157. Memorandum From William Hyland of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • BahrKohl and Bahr–Fallin Talks

These two conversations last week produced nothing new in substance, but confirmed that both the Soviets and GDR are tightening the screw on the Bonn government.

BahrKohl 2

In the 23 December talks between Bahr and the East German State Secretary, Kohl, the latter insisted that their talks deal first with Berlin transit traffic rather than a general transportation agreement between the two Governments. Bahr, of course, had to reject this procedure on the grounds that the Germans could not begin such a discussion until the Four Powers had reached some agreement. Kohl insisted that the two sets of negotiations could proceed in parallel, and in this way the Germans would make a “contribution” to the Four Power discussions. (Such an end run would make the Four-Power talks meaningless.)

Kohl handed over a formal protest against West Germany’s illegal activities in West Berlin to underscore his assertion that cessation of such activities was a precondition of the German talks. Bahr responded with an offer to discuss reciprocal actions to avoid further escalation of the situation. Kohl indicated he might be willing to discuss this in a private conversation (no indication that he did so, however).

Bahr–Fallin (December 28)3

In a private luncheon meeting Bahr complained to Fallin about the hardening of the GDR position. Whereas originally the German talks [Page 471] had been arranged to discuss general transit, now the GDR was pressing for discussion of Berlin traffic only. Fallin was not particularly sympathetic, though he made the usual noises about how difficult it was to deal with the GDR. Fallin, however, made it quite clear that the Soviets intended to support harassment of access (“increased countermeasures”), if Bonn continued to increase its activities in West Berlin. In a further implied threat he asked rhetorically what Bonn’s reaction would be if the GDR applied its legislation prohibiting the transport of “military goods.” It would be difficult for the USSR to argue against such action by the GDR, which had the impression that the FRG had flung down the gauntlet on Federal activities in West Berlin. (In practice this would probably mean actually stopping some traffic from leaving West Berlin, or extensive inspection for “military goods.”)

The carrot to this stick was Fallin’s indication that an early four power agreement on principles would avoid further hindrances to civilian traffic. He added that the USSR had noted “press reports” of Brandt’s desire to shift the Berlin talks to a “conference-like” format, and that the Soviets, while not officially asked, would be agreeable.


Apparently the Soviets and the GDR believe that the FRG is coming under increasing pressure to move the Berlin talks forward, and that a split is developing between Bonn, on the one hand, and the three Western Powers, on the other. The Soviets know, of course, that because of the Berlin laender elections in March, FRG political activity will become more visible and that there can be repeated opportunities for harassments. If Bonn backs away from various meetings, visits, etc., or if we deny them, the Soviets win a tactical and psychological point. On the other hand, if we stand firm or take retaliatory measures, such as postponing the Four Power sessions, the ratification of the Eastern treaties recedes even further and Brandt’s position is jeopardized. What the Soviets expect, and are obviously getting, is for Bonn to increase its pressures on the U.S. to intensify the Berlin negotiations.

[Page 472]

Our principal problem will be that as pressures mount, the simple principles put forward by the Soviets (“unhindered traffic on a preferential basis”) will look more and more tempting to the FRG, and probably the British and French as well. As anticipated when these talks began, we then risk becoming isolated and shouldering the blame for an impasse or failure.

One final comment on the Bahr–Fallin channel: This extracurricular activity of Bahr’s is becoming more and more suspect. It is difficult to believe that it is only happenstance that (a) Brandt proposed, in a private letter to the President, to intensify the Berlin talks, (b) Bonn then leaked its contents, and (c) a few days later, Fallin indicated Soviet agreement.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 685, Country Files, Europe, Germany, Vol. VIII. Secret; Limdis. Sent for information. Kissinger initialed the memorandum indicating that he had seen it.
  2. The account of the meeting is based on an attached report, telegram 14965 from Bonn, December 30. (Ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 28 GER B) See also Akten zur Auswärtigen Politik der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, 1970, Vol. 3, pp. 2310–2318.
  3. The account of the meeting is based on an attached report, telegram 14967 from Bonn, December 30. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL GER W–US). See also Akten zur Auswärtigen Politik der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, 1970, Vol. 3, pp. 2341–2344. On December 31 Bahr also sent a backchannel message on his meeting with Falin to Kissinger. In the message (translated here from the original German by the editor), Bahr reported: “Gromyko had the feeling that the President has not been fully informed about the Soviet position on Berlin. Gromyko had a positive impression of the President’s good will. The Russians have a certain mistrust whether the attitude of the State Department suggests a game of good cop/bad cop. I told Falin that the conversation between you and Ehmke confirmed my conviction that the United States wants a Berlin settlement. Falin expressed skepticism on the latter point.” Bahr further said that the Allies should modify their position in the Berlin negotiations only when the Russians had been induced “to show their cards.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 60, Country Files, Europe, Egon Bahr, Berlin File [3 of 3]) For the full text of the message in German, see Akten zur Auswärtigen Politik der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, 1970, Vol. 3, pp. 2356–2357.