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


  • Your Meeting with Ambassador Pauls, December 17, 19702

This looks like it will be a messy affair. The following rounds up for you material (with Tabs) bearing on the situation.

The Germans are obviously at least confused and probably deeply troubled by their reading of our attitude on Ostpolitik. They have long been aware of differences between the White House and the State Department (and indeed people like Pauls, who have their own doubts about the Ostpolitik, have been diligent in reporting home whatever adverse comment from here they could pick up). It now seems, however, that the SPD people around Brandt are convinced that we are trying to torpedo the Ostpolitik.
  • —The Germans noted Acheson’s comments after the December meeting with the President and the Springer Press was quick to pick them up as being in effect White House comments which we did not want to make ourselves. (See Tab A)3
  • —The SPD is deeply suspicious about Strauss’ two trips to the US. Strauss himself has publicly let it be known that he found Secretary Laird and the President are very critical of the consequences of Ostpolitik (Tab A).
  • —In addition, Bahr has told [less than 1 line not declassified] that you broke your “agreement” with him that we would keep the government informed of any dealings we have with the CDU (Tab B). (The German Minister telephoned me just before the last Rockefeller dinner4 to inquire about whether Strauss would be seeing you, and also asked about Strauss’ earlier visit and his talk at that time with the President. I did not say anything beyond that I understood that Strauss might be coming to the dinner but that I knew nothing of any separate appointments.) Bahr claims that, in contrast to the US, the Poles first inquired of the Government how the recent Barzel visit should be handled and the Soviets did likewise in connection with Schroeder’s forthcoming visit to the USSR. He commented that “two can play at the game” of not keeping agreements and referred to the possible visit of Senator Muskie to Bonn. (Tab B)
  • Bahr and other Germans are also claiming that we are dragging our feet on Berlin, asserting that Hillenbrand had consented to an agreed Western line when he was in Bonn in November (and Rogers at the NATO meeting)5 but we subsequently went it alone along a harder tack. According to Bahr, the deal had been firmness on aims but flexibility on tactics. (As we reported on December 11 (Tab C)6 Ken Rush did in fact hold to a firm line, as he was justified in doing in view of the phony concessions offered by the Soviets.)
  • Bahr and other Germans argue that we live in a fool’s paradise if we think we can hold out on Berlin since time is on the side of the Soviets and the Berlin population wants a settlement. (Bahr has made the same statement to the Soviets.) It is worth recalling that it was Bahr who invented the theory that the pressure for a Berlin settlement would be on the Soviets because they would want so avidly to obtain ratification of the Moscow treaty.
  • —The Soviets, needless to say, are feeding Bahr’s and Brandt’s (induced chiefly by Bahr) view of US foot-dragging. Soviet Ambassador Tsarapkin, in a talk with Brandt on December 15 (see below) charged that the US above all is responsible for the slow progress on Berlin, whereas the Soviets wanted agreement as soon as possible.
  • Bahr also claims that we in effect double-crossed the government on the matter of the recent CDU/CSU fraktion meeting in Berlin. He asserts there was agreement that it would be discouraged but that we then became passive while only the French made an effort to stop the meeting. (In fact, the Western agreement was that there would be no agreement around the time of an Ambassadorial meeting. Since the next Ambassadorial meeting was two weeks off we did not interpose objections to the CDU/CSU meeting; the French did.) Curiously enough, in this connection, both Brandt and President Heinemann visited Berlin within a few days of the last Ambassadorial meeting.

All of this puts in a somewhat peculiar light a letter to the President from Brandt which was delivered to us today. (Text and unofficial German Embassy translation are at Tab D.)7 (Brandt had told Rush some time ago he was sending it and Rush so reported to State. Sahm today also summarized the contents to Fessenden. The original has therefore been sent to State for translation and recommendations.)

Brandt’s letter is basically a report on his Warsaw talks but it includes his expression of gratitude for our support for the FRG’s policy, especially in regard to Poland. (On the record, we have of course given such support through the voice of the Secretary of State, publicly and privately earlier this month at NATO in Brussels, in the last two NATO ministerial communiqués, in his Congressional testimony of December 10 attacking Acheson and supporting Ostpolitik and in the Department’s press release the following day doing likewise.) More than that, Brandt tells the President that he was able to assure the Poles that there was absolutely no difference between the Western powers as regards Berlin negotiations.


