then. It was easier for Adenauer and Brentano2 then it is for Brandt and Bahr.

[Page 313]

Attorney General: What does Brandt need to get the Moscow treaty ratified?

Mr. Hillenbrand: He thinks he needs to be able to say that a satisfactory arrangement has been negotiated on Berlin. There are no criteria, however, for what is “satisfactory.”

Mr. Kissinger: We have a more fundamental problem in the serious question of a long-term U.S. posture toward Germany and Europe. Whatever else Ostpolitik does, it will enhance the status of the GDR. If its status is enhanced, the position of Berlin will be weakened, since it is harder to resist a country which is recognized as sovereign. Therefore, Ostpolitik affects the rights and responsibilities we are trying to maintain.

Mr. Hillenbrand: Agreed.

Mr. Kissinger: Specifically, what are the rights and responsibilities we are trying to preserve?

Mr. Hillenbrand: Basically, the four-power responsibilities for the security and viability of Berlin and our interest in an ultimate peace settlement for Germany as a whole. So far the Soviets have conceded, and indeed manifest some interest in, the residual preservation of these rights.

Mr. Kissinger: Would the Soviets manifest the same interest under Ostpolitik.

Mr. Hillenbrand: The Germans succeeded in getting language into the treaty which would preserve the four-power control over Berlin. Article 4 states that the Moscow treaty has no effect on previous commitments. Also, the negotiating history involved Soviet concessions of the continuance of four-power responsibility.

Mr. Kissinger: Do we care about four-power responsibility in Germany except for Berlin?

Mr. Hillenbrand: Yes—we want to reserve the right to be in on any final settlement in Central Europe. We are also interested in some minor points such as the right to approve Soviet overflights, etc.

Mr. Kissinger: In a period of diminishing U.S. influence, of increasing FRG-Soviet ties and increasing FRG responsibility, are our assumptions the same?

Mr. Hillenbrand: The question is how does Brandt understand the long range thrust of Ostpolitik. He hopes increasing Soviet permissiveness will accelerate the process of change in Eastern Europe. This could lead to a situation in which the Soviets do not see control over East Germany as essential to their security. If this is theoretically possible, we have a theoretical interest in maintaining our rights.

Mr. Kissinger: I don’t think the Soviets are at all interested in German unity. Assuming Brandt is right, the Soviets would be inclined to [Page 314] let the two Germanys decide their own national future. Why should we assert our own responsibilities?

Mr. Hillenbrand: If there is a negotiation and a settlement, the U.S. would have an interest in being there—indeed a legal right to be there. Ostpolitik might not succeed or the Brandt government might collapse, and we would want to preserve our position.

(Mr. Kissinger left the room for 5 minutes and returned)

Mr. Kissinger: The basic responsibility that we want is the one in Berlin. The all-German one is dictated by the Soviets. We cannot be less interested in German unification than the Soviets. Shouldn’t we look at what is likely to happen as a clash develops between Soviet and German assumptions? Germany now assumes Soviet control of Eastern Europe. For years the German strategy was to ignore Moscow, strengthen German ties with Eastern Europe and ease Eastern Europe out of Soviet control without the Soviets noticing. As a result, Bonn became the focal point of Moscow’s wrath. The Germans concluded that it couldn’t be done against the Soviets so they now want to do it with the Soviets. However, there may not be any basic change in the earlier situation. No rational Soviet leader would consider it preferable that there is a united Germany particularly if a united Germany could get there only by loosening Soviet influence in Eastern Europe. German and Soviet objectives are not the same and a marriage of convenience won’t last indefinitely.

Mr. Hillenbrand: This is logically correct, however, the Germans regard power as divisible. They are thinking in terms of economic power and are impressed by the fact that the Eastern European economy is falling behind that of Western Europe. They believe the Soviets are motivated by a desire for access to Western technology and Western credits. There is some wishful thinking here, of course.

Mr. Kissinger: So what? So they build up the Western European and the Soviet economy and the power balance is rectified.

Mr. Hillenbrand: The Germans also see a waning of ideological fervor in the East. This has undoubtedly had some influence on SPD thinking.

Mr. Kissinger: German foreign policy since 18903 leads one to believe that infallibility is not an attribute of the German Foreign Office. I don’t deny that this is a rational construction but we should at least consider that this could have a very unhappy ending. There may well be a “waning of ideological fervor” and a desire to increase technology but where does this leave West Germany? You don’t have to be a [Page 315] Communist Pole or Communist Czech not to want a unified Germany— there would be strong concerns on national grounds. You don’t even have to be a Communist Russian to be concerned over a possible loosening of control over Eastern Europe.

Mr. Hillenbrand: SPD advocacy of Ostpolitik started with the assumption that Ostpolitik is conditioned on the premise that Germany’s ties with the West remain strong.

Mr. Kissinger: I am deliberately playing the devil’s advocate to crystalize our thinking about alternate policies. Brandt wants the benefit of every course. He needs U.S. troops as bargaining counters. There is restiveness in France over Ostpolitik. Do the other Europeans want Bonn as the interpreter of Soviet desires? If Brandt is saying he can have good relations with the Soviets, improved relations with the GDR, loosen Soviet control over Eastern Europe, maintain his ties with the West and strengthen NATO—all simultaneously—this would not be bad. We should consider, however, what might happen if it does not work out this way.

Mr. Hillenbrand: The paper only projects 3–5 years ahead, not 10.

Mr. Kissinger: The paper is an excellent statement of the tactical situation. Assuming Brandt is right on the evolution of Germany, we would have a socialist West Germany and a liberal Communist state which might get together somewhere. But on what basis?

Mr. Hillenbrand: Possibly on economic grounds—the SPD thinks more in economic terms than we do. Also, Brandt starts with the fear and even conviction that the US is at the beginning of a process of disengagement from Europe.

Mr. Kissinger: And he is hedging his bets.

Mr. Hillenbrand: The dangers of Ostpolitik should be a major factor in determining U.S. policy toward Western Europe. The troop level issue, for example, forms an obvious link between NSSMs 83 and 84.

Mr. Kissinger: A situation may also be created where we are dealing bilaterally with the Soviet Union, in which case it would be hard to resist others dealing bilaterally with them. Can we construct an analysis of the things that could go wrong in Ostpolitik? What would this do to future policy? What questions would it raise for us? Could we also state more explicitly the assumptions on which Brandt’s policy is based, along the lines of Mr. Hillenbrand’s statements on the fear of US disengagement assumptions about Eastern European evolution, etc. Such an analysis need not affect the 3 options much, although it might make us lean more toward Option 2 than Option 3. Are there any thoughts on this?

Mr. Johnson: It would be most useful.

Attorney General: What are the relations between France and Moscow?

[Page 316]

Mr. Kissinger: Moscow is not interested in France if they can deal with the Germans. France could do it two years ago because of their nuisance value in NATO by pulling their troops out, but this exhausted their usefulness to the Soviets.

Mr. Packard: It is very important for the U.S. to decide on its own position on these related issues.

Mr. Johnson: Yes—the troop level issue is 80 percent political and 20 percent military.

  1. Source: National Security Council, Minutes File, Box 121, SRG Minutes 1970 (Originals). Top Secret. No drafting information appears on the minutes. According to Kissinger’s Record of Schedule, the Senior Review Group met from 10:07 a.m. to noon to discuss NSSMs 83 and 84. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1968–76) Regarding NSSM 83 and NSSM 84, see Documents 49 and 36, respectively.
  2. Heinrich von Brentano, former West German Foreign Minister.
  3. Reference is to the year that Otto von Bismarck-Schönhausen was forced to resign as German Chancellor.