177. Notes of the Senior Review Group Meeting1

Kissinger: Primary purpose—to find out where we stand in Berlin & where we’re going. Theological dispute of great substance & profundity—We’ve asked for principle of unhindered & preferential [Page 534] access—They ask for principle of reduced presence—peripheral issues. Could augur. Document already detracts from our position—fact of being written down. Assess if we got maximum position, where would it all lead. Nutty negotiations—Germans make agreement with no quid pro quo—ask us to deliver quid pro quo.

Irwin: We had 0 to do with quid pro quo—would have been satisfied with relatively modest.

K: We could live with lots on Federal presence in Berlin—won’t go down a textbook case as desired by Germans.

Hillenbrand: Last meeting of advisers 2/5—we tabled proposed draft quadripartite agreement2—practically all given to Soviets in previous meetings—0 used. Represents maximum position—unacceptable to Soviets.

K: Assess if Allies signed document—would we be better off?

Hill: If observed, yes.

K: How?

H: In terms of West Berlin to do things vis-à-vis East Berlin & East Germany. Human factors—families. Other areas—Steinstuecken, exclaves subject to perennial harassment.

K: If observed—e.g. guarantees.

Hill: East German-West German negotiations as part of basic text. No penalty clause.

K: Rather weak.

Hill: Ambassadors received agreement of governments.

K: Will see to it these measures are approved.

H: Commit to execution of agreement reached between East & West Germany. Improvement of procedures of movement of German traffic & passengers. Hindrances on passenger traffic—restricted to air travel by West Germans, West Berliners. There is economic benefit. German firms haven’t invested in Berlin—uncertainty of transit. Stability would heighten willingness. Make Berlin exports more competitive. Built in additional cost—delay, spoilage. Whether quality of life in West Berlin improved if not unclear island position. 3) representation of Berlin abroad. West Berlin travel in anomalous state—West German passports not recognized in Eastern Europe. Approval of [unclear] to West Berlin questionable. Make it more manageable problem. Also result in improvement in ability of West Berlin to ship goods to Eastern Europe. Additional legal benefit—public acknowledgment by Soviets of formal 4-power responsibility for Berlin as whole.

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K: President would approve our signing if Soviets approve. Could make case we claim rights unlimited—Soviets unwilling to challenge— basically protects our position—Soviet interest in détente & own powers if challenged. Legal guarantees won’t matter. Challenge always on administrative plane—not political or legal. Even if new agreement spelling out legal rights—1) detrimental from vague but unlimited claim, 2) opposition to claim we have broken it, 3) irrelevant to access. Ingenious Germans, comical? business—find unlimited opportunity for harassment. Got there by brilliance of West German diplomacy. 2 big issues: access— agreement won’t break down on others. Study excellent. 3 requirements for civilian access—practical improvements, changes visible, changes encourage confidence. Want Soviet commitment to unhindered, preferential access & federal presence. Neither Soviets have admitted. Could get it by: 1) 4 power commitment, 2) unilateral Soviet commitment, 3) GDR-Soviet exchange interpreted as commitment. Willing to accept last 2?

Hill: Variables in complete package must be judged as part of other components. Might be circumstantial whether any 1 of 3 acceptable, provided Soviet commitment. Form of agreement not so important as basic Soviet commitment.

K: Willing to accept unilateral one?

Hill: If part of 4-power package—matter of drafting unilateral instead of Soviet statement—if part of overall package in 4-power agreement to package. Could draft it so.

K: If other points ok, any one of 3 could be acceptable.

Ir: Unilateral as opposed to 4? Or opposed to East German?

K: Soviets could say no 4-power authority is acceptable.

Hill: Fairly common diplomatic mode of achieving objective when no agreement on principles—unilateral declaration—but into larger package.

K: Suppose Soviet form of commitment to unhindered & preferential access—Bahr says now worked out acceptable procedure with East Germany where he can [get] unhindered & preferential & we don’t believe it. True?

Hill: We would scrutinize inter-German agreement carefully to be sure isn’t phony.

K: What do we mean by unhindered & preferential?

Hill: Specifics given to Soviets constitute as close to unhindered & preferential as likely to get.

K: p. 2?

Hill: Also in theme of earlier papers.

