166. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1


  • Soviet Note on Berlin

Attached is the Soviet note on the Berlin negotiations which the Soviets delivered to the White House on January 6, 1971 and was [Page 494] relayed to me in San Clemente.2 You will recall our discussions on this and the fact that this was one of the topics that Dobrynin and I covered in our January 9, 1971 meeting (I am sending you separately a summary and the full record of that conversation).3

I thought you would be interested in a fuller analysis of the attached note. It is a politely worded and rather plaintive charge of bad faith and it is based on the Soviet interpretation of Gromyko’s conversations with you and Secretary Rogers.4

What the Soviets expected to flow from those talks appears to be as follows:

  • —At that time Secretary Rogers made quite an issue over the Soviet negotiator’s unwillingness to discuss the question of Berlin access, without first reaching an understanding on their demand for a reduction in West German presence in West Berlin. Gromyko made a “concession” and agreed to discuss both issues simultaneously. On this basis the Soviets apparently expected the negotiations would go more rapidly.
  • —The note suggests they believe we have not lived up to the bargain of simultaneous discussions of the two issues—access and West German presence. They expected to learn more of our position on West German presence, while they would reveal more of their position on access. In fact, the Soviet negotiator, Ambassador Abrasimov, did make a new proposal on access, and accompanied it with a reminder that he expected “parallel” progress on all the main issues.

Ambassador Rush, however, replied that the question of West German presence would have to cover activities to be excluded and those permitted. This latter point was new, Abrasimov claimed, and in contradiction of the understanding reached by the Foreign Ministers, including Secretary Rogers and Gromyko.

—The third complaint is that we have permitted continuing West German meetings and activities in Berlin, which force the Soviets to react. Probably, the Soviets believe we could prevent these incidents if we wanted to, and they expected us to, following the Gromyko visit.

On the more positive side:

  • —The Soviets indicate they are willing to move into more intensive discussions if that is desired (picking up the Brandt proposals).
  • —The negotiators should be empowered to work out detailed texts and to put agreements in “formal shape.”
  • —The Soviet “package” already introduced (i.e., a four-power agreement, an intra-German agreement, and a subsequent covering document for the entire package) will provide a “definite assurance that the agreement will be observed in all parts.”

If this latter “definite assurance” could be translated into a similar commitment in the negotiations, one of our principal concerns would be met, since what we want is a Soviet assurance. We do not merely want the Soviets to pass on, as a kind of honest broker, the unilateral assurances of East Germany.

What do they expect of us?

  • —Apparently, the Soviets expect some sort of procedural signal from us, either to hold the sessions more often, or perhaps break them down into working groups to come up with detailed language.
  • —On substance, they are looking for us to reveal some of the fallbacks on German presence that their contacts with Bonn and other intelligence probably inform them we have considered.
  • —Since the Soviet offer on improved access of December 10 did come some distance toward our position, they probably want a sign that we have properly evaluated what they had done.

The note makes a special point that when the conversations resume this month it will be “very important” what they start with and how they will be “arranged.”

The Soviets probably are beginning to have some doubts that a Berlin agreement is possible. But they have a major stake in an agreement, because of the treaties with Bonn. After Gromyko’s discussion in Washington last October, it does appear that the Soviets decided they would have to loosen up their own position. In the session of November 4, Abrasimov was generally conciliatory, and accepted our general concept that traffic should be “unhindered and preferential.” About that time Brezhnev originated the new formula, adopted at the Warsaw Pact meeting in early December, that was unusually conciliatory (i.e., an agreement would have to meet the “wishes of the Berlin population”).

The Soviets may believe our response has been to harden our terms and challenge them on the Federal German presence. Our willingness to negotiate a reduction of German political activities was an essential part of our original approach in 1969 and the incentive for the USSR to negotiate.

Since the Polish riots and purge, the Soviets must have come under fire from the East Germans, and perhaps within the politburo for investing too heavily in Ostpolitik and accepting Western precondition of a Berlin settlement. This note seems to be an appeal of sorts at the highest level for a show of responsiveness.

[Page 496]

The Soviets may have some considerable concern that they cannot go into a Party Congress in March with their Western policy in a shambles—no Berlin progress, no move to ratify the German treaties, no prospect for economic assistance from the West Germans—but that we hold the key to this increasingly complicated tangle of issues.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 490, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1971, Vol. 4 [Part 2]. Top Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only. Sent for information. No drafting information appears on the memorandum. Most of the analysis was taken verbatim from a January 6 memorandum prepared by Hyland. (Ibid., Box 691, Country Files, Europe, Germany (Berlin), Vol. III) Butterfield stamped the memorandum indicating that the President had seen it.
  2. Attached; printed as Document 159.
  3. See Document 160.
  4. Regarding Gromyko’s meetings with Nixon and Rogers the previous October, see Document 129.