At the same time, Brandt’s letter asserts that the last round of talks on Berlin produced a number of “points of contact” (Anknuepfungspunkte). Consequently, Brandt proposes consideration of the idea of giving the Berlin talks a “conference-like character” in the New Year. Bahr [less than 1 line not declassified] advanced the idea of raising the level to Hillenbrand and his friend Falin. Sahm, in summarizing the Brandt letter to Fessenden (Tab E)8 left open the question of level but explained that Brandt wanted an intensification so that the talks would be in “continuous session” rather than periodic one-day affairs. The reasoning, according to Sahm, apart from generally speeding up the negotiations, is that if there are no intervals the GDR would be less able to work “negatively on the Soviets.”

[Page 431]

Bahr also mentions having a more or less permanent four-power session at the higher level in Berlin with simultaneous talks there between Bahr and the East German, Kohl. The point is that the four powers would work on an umbrella agreement while the Germans would deal with the details of access, the whole to be combined in a package that would imply ultimate Soviet responsibility for access without formally derogating from GDR sovereignty. (As we pointed out on December 11, Tab C, the general format of an agreement has been agreed with the Soviets. The crucial sticking points are on the substance of the agreement.)

Brandt has sent similar letters to Heath and Pompidou and has also written more briefly to Kosygin. In delivering the letter to Kosygin to Soviet Ambassador Tsarapkin, Brandt said he had never made a juridical link between the Berlin talks and the treaty ratification but had emphasized the “importance” of a positive Berlin settlement for ratification. Brandt also expressed the conviction that Berlin would be settled early next year and ratification would then follow quickly (Tab F).9

[less than 1 line not declassified] Bahr spoke of the possibility of visiting the US again, of Brandt’s coming here and of either one of them doing a Face the Nation program. We had previously sent you a memo on a tentative Brandt visit to Indianapolis in connection with CCMS in May (Tab G).10 You approved a telegram instructing Embassy Bonn to welcome such a visit and holding out hope for a meeting with the President. This has been conveyed to the Germans, who expressed satisfaction.

Perhaps after your talk with Pauls we could have another brief chat to see where we go from here internally within the Government. In view of past experience a new NSSM seems fruitless. At the very least, State should be called upon to provide the President with an assessment of the Berlin talks and with proposed ways, with pros and cons, of proceeding. NSDM 91, November 6, page 3, para 5 provides the basis for this (Tab H).11

[Page 432]

Tab B

Intelligence Report Prepared in the Central Intelligence Agency12


  • Comments of State Secretary Bahr Concerning the Quadripartite Talks and FRGUS Relations


  • [2½ lines not declassified] It is judged that Bahr intended the substance of his comments to reach the U.S. government. [1½ lines not declassified]
Chancellery State Secretary Egon Bahr stated that during the week of 14 December Chancellor Willy Brandt plans to write letters to President Nixon, President Pompidou, Prime Minister Heath, and Chairman Kosygin. To the Western leaders Brandt plans to report on his recent talks in Poland. In addition, at least in his letter to President Nixon, Brandt is thinking of voicing his concern over the progress of the Berlin quadripartite talks. According to Bahr, Brandt has not firmed up his views on the latter topic: currently, he is considering a variety of ways of getting his views on Ostpolitik across to the U.S. government. The alternatives he is considering include the sending of another FRG emissary to the President and Henry Kissinger or, possibly, the proposal of a personal meeting with the President in the late spring or early summer of 1971.
Bahr expressed his concern, which he said was shared by Chancellor Brandt, over the manner in which the Four-Power talks are being conducted. Bahr said that at the 17–18 November consultations with Assistant Secretary Hillenbrand and at the NATO ministerial meeting complete agreement had been achieved on the line to be taken by the Western Allies in the Berlin talks. Brandt and Bahr understood that the Western Powers would be firm concerning the aims they wished to reach but flexible as far as negotiation tactics were concerned. [Page 433] However, both Brandt and Bahr had the impression that, at the 10 December ambassadors meeting in Berlin the Americans had done the opposite; they had been tough with respect to tactics but had done nothing to move the negotiations toward agreed aims. In light of this, Brandt and Bahr have concluded that the Americans have decided to break with the line laid down during the 17–18 November consultations and at the NATO ministerial meeting.
Bahr stated that Brandt and he believe that a significant part of the U.S. leadership fails to understand the western position in Berlin. “Some people in Washington” accuse the FRG of being too soft in its stand on Berlin in the mistaken belief that the West still has a strong position there; in fact, its position is very weak. It is not American soldiers, Bahr commented, who operate the green and red lights on the Berlin autobahn. The Berlin problem, Bahr added, is like a paper boat on a large international ocean. If you weigh this boat down with too many demands, it is bound to sink. Furthermore, the Berlin population is tired of the constant harassment on the autobahn and wants a definitive agreement on access. The Soviets are therefore convinced that time is on their side. The longer they wait, the less they will have to pay and the more demands they will be able to make in return for an access agreement. The present delaying tactics of the Allies are being executed at the expense of the West Germans and West Berliners.
Bahr said that he and Brandt had given much thought as to how the impasse in the Berlin talks might be resolved. In their view, it might be easier to reach agreement if the talks were moved from the ambassadorial to the undersecretary level. Bahr and Brandt are thinking in terms of having continuous negotiations conducted by U.S. Assistant Secretary Hillenbrand, Soviet Diplomat V.M. Falin, Chief of the Third European Directorate of the Foreign Ministry, and their British and French counterparts. This procedure could eliminate some of the difficulties which Ambassador Abrasimov is creating in the discussions, since Abrasimov is under the influence of Ulbricht. In addition, Falin, whose influence is considerable, would insure that positions reached by the Four Powers in these talks would be accepted by the Soviet leadership. Parallel to the quadripartite talks, Bahr and GDR State Secretary Michael Kohl could conduct negotiations under the aegis of the Four Powers. In this way, all of the responsible representatives would be together in one city, meeting simultaneously, and a Berlin settlement could be reached expeditiously.
Bahr stated that he had talked with Falin during the latter’s visit to East Berlin in connection with the 2 December Warsaw Pact conference.13 (Bahr added that this meeting was known only to the three [Page 434] Western ambassadors, Brandt, Foreign Minister Scheel, Minister Horst Ehmke, and Foreign Office State Secretary Paul Frank.) Bahr said that, at this meeting, Falin had pointed out to Bahr that the USSR believed there were differences in the attitudes of the three Western Allies on negotiation, with the Americans clearly presenting the hardest line. Falin added that the USSR was trying to decide on the best way to signal to the Americans that the USSR was willing to bring the Berlin talks to a successful conclusion. Falin added that there was a definite limit to the concessions the Soviets were willing to make. The USSR had considered extending the harassment tactics on the autobahn beyond the period of the CDU/CSU Fraktion meeting in Berlin—an approach which was strongly applauded by Ulbricht. However, in the end the Soviets decided not to exacerbate the friction with the Americans over Berlin.
Bahr said that Brandt and he were concerned about the nature of U.S. relations with the CDU/CSU leadership. In this connection, Bahr cited the discussions preceding the holding of the CDU/CSU Fraktion meeting in Berlin. Bahr stated that in these discussions Fraktion Chairman Barzel had told Brandt that through his “very close contacts to the American Embassy” he had learned that the latter had no objection to the CDU/CSU Berlin meeting. Bahr added that this situation made it impossible for Brandt to persuade Barzel to cancel the meeting, even though it was Brandt’s understanding that the Western Allies did not favor the holding of such a meeting at the present time; this had been made particularly clear by the French Embassy. Bahr said that it appeared that the U.S. had deviated from the previously agreed position and had encouraged Barzel to hold the Fraktion meeting.
