137. Editorial Note

On November 17 and 18, 1970, senior-level officials from the United States, United Kingdom, France, and West Germany met in Bonn to discuss the status of the quadripartite negotiations on Berlin. James Sutterlin, Country Director for Germany, argued in a November 14 briefing memorandum for Assistant Secretary Hillenbrand that the most important objective of the meeting would be to develop “a realistic understanding among the Four Western Powers on what we must obtain from the Soviets and what we can concede” in order to achieve a satisfactory settlement. (National Archives, RG 59, EUR/CE Files: Lot 91 D 341, POL 39.1, 1970 Four Power Talks, Nov– Dec, Preparations for Meetings)

The Embassy subsequently reported that the meeting “covered all major topics without major differences.” The participants, for instance, agreed in principle that the Allies “should not consider themselves under time pressure,” although Bahr indicated that progress in the talks would be “helpful” for Klaus Schütz, who sought reelection in March as Governing Mayor of Berlin. The Embassy also reported the following discussion on ties between West Germany and West Berlin:

Bahr said that in view of the intrinsic and domestic political importance of the limitations the Western allies were willing to undertake in the event of a Berlin agreement, the Western negotiators should seek a balanced package on FRG ties with Berlin, a package which should included positive elements as well as limitations. They should resist the Soviet tactic of a direct tradeoff of limitations on FRG presence against improvements in access. Arnaud proposed the Western negotiators should seek an agreement based on the general principles that the Western powers had supreme authority in their sectors and had permitted and would permit ties between the FRG and the Western sectors, and then list exceptions to general statement that ties were permitted. Hillenbrand expressed skepticism that the Soviets would agree to this but said it was the ideal approach and should be the basis of Western tactics. Other participants agreed this tactic should be followed.” (Telegram 13412 from Bonn, November 18; ibid., Central Files 1970–73, POL 28 GER B)

A detailed account of the discussion on Berlin is in airgram A–1236 from Bonn, November 20. (Ibid.) For a German record of the meeting, see Akten zur Auswärtigen Politik der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, 1970, Vol. 3, pages 2078–2084.

On November 18, after nearly 10 months of intense negotiation, West German Foreign Minister Scheel and Polish Foreign Minister Jèdrychowski concluded a renunciation of force agreement in [Page 396] Warsaw. In an uninitialed memorandum to President Nixon that morning, Kissinger assessed the agreement as follows:

“The Polish-West German treaty, to be initialed in Warsaw this morning, will contain an agreement that the Oder-Neisse (as defined in the Potsdam agreement), ‘constitutes the Western border of Poland’ and that neither side will raise territorial claims against the other ‘in the future.’ While the treaty disclaims any infringements on existing bilateral and multilateral agreements, it goes a long way to being the definitive settlement of the border issue. There is no mention in the exchange of notes between Bonn and the Three Western Powers, or between the Germans and Poles, of the German peace treaty. Attempts to make reference to the peace treaty in a note from Bonn to the Three Western Powers collapsed under strong Polish pressures. We plan to note the fact of the treaty with approval, and say little more in our note to the Germans. Brandt will probably go to Warsaw for the formal signing, but ratification procedures are still open to further talks. Presumably, the Poles will try to break the linkage of their treaty to the Moscow treaty, a linkage the Germans agreed to in Moscow.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 28, President’s Daily Briefs, November 17–30, 1970)

For text of the press statement released by the Department of State that afternoon, as well as the exchange of notes the following day between the United States and West Germany on Allied quadripartite rights and responsibilities, see Documents on Germany, 1944–1985, pages 1112–1113. For text of the treaty, signed by Brandt and Polish Prime Minister Cyrankiewicz in Warsaw on December 7, see ibid., pages 1125–1127.

During a senior NSC staff meeting on November 18, Kissinger and Helmut Sonnenfeldt discussed the negotiations in Berlin and Warsaw. According to a record of the meeting, the two men had the following exchange:

“Mr. Kissinger: (to Mr. Sonnenfeldt) Could you give me an analysis of the latest developments on Berlin.

“Mr. Sonnenfeldt: We have done a memo for you. I am afraid those talks aren’t going anywhere.

“Mr. Kissinger: What did the Germans get from the Poles?

“Mr. Sonnenfeldt: Nothing. Incidentally, people are beginning to get queasy about the Germans making treaties in Eastern Europe, especially with the Russians. As you know, Brandt decided that Schroeder had made a mistake in trying to circumvent Moscow and he has changed their priorities. Some Poles are now beginning to talk about the Germans getting together with the Soviets on frontier questions. They’re beginning to talk about a fifth partition of Poland.

[Page 397]

“Mr. Kissinger: I have yet to meet a non-German who is happy about German approaches to Eastern Europe.

“Mr. Sonnenfeldt: Many people are schizophrenic about this. They wanted a détente, but are getting very queasy over a German-Soviet treaty, particularly when it is referred to as a nonaggression pact.” (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 314, National Security Council, 1969–77, Meetings, Staff, 1969–71)

Regarding the memorandum cited above analyzing the Berlin negotiations, see footnote 2, Document 139. For further discussion of the U.S. position on the Warsaw Treaty, see Document 163.

The East German Government was also queasy about developments in Berlin. On November 28 East Germany protested an upcoming display of the West German presence in the city, a meeting on November 30 of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group, by starting to harass traffic on the Autobahn. In a memorandum prepared for (but not sent to) the President on November 30, Kissinger reviewed the situation:

“Promptly at 12:30 p.m. German time on Saturday [November 28] the East Germans began a slowdown of non-Allied traffic on the autobahns to and from Berlin. The resulting delays of some three hours and a mile-long line of cars awaiting entry have continued throughout the weekend, although the congestion has eased somewhat during the evenings. The harassment is clearly an Eastern reaction to the scheduled meeting in West Berlin today of the CDU/CSU Bundestag group. Late on Friday the Soviets delivered a written protest on the meeting to the three Allied Missions in West Berlin. In addition, the Soviets protested separately to the French in Moscow, although the French delayed advising us about it.

“The three Allies in Berlin replied to the Soviet protest last night, stressing that meetings of Federal Parliamentary groups have taken place in Berlin for many years, and therefore cannot be considered as complicating the current Four Power Berlin talks. The French had originally refused to join in a joint reply, since they planned a unilateral démarche in Moscow in response to the separate approach made to them by the Soviets. The French made their approach in Moscow on Saturday and in the end agreed to go along with the relatively joint statement of yesterday. We considered a speedy and tripartite joint reply to the Soviets more important than a stronger reply which lacked all three powers. Upon receiving our reply, a Soviet official declared it unsatisfactory because the Allies were allowing a ‘third party’to carry out activities in West Berlin which would hurt the Berlin talks.

“The Brandt Government had hoped that the Three Powers would step in and insist that the CDU meeting be cancelled. The three, however, took the position that the issue of parliamentary group meetings [Page 398] was a German question, and had previously asked only that such meetings not be held too close to the dates of the Four Power Ambassadorial talks. In the end, Brandt and CDU Bundestag leader Barzel agreed that the meeting could be held.

“The next Four Power Ambassadorial meeting is scheduled for December 10, but an advisers’ meeting is planned for today, at which we will raise the question of the autobahn harassment.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 28, President’s Daily Briefs, November 17–30, 1970)

East German harassment of the Berlin Autobahn ended on December 2. Additional documentation on the controversy surrounding the CDU/CSU parliamentary group meeting is in the National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 12–3 GER W. For his memoir account of the incident, see Barzel, Auf dem Drahtseil, pages 120–126.