113. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1


  • The German-Soviet Treaty

The signature by Brandt and Kosygin on August 12 of the FRGUSSR renunciation of force treaty represents a landmark in the Eastern [Page 318] Policy of the Brandt Government. It is the first significant step between the two countries since their establishment of diplomatic relations in 1955. And in many ways, the counterpoint themes of euphoria and apprehension accompanied this step as they did in 1955.

The efforts of the Brandt Government to conclude a treaty with the Soviets—perhaps Sisyphean efforts—are based on the premise that only by achieving a reconciliation with Russia can the FRG hope to establish a new relationship with Eastern Europe and, most importantly, ease the hardships of a divided Germany. In the treaty, Brandt has traded FRG acceptance of the status quo in Europe for the promise of a more benign Soviet attitude toward West Germany. The Germans theorize that the Soviets desire an improved relationship because of the pressure of the China problem and their need to gain significant access to German technology.

The next steps in the FRG’s planned development of its Eastern Policy will be to drive hard for an agreement with the Poles in September on the acceptance of the Oder-Neisse line as the western Polish frontier, followed by a settlement with the Czechs of the Munich Agreement controversy. At the same time the Germans will intensify the pressure on the US, UK and France to produce some visible and satisfactory results in the Four Power talks in Berlin. The Germans are convinced that they have achieved some bargaining leverage by making clear that the treaty just signed cannot be ratified until the Soviets yield on Berlin. Finally, the FRG believes the East Germans will be prepared to agree to a satisfactory relationship with the FRG (separate states within the single German nation). With the admission of both Germanys into the UN and the ratification of the Soviet treaty, a new era of relaxation of tensions in Europe will be achieved.

Whether the eternal optimism of the Germans will in fact be realized, and their plan implemented, still remains to be seen. There is considerable doubt that the process will develop as smoothly as they hope. Whatever the outcome, however, there are several implications which will flow from even the signature of the German-Soviet treaty:

In General. The other European nations will sense a growing FRG attitude of self-importance and independence, and this will be disturbing—particularly for the French. I have previously sent to you a [less than 1 line not declassified] report of Foreign Minister Scheel’s comment [less than 1 line not declassified] just after he initialed the Soviet treaty, to the effect that henceforth the big powers will have to take FRG relations into account in view of the important role the FRG will now have in worldwide political developments.2 Thus the Foreign Minister [Page 319] at least has revealed that he finds a demonstration of German independence to be an altogether satisfying experience. Whether in fact the Germans begin to try to throw their weight around, the impression that they might will cause some unease in Europe. On the other hand, a feeling of détente will spread and interest in a Conference on European Security will intensify.

Western European Unity. To counterweigh his Eastern moves, Brandt can be expected to stress his great interest in firmly anchoring the FRG in a more integrated West. But in fact he may not make more than gestures in this direction. The objective obstacle facing Brandt is that he cannot keep Soviet friendship if he emphasizes West Germany’s ties to NATO. German ties to the European Community can be agreeable to the Soviets only if they see it as a means to weaken NATO.3 The French could use the post-treaty spirit as a device to slow down the pace toward unity if they wish to do so for other reasons. However, it is more likely that the French and others will now wish to hasten the entry of the UK—as a counterweight to the FRG—and further cement the West Germans to the West.

Force Levels. Those European countries already reducing their own defense efforts will probably find that the new German-Soviet climate will increase Parliamentary pressures for even further reductions, and for steps toward East-West balanced force reductions. Brandt, on the other hand, will feel he needs more than ever a stable level of substantial US forces in Europe (despite the fact that in part Brandt’s haste to negotiate with the East has been prompted by his anticipation of US force reductions). The other Europeans will probably share Brandt’s desire for US forces and will be more inclined to tolerate financial burden sharing.