Bahr said that Brandt also had been irritated by the visit of CSU Chairman Strauss to the U.S. “to confer with Kissinger.” Bahr stated that the FRG had not been informed of the nature of these talks, which was contrary to the “agreement” made by Kissinger with Bahr to the effect that he would keep the FRG government informed of his discussions with Opposition leaders. Bahr commented that “two can play at this game,” adding that Senator Muskie recently had approached the Brandt government and had indicated he wished information concerning the FRG Ostpolitik as background to discussing this topic with the leadership of the Democratic Party. Bahr added that the FRG had not yet responded to the Senator’s request. Bahr went on to contrast the U.S. attitude with that shown by Poland and the Soviet Union; in the case of Barzel’s trip to Warsaw, the Polish government had asked the FRG how it wished to have the visit handled, while the Soviet government had made a similar inquiry in the case of CDU/CSU Deputy Chairman Gerhard Schroeder’s forthcoming visit to the USSR.
Bahr commented that he had learned that Brandt would be Time magazine’s Man of the Year for 1970, and said that there had been some [Page 435] discussion as to whether Brandt might use this honor as an excuse for a visit to the United States. It was also being considered whether Brandt or Bahr might appear on the U.S. “Face the Nation” television program.
Bahr stated that Brandt planned to spend Christmas in Berlin with his family, then leave for a vacation in Kenya until 16 January. Minister Ehmke would also be on vacation from 13 December to 10 January. Bahr added that, during this period, he and Vice-Chancellor Scheel would be “in charge” of the government of the FRG.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 685, Country Files, Europe, Germany, Vol. VIII. Secret; Nodis; Sensitive. Sent for information. According to another copy, Sonnenfeldt drafted the memorandum. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 10, Chronological File, 1969–75)
  2. Pauls called Kissinger on December 10, the same day The Washington Post published Acheson’s call to “cool down the mad race to Moscow, to request an appointment as soon as possible. When Kissinger asked if some politicians in Bonn had been “screaming again,” Pauls replied: “There are a number of points of common interest and I would like to see you alone.” (Ibid., Box 365, Telephone Conversations, Chronological File) Kissinger met Pauls on December 17 from 5:14 to 5:45 p.m. (Record of Schedule; ibid., Miscellany, 1968–76) No U.S. record of the discussion has been found. Pauls forwarded an account to the German Foreign Office. According to Pauls, Kissinger explained that Nixon valued differing points of view, even if the source was occasionally a “pain in the neck.” See Akten zur Auswärtigen Politik der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, 1970, Vol. 3, pp. 2292–2295.
  3. Tab A, attached but not printed, is telegram 1610Z from USIS/Bonn to USIA, December 14, which included excerpts from recent articles in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and Die Welt.
  4. A memorandum of conversation at the Rockefeller dinner on December 2 is in the Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 269, Memoranda of Conversations, Chronological File, Dec. 1970–Aug. 1971.
  5. Regarding the senior-level meeting in Bonn, November 17–18, see Document 137; the NATO Ministerial meeting in Brussels, December 3–4, see Document 142 and footnote 5 thereto.
  6. At Tab C, attached but not printed, are Document 144 and telegram 1924 from Berlin, December 10; the latter is also in the National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 38–6.
  7. Attached but not printed. The official Department of State translation is Document 145.
  8. Tab E, attached but not printed, is telegram 14480 from Bonn, December 16; also in the National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 15–1 GER W.
  9. Tab F, attached but not printed, is telegram 14478 from Bonn, December 16; also ibid., POL GER W–USSR. For a record of the meeting between Brandt and Tsarapkin, see Akten zur Auswärtigen Politik der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, 1970, Vol. 3, pp. 2275–2276.
  10. Tab G, attached but not printed, is a memorandum from Sonnenfeldt to Kissinger, November 28.
  11. Tab H is Document 136.
  12. Secret; No Foreign Dissem; Controlled Dissem; Background Use Only. The intelligence report was attached to a December 16 memorandum from Karamessines to Kissinger. Karamessines wrote that Fessenden had asked that Kissinger, Hillenbrand, and Sutterlin receive copies of the report. Karamessines further noted: “Although Bahr’s remarks may foretell shifts in the attitude of his government, in selecting such an informal method to communicate them, the State Secretary evidently chose not to use the direct, accountable channel available to him. The source of the report commented that he had never seen Bahr is such a depressed mood.” In an attached December 16 note to Kissinger, Richard T. Kennedy of the NSC staff also explained: “As soon as I was aware of [the report] I called Tom [Karamessines] to see if he could stop distribution to Hillenbrand and Sutterlin at State. Tom called back to say that the distribution had been made simultaneously.”
  13. See Document 141.