178. Editorial Note

On February 10, 1971, Assistant to the President Kissinger met Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin for dinner at the Soviet Embassy to discuss several issues, including the Berlin negotiations. Although the exact time of the meeting is not known, Kissinger left for the dinner at 8:10 p.m. (Record of Schedule; Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1968–76) According to the memorandum of conversation, the meeting was “conducted with extreme cordiality despite the fact that [South] Vietnamese troops had invaded Laos with U.S. air support two days earlier.” The memorandum records the conversation on Berlin as follows:

Dobrynin asked me what answers I had for him on the Berlin issue. I said that I had discussed the matter with Bahr and also with Rush, and we had worked out a procedure of communicating so that I would know the German position as well as the position of our principal negotiators. Whenever I saw him, I would try to be informed of these two positions. If Dobrynin and I agreed, we could then introduce it first into the four power western context and then into the four power negotiating context. Dobrynin asked me what specifically Bahr had been prepared to give on the issue of Federal presence. I said that Bahr had not been willing to go beyond what he been offered in the document that had been submitted to Abrasimov—that is to say, the constitutional organs should not meet in Berlin. Dobrynin indicated that this would not be satisfactory. I said that at some point there had been a discussion about committees and meetings of the parliamentary party groups, but that the Germans had been unwilling to accept that. Dobrynin said he could not understand how committees could meet if constitutional organs were excluded. I said that committees not being mentioned in the constitution were not considered constitutional organs. Dobrynin said that if the Bundestag was a constitutional organ, its committees had to be. I told him this was not the German interpretation, and Dobrynin said that this was legalistic word-picking.

Dobrynin then asked about the formula by which the German Ministries were to be put under the plenipotentiary of the Federal Government in Berlin. He said that, too, was not acceptable. I said removal of the Ministries was not acceptable to us. He asked, ‘Well, then, what is the compromise?’ I said the only procedure on this issue was for us to query Bahr and Rush and to defer it until the next meeting. We would use our influence for a constructive solution, but a constructive solution depended on some agreement on accesses, Bahr had told me. A great deal, therefore, depended on what the Soviets were prepared to give on access. Dobrynin said he could not understand our point of view on access. We constantly came to the Soviets with a number of [Page 541] principles. The Soviet Union would probably be prepared to grant many of those, but he and I had to recognize that what governed access was not principles, but some detailed technical procedures. Why could we not let the Germans talk about these? I said I was sure that the Germans could talk about these as soon as the basic principles were agreed to and if the agreement between the two Germanys were to be expressed in some common guarantee.

Dobrynin said there was one difficulty with the principles. We were asking the Soviet Union to agree to the Four Power responsibility for access to Berlin; however, this put the Soviet Union into the same difficulty, as if they were demanding participation in the responsibility for West Berlin. The Soviet Union had agreed that we could express our responsibility in the form of a Three Power declaration, and Dobrynin wondered whether we could not be satisfied with a Soviet expression of responsibility for access in the form of a unilateral Soviet declaration of what the Soviets understand the GDR’s views of the principles of access to be—which would then be included in the general guarantees. I told Dobrynin that this sounded like a distinct possibility (I based this on a meeting of the Senior Review Group in the afternoon in which I had studied fallback positions and Hillenbrand had indicated that this was our fallback position on access.) I told him I would query Rush and Bahr and let him know the answer at our next meeting the following week. Dobrynin asked whether he should report this to Moscow. I said that was entirely up to him. Dobrynin said that Moscow found it very hard to understand how somebody in my position could say that he thought something was reasonable without committing himself completely. When Soviet diplomats said something, they always were sure that their government was 100 per cent behind it. I said I was sure about our governmental position but, before making a commitