175. Briefing Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Hillenbrand) to the Under Secretary of State (Irwin)1

Senior Review Group Consideration of Response to NSSM 111 on Berlin Negotiations

NSSM 1112 called for a two-part study to review first the Four Power negotiations in Berlin and the alternatives we might adopt in the next phase and second the consequences of various developments in the FRG’s Eastern policy. The first part of this study was prepared by a special working group consisting of representatives of the Department, the Department of Defense, CIA and the NSC Staff.3 It was submitted to the NSC on January 18 and will be considered by the Senior Review Group on February 10. It is not clear whether there will be subsequent consideration by the NSC or whether it will be brought to the President’s attention following the Senior Review Group meeting.

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The study was submitted as an agreed document without reservations by any of the participating agencies. Accordingly there are no disagreements to be resolved in the Senior Review Group. The most controversial issue as the study was drafted was the question of an increased Soviet presence in West Berlin. Both Defense and CIA are strongly opposed to any increase because of the enhanced opportunities entailed for subversion and intelligence. Their representatives recognized that given the positions of our Allies on the subject it may be necessary in the negotiations to concur at least in some increase and they therefore agreed to list the alternatives set forth in the study. Nonetheless the Defense and CIA representatives at the Senior Review Group may pursue the matter further and recommend that the United States refuse to agree to anything more than a very limited expansion in Soviet presence. We also prefer to avoid anything beyond this largely because an increased Soviet presence will be seen in Berlin as symbolic of Four Power control in West Berlin. We continue to concur in the position established in the basic position paper for the Berlin negotiations4 according to which the West should agree at most only to minor increases and then in return for understandings which would permit an increased Allied presence in East Berlin. We doubt that this position will be tenable, however, if there are real prospects for a worthwhile Berlin settlement. While an increase in Soviet presence is undesirable we believe that adverse consequences would decrease to the extent that favorable results are obtained on other issues. It would be undesirable—and unnecessary from the point of view of the tenability of the Western position in Berlin—for the United States to seem to be preventing a settlement solely because of this issue. Therefore it is preferable to retain flexibility on this issue as on the others considered in the study on the understanding that US efforts will continue to be guided by the general principle established in the basic position paper.

Since the study was drafted there have been two significant developments pertaining directly to the Berlin talks. First the East Germans and Soviets have stepped up access harassment in response to meetings held in West Berlin by West German political parties. Secondly, the Western side for the first time has tabled a complete draft agreement.5 The draft is in line with the basic US position paper and NSDM 91.6 It is maximal in nature and not likely to be attractive to the Soviets. Nonetheless it provides a format which can serve as a useful focus of negotiations when and if the Soviets are prepared to be sufficiently [Page 527] forthcoming to make negotiations meaningful. Neither of these developments alters the conclusions of the study submitted to the NSC.

From the Department’s point of view the major objective in the study and in the Senior Review Group meeting is to retain sufficient flexibility to deal with individual issues as the negotiations proceed within the framework of our existing position and without the requirement for White House clearance at each step. There may be pressure from the NSC staff to define a minimum fallback position on each likely negotiating issue. We wish to avoid this since the minimum which might be acceptable on one issue will be directly influenced by what can be obtained on another. It is stated in the study that none of the alternatives set forth is totally unacceptable as part of an overall agreement which offers substantial advantage to the Western side. What we would like to obtain is the President’s concurrence that the alternatives are valid as defined and that the negotiations should be conducted within the range of these alternatives and in accordance with the basic position approved by the President last March and NSDM 91. Inclusion of the alternatives on the Soviet presence in West Berlin would constitute the only substantive modification of the earlier position paper.

Talking points are attached7 for your use at the SRG meeting. We have not provided a separate statement of the Department’s position since the conclusions of the study itself constitute such a statement and since there is no disagreement among the agencies concerned on these conclusions.

  1. Source: Department of State, S/S Files: Lot 82 D 126, Briefing on NSSM 111–Wednesday 2/10/71–11:30 am. Secret. Drafted by Sutterlin on February 8 and cleared by Spiro and Brower. The memorandum is an uninitialed copy.
  2. Document 156.
  3. In a January 18 memorandum forwarding the study to Kissinger, Hillenbrand explained that it had been prepared by a special working committee of the European Interdepartmental Group, including representatives from the Departments of State and Defense, Central Intelligence Agency, and the National Security Council staff. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H–Files), Box H–179, NSSM 111) The study summarized the prospects on Berlin as follows: “The Soviets presumably have an interest in reaching a Berlin agreement which will permit the further implementation of the Federal Republic’s Eastern policy, contribute to a sense of détente in Europe, and bring about a reduction in the FRG’s political presence in the Western sectors. While not prepared to change their position on matters of principle, they may be willing, in exchange for Western concessions, to bring about some pragmatic improvements in the Berlin situation which are in the Western interest. These improvements could include freer movement of West Berliners to the surrounding areas, improved access procedures, particularly for freight, and the possibility of Soviet acceptance in some form of West Berlin’s representation abroad by the FRG. The Soviets have advanced a number of positions which, if maintained, would preclude an agreement, but none appears so firmly held at this point as to rule out all prospects for a settlement. The negotiations may soon reach the point where the Western side will be required to make decisions of a rather specific nature concerning the form and content of an eventual understanding. Alternatives that can be foreseen at the present stage of negotiations amount in most cases to optimum positions with various gradations of fallbacks. In reviewing them, the present requirement is to determine which, if any, are completely unacceptable from the US point of view. Having done that, we should retain broad flexibility in the negotiations on the understanding that the US negotiators will hold to optimum alternatives on each issue as long as hope remains of achieving them and the requirements of Western solidarity permit.” (Ibid.)
  4. See Document 65.
  5. See Document 173.
  6. Document 136.
  7. Attached but not printed.