124. Memorandum for the Record1
- Luncheon Meeting, Tuesday, October 13, Dr. Kissinger and Mr. Franz Josef Strauss
After meeting briefly with the President, Mr. Strauss talked at length with Dr. Kissinger over luncheon, mainly about relations with the Soviet Union, the new German-Soviet treaty, and about the internal political situation in Germany.
Mr. Strauss began by referring to a conversation he had had with a visiting Soviet journalist (Yuriy Zhukov). From this conversation it had become clear that the Soviet interpretation of the new Soviet-German treaty differed greatly from that being given in Bonn by the SPD Government. He had talked with Horst Ehmke and Foreign Minister Scheel about Soviet motives and German aims. Ehmke had told him that the treaty would create the conditions for the Soviets to abandon, step by step, their hold over Eastern Europe. The Soviets recognized, according to Ehmke, that they could not hold Eastern Europe indefinitely, and their aim was to create a gradual loosening up of Eastern Europe. Ehmke told Strauss that through the new treaty with Moscow Bonn would be able to move into Eastern Europe, and finally create a zone of democratic, socialist states. Dr. Kissinger interjected that even if this were true, the Soviets would never allow Germany to fill the vacuum in Eastern Europe. Strauss agreed and continued that Ehmke claimed the Government’s goal was to roll back the Soviet sphere of influence to the USSR. Strauss had told Ehmke that if he accomplished this he (Strauss) would be the first to congratulate him, but that he strongly doubted that this is what the Soviets expected. In a similar conversation, Scheel told Strauss that the Soviets needed to consolidate their position in Eastern Europe and at home. For this they needed Western economic help. The Germans, according to [Page 353] Scheel, would offer this in order to remove Soviet concern. Once the Soviets consolidate their position the Germans could expand their influence.
Dr. Kissinger commented that in other words, the Soviets would consolidate their position in Eastern Europe in order to give it up. Strauss continued that he had argued with Scheel that they did not need a treaty to convince the Soviets to accept economic help from Germany. He had told Scheel that this was as if Germany were paying reparations to the Soviet Union. They, the Germans, could hardly expect the Americans to be sympathetic while the Soviets with European help continued to support North Vietnam, cause tension in the Mediterranean and build up their strategic armaments on European credits. In such circumstances, how could Germany ask the United States to maintain troops against the USSR in Europe, while Germany was embracing the Soviets.
Strauss argued that the Soviet aim was to increase its influence over Germany, and that the treaty was a step in this direction. The Soviets also wanted to discourage freedom loving Social Democrats in Europe, many of whom had told him that the SPD had abandoned them. He recalled that the last two wars had actually started long before the fighting broke out. Before each there was a turning point. He felt that Germany had reached such a turning point. After the treaty had been ratified, Europe would never be the same and Germany would never be the same. In a treaty between a weaker power and a stronger power, the final interpretation of the meaning of the treaty would be that of the stronger party.
In these circumstances, he concluded that America’s greatest service would be to avoid supporting or applauding the treaty and Brandt’s Ostpolitik. Brandt was constantly claiming that the CDU/CSU was isolated in its opposition and pointed to support from America, Britain, France, Scandinavia, etc.
Dr. Kissinger asked Mr. Strauss about the Berlin negotiations, and how they fit into his view of relations with the Soviets. Dr. Kissinger commented that it was difficult to see how the situation could actually be improved. What could we do if the German government decided that a certain agreement was satisfactory. We could not be more German than the Germans.
Strauss said that there was no real solution for Berlin. The only solution (which he did not identify) was understood by everyone, and everyone agreed that the situation was abnormal. His party was adamant that there could be no treaty without a Berlin agreement, and they would not accept a mere agreement in principle as the Soviets wanted. The Americans should slow down the negotiations and put forward the stiffest possible terms.[Page 354]
Internal Political Situation
Dr. Kissinger asked about the domestic political situation. He noted that Rainer Barzel, when he was in Washington, had given the impression that the CDU/CSU did not want to bring down the government at this time, but might wait up to a year. Mr. Strauss indicated some surprise at this, and said that perhaps Barzel was concerned to be quite correct in his remarks at the White House. He, Strauss, did not know if the SPD–FDP coalition could last for a year. The elections in Hesse next month and in Bavaria at the end of November would be crucial. If the FDP did poorly the national party would collapse. Then it was a matter of arithmetic as to how many of the FDP would come over to the government. Strauss foresaw that there might be a grand Coalition, since the CDU could not make up its mind about the Chancellorship. He believed Barzel would be the next Chancellor. He ruled out Schroeder, though Kiesinger might want to govern until the next elections. He knew that he himself had no prospects unless there was a major crisis, but that he would probably become Finance Minister or perhaps Foreign Minister. Schroeder might also take the latter post, though he was not well thought of in France. He thought that the combination of Barzel and Strauss would be a good one; Strauss for the Germans and Barzel for Germany’s allies.
He felt that if the SPD called for new elections that they would be beaten at present. Strauss’ idea, which was causing problems with the CDU, was to combine with the remnants of the FDP with his Christian Social Union and run a candidate outside Bavaria on a ticket called the German Union. In this way the CDU/CSU could get an absolute majority. Dr. Kissinger noted that in this case Strauss would have a policy veto. Strauss responded that he would not abuse it, but would of course use it.
He commented briefly on the economic situation, noting that if the Social Democrats ruled for one more year, no major damage would be done, but if they stayed in power for longer the problems would mount. He meant codetermination laws, and general socialization of society, as well as increase in inflation, cost of living, etc. In this connection, he noted the economic theories of Herbert Wehner, concerning convergence of reform Communism and democratic socialism. He said that Wehner was reverting to his old ideas, and explained at some length that there was a long standing psychological competitiveness between Wehner and Ulbricht. Wehner still hoped to be the man that lead all of Germany into a socialist society, rather than Ulbricht.
At the end of the luncheon, Mr. Strauss expressed his appreciation to Dr. Kissinger for receiving him and conveyed the regards of Kiesinger and Barzel. He indicated that he would keep the conversation in strictest confidence, and might see Dr. Kissinger again in December [Page 355] when he returned to the United States. He would understand, however, if Dr. Kissinger could not receive him them.
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 684, Country Files, Europe, Germany, Vol. VII. Secret. Sent for information. Drafted by Hyland on October 16 and cleared by Sonnenfeldt. Kissinger initialed the memorandum on October 22, indicating that he saw it. The time of the meeting is from Kissinger’s Record of Schedule, which notes a brief interview with the President (1:03–1:18 p.m.). (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1968–76) No substantive record of the conversation between Nixon and Strauss has been found.↩
- Printed from a copy that indicates Hyland signed the original.↩