Eastern Europe. Although the Poles and Czechs will probably work out arrangements with the Germans on the border and the Munich Agreement, the Eastern Europeans generally will not rush to establish diplomatic relations with the FRG. They will keep their eyes trained on Moscow which currently has blended restraint with the generally warm reception given Brandt personally.

The Three Powers. The US, UK and France—as they continue to bear rights and responsibilities for all Germany and Berlin—will need a greater degree of direction and unity as these events unfold. Brandt’s proposal for a Western summit is perhaps in part designed to anticipate this potential problem and to lead the Three in his direction. Since Brandt began his Eastern Policy, the Three have seemed unable to keep pace among themselves and with the Germans.4

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Berlin. There will be intense pressure focussed on the Four Power talks in Berlin. The Western side has not yet reached an identity of objectives and tactics, and the Soviets have evidenced nothing but a hard and unyielding position. With the FRG ratification of the German-Soviet treaty publicly linked with a solution to the Berlin problem, the stakes have been raised for all sides. (I have put into the NSC machinery an assessment of the Berlin situation and its relationships to Eastern Policy and other European security issues, together with optional outcomes for the Four Power talks.)5

Responsibility for Success. The US, UK and France began the Berlin talks at the request of the FRG. The talks were then designed as a low-key probe of Soviet interest in practical improvements, without high hopes of achieving very much. Now, however, Brandt has publicly made a “satisfactory” Berlin solution the key to the web of treaties he intends to complete in short order. He has used this Berlin linkage as a means of undercutting for the time being the main force of the domestic opposition to his Eastern initiatives. Thus, Brandt has maneuvered the situation so that we have been pushed into the position of being responsible both for Berlin, and for the success of his Eastern initiatives.

West German Domestic Politics. The opposition CDU has evidently decided not to force a direct confrontation with the SPD/FDP coalition at this time. It is awaiting an assessment of the progress (or lack thereof) in the Berlin talks, and the results of the Bavarian and Hessen state elections in November. It is quite possible that in the late fall, the opposition will make an attempt to bring down the Brandt Government, and block the ratification of the Soviet treaty.

In short, as a result of the signature of the German-Soviet treaty, European political relationships have turned a corner, and we will be facing a new period in our relationship with Europe. In this rapidly evolving time, we will need to be more alert to developments than perhaps we could be in a more relatively static period.

During this evolving period, as the Soviets continue that strand of their policy which gropes for a rough condominium with us (e.g., SALT and the Middle East), they will also continue their separate dealings with the Europeans (particularly the French and Germans). The impact of the German-Soviet treaty might very well lead to an increased interest on the part of the Europeans to deal more independently with Moscow. Moscow, in turn, will find it useful to encourage this in order to split off the various Western Allies from each other. Further, as they press on with their détente offensive, the Soviets will be watching [Page 321] closely to see how well this posture is succeeding in encouraging those forces within the US which hope to reduce our defense establishment and lower defense budgets.

Secretary Rogers has sent you a memorandum (Tab A)6 enclosing the text of the German-Soviet treaty. He considers that our rights with respect to Berlin and Germany as a whole have remained unaffected by the treaty.7

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 684, Country Files, Europe, Germany, Vol. VII. Secret. Sent for information. No drafting information appears on the memorandum. Sonnenfeldt forwarded a draft to Kissinger on August 13. (Ibid.) On August 25 Kissinger returned the draft to Sonnenfeldt with marginal instructions for substantive revision. Downey sent the final version to Kissinger on August 27. (Ibid.)
  2. See Document 106.
  3. The President underlined this sentence, which Kissinger had inserted by hand in the draft memorandum, and wrote “decisive” in the left margin.
  4. The President underlined the first and last sentences of this paragraph.
  5. See Document 111.
  6. Dated August 10; attached but not printed. Another copy is in the National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL GER W–USSR.
  7. The President wrote the following note at the end of the memorandum: “Excellent perceptive analysis (and somewhat ominous).” After Nixon returned the memorandum, Kissinger initialed it, indicating he had seen the President’s marginal comments.