K: How identify self as them—passports?

Hill: Passport or other identity document identifying as West German or West Berliner. Confusion in practice. Controller—French for [Page 536] inspection of document. Principle of establishment of identification, least can get away with.

K: They could accept that—6 hours to establish it is West German passport. Germans negotiate with each other. We reserve right to determine when unhindered & preferential.

Hill: Understood.

K: Ehmke, Bahr—paroxysm if we tried to stop.

Hill: Has to satisfy Brandt &SPD—Berlin SPD pretty realistic. Wouldn’t accept phony. Won’t be US vs. Ehmke & Bahr. Question of what Brandt can sell to Bund & Berlin factions.

K: Germans will accept hoping we will turn down. We accept hoping Brandt turn down. We can’t torpedo Ostpolitik by vetoing Berlin agreement. Brandt might make agreement, love having us turn it down. Satisfactory everything. We don’t turn down figuring reality of situation. When Germans realize they can’t afford not to ratify treaty, will wind up CDU position. Hotspot pushed back to formality.

Ir: Could happen. We originally hadn’t tied to Ostpolitik. Willing accept modest improvement in access as long as 4-power rights not affected.

K: Win if illusion of improvement.

Ir: No worse off.

K: Agreement would be written down.

Hill: Agreement no substitute for status quo. Exception is category of federal presence—not recognized right.

K: Want understanding with Soviets on principle & detail. Now will settle for Soviet agreement in principle—No worse off—might be slight improvement.

Hill: Gravy.

Ir: Either are better than onus of breakdown.

K: Access—willing to accept Soviet agreement in principle to unhindered and preferential & turn over to Germans—come back?

Hill: Yes, if rest of play stands up.

K: Question of federal presence—can’t be favorable.

Hill: If Soviets accept representation of West Berlin abroad. Part of federal presence—

K: On presence issue—best can do is cut losses.

Hill: Yes—only quid pro quo we have to offer.

K: Grundgesetz & Bundes President—cut federal presence. Can’t gain. Only area of gain is Berlin traffic & passport issue. Fallback—if other points of package OK, accept Soviet agreement in principle, leave details to Germans—come back?

Hill: Yes.

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K: Federal presence—we notify West Germans constitutional organs can’t meet there—Bundestag.

Hill: Bundestag, Bundesrat, several representatives. Chancellor could travel in unofficial capacity.

K: President can visit.

Sonnenfeldt: Can’t sign law there.

K: Limitations—Federal plenipotentiary.

Hill: Eyewash—0 would change except signs in front of buildings. Limitations unclear as limitations.

K: Plus could hold conferences, committees.

Hill: Permitted.

K: Bundestag—Committee of Whole?

Hill: Theoretically.

K: Not likely.

Hill: If agreement to formulation (not yet) wouldn’t be deserting.

K: In return Bonn wants right to represent Berlin abroad. Suppose Soviets accept but not passports.

Hill: Linking ban on political links with representation issue German idea. Since we agree question of accepting links up to Germans, if no, negotiations would collapse. At one time Bahr prepared to agree fraction couldn’t meet there either. Such reaction in SPD, threw out. Prepared have committees meet on matters related to Berlin.

K: Most laws?

Hill: Except defense—civil law yes—have withdrawn that concession.

K: Major purpose to get before President some framework of decision to stop argument that we are stopping Berlin agreement.

Ir: Anything Federal Government willing to accept doesn’t derogate from US basic principles.

K: 2 aspects—unclear if Federal principle important to US. Will play into Soviet hands to make it separate political entity. Could we get clear statements from Germans, assuming our document isn’t acceptable, assess we shouldn’t push Germans to push federal presence, before romantic Nibelungen frenzy—get clear statement of their fallback position. If don’t want fallback position, say so. On access we’re out, once we get principle. On Federal presence—if not tell us more, tell us. You are no longer villain.3

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Hill: Tried to extract this last fall. Probably impossible to get their final fallback position—conference negotiations used. 1) Brandt not prepared to add issue. 2) Fears fallback position become public property in Bonn 24 hours.

K: If access vs. presence?—end negotiations?

Hill: Might ext[?] position under those circumstances.

K: They say we are to blame for deadlock.

Hill: Some disappointment. Soviets maladroit. Harassment reflects on Soviets. Germans [unclear] to feeling Soviets & US blocking agreement.

Son: Clearly understood by pulling Allied 3 into 4-power agreement not derogating from our inherent right on presence?

Hill: Legal question. Satisfied no derogation. Legal basis for absolutist claims tenuous.

K: Whether prevents Soviets from challenge, legal right is consequence.

Hill: Therefore can’t derogate—

K: No one knows rights; once withdrawn more difficult. If 4-power agreement on federal presence Soviets have right to make claim on us which we now deny they have.

Son: Ambassadors [unclear] as 3-power agreement of authority— by putting under umbrella of 4-power.

K: Soviets want agreement?

Hill: Haven’t made up minds. Want treaty ratified. Haven’t agreed on price. East German government influence probably determining factor. If left alone, no problem in arriving at agreement. Under pressure from East Germany make it impossible for Soviets to give us what we want. 20 years debate.

K: Where from here on federal presence?

Hill: We have given them document. Will probably say unsatisfactory—Counter draft. Advisers unclear into West Germany—many languages.

K: 2 issues. 1) Federal presence—fall back position? Can’t avoid addressing it. Bahr & Ehmke—can’t avoid telling us what fallback is or no fallback. 2) whether or not fallback must link be limited to representation of West Berlin abroad. Assess Soviets accept this—can’t believe accept both representation & presence linked together.

Hill: Highly unlikely—unless Soviets—

K: Why should they?

Hill: Germans after Moscow Treaty—convinced Soviets plans, economy—got illusion.

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K: Bahr—September—Western Summit—2nd 1/2 of October— produce Berlin agreement.

Hill: Present pace not costing US anything but time except to degree we’re being blamed for lower level of federal activity in Berlin than formerly. Suffer net loss—maybe whether negotiations or not.

Ir: If Soviets accept diminution of presence but refuse representation—accept political but not economic, constitutional activities. Germans only to political activities—could deny political activities easier than legal or constitutional. Germans might accept in desperation.

K: Credits of advantage of Soviet—make treaty to advantage of Soviets so as—Why sign 2 disadvantageous treaties?

Hill: Now not prepared to give.

Ir: Now giving credits to prop [unclear] Soviet blast?

K: Passport issue—do we care?

Hill: Concern—Germans care for psychological fallback?

Son: Issue passports but accept fact not recognition. Bahr—give away everything but passports. Minimum necessary for agreement: passport & West Berlin, Bund representation. Prepared to give on administrative presence etc.

Hill: Unclear only. So far government can’t go. Can’t eliminate links.

K: Issues. Passport issue—W[?] to Germans.

Hill: Berliners to East Germany—part of package.

K: 2 ways—West Berlin deal with East Germany which we bless. West Berlin fails to agree with East Germany, everything else settled. We prepared go ahead?

Hill: Couldn’t sign agreement which Germans say unsatisfactory.

K: Bonn says yes, Berlin no?

Hill: Can’t.

K: Get them started talking.

Hill: Ambassadors say no point in getting them.

K: Get Interdepartmental Group together to sum up in memo for President (no NSC) where negotiations go, fallbacks on access that might be required—how to handle. On federal presence—make effort to find out if fallback—what it is—

Hill: When get Soviet response logical time to ask.

K: Something along lines of description of passports, etc., answer questions.

Hill: Draft authority from President for next round?

K: Yes—get you more flexibility—good paper—learned a lot. If you don’t know Berlin, no one does.

  1. Source: National Security Council, Jeanne Davis History, Jeanne Davis Handwritten Notes from SRG & WSAG Meetings, 1969–1976. No classification marking. No formal minutes of the meeting have been found. The editor transcribed the text printed here from Davis’ handwritten notes.
  2. See Document 173.
  3. According to Sutterlin, “Kissinger was insistent on obtaining a clear fallback position from the West Germans on the Federal presence in Berlin before they ended up ‘in a romantic Niebelungen frenzy.’He wanted to ensure that the Americans would no longer be the villain or rather, he said, that ‘Marty’ would no longer be the villain, since he, Kissinger, was now ‘the good guy’.” (Sutterlin and Klein, Berlin, p. 120)