131. Memorandum From Helmut Sonnenfeldt of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • NSDM on Germany and Berlin

I am not sure whether you intended to follow the recent NSC discussion2 with an NSDM. The discussion was largely expository, and little emerged by way of guidance.

Nevertheless, I have prepared a draft NSDM (Tab B),3 based on what could be gleaned from the discussions and other sources, which provides some general points on Ostpolitik and some guidelines for a Berlin agreement.

I believe a NSDM or some form of Presidential instruction (the earlier idea of a letter to the Secretary of State4 does not now seem appropriate) is desirable for several reasons:

It establishes Presidential interest and control over a crucial element of policy where none has been expressed in writing until now. (I think this is important for the history of this Presidency, too.)
It completes a phase of the NSC process which has involved many months of work by large numbers of persons in the Agencies, culminating, finally, in an NSC meeting. (I think, in general, that the credibility and authority of the NSC process as a policymaking mechanism and as a major achievement, in its present form, of this Administration is enhanced if it is capped by a Presidential pronouncement.)
While staying within what is in effect already taking place, it nevertheless sets limits for the time being, should any one be inclined to move beyond present policy or maneuver the President into a position where he has only the choice of going along with or overruling a bureaucratic consensus.
It lays the basis, or at least gives you the option, for reviewing our interests and policies, perhaps in the spring of next year, when certain elements that are now uncertain might be clearer:
we may know better what the future of the German government is;
we may or may not have some definitive indication of whether a new Berlin agreement can be achieved;
the fate of the present version of Ostpolitik may be clearer;
the Soviet Party Congress may give us clearer indication of the direction of Soviet policy;
there may have occurred some movement on SALT, which no matter how limited, would nevertheless change the international landscape and regardless of what will have happened to Brandt, his version of Ostpolitik and the Berlin negotiations in the meantime, will inevitably refocus attention on central Europe.

At that time, we may want to ask ourselves some serious questions about our Central European Policy and may, in particular, wish to undertake some review of the pertinence for the seventies of those famous rights and obligations with respect to Germany as a whole which everyone constantly invokes and which determine much of our policy but which no one can quite define or even list. This problem will become especially acute if, in the train of a “successful” Ostpolitik there should ensue some form of recognition of the GDR and an enhancement of its international status, which, Berlin apart, may well affect our interests and certainly our policies and those of virtually all our European allies.

In drafting the present NSDM for your review and consideration, I assumed that what would be wanted, should there be any document on the matter, was some indication that our objective was to anchor German policy to the West, and, in the Berlin negotiations, to present sufficiently strong terms that would preclude a fast and meaningless and possibly illusory and dangerous deal promoted by the West Germans.

I assume you will want to send this forward to the President. After you have a chance to go over this draft, you may wish to decide whether the effort is worth it and/or whether you wish to have any changes made. There is also a brief covering memorandum for the President (Tab A).


That you sign the memorandum to the President (Tab A).5

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–220, NSDM 91. Secret; Nodis. Sent for action.
  2. See Document 126.
  3. See Document 136.
  4. See footnote 4, Document 125.
  5. Kissinger signed the memorandum at Tab A on October 31; it reads: “Following the discussion at the NSC of October 14, 1970, I have prepared a NSDM that states our general principles and objectives in dealing with Bonn’s Eastern policy. It highlights your view that German policy must be anchored to the Western Alliance, but that we cannot afford to become embroiled in internal German politics or the tactical conduct of Eastern policy. There is a second part dealing with Berlin, laying down requirements for an acceptable agreement. I believe such a statement is needed at this time, as we proceed with negotiations and perhaps reach a new decision point on where to go next. The basic requirements of an agreement spelled out in this NSDM should protect us from overeagerness on the German side for quick—and illusory—agreement, as well as from future blame should the negotiation collapse.” Nixon initialed his approval on the memorandum. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H–Files), Box H–220, NSDM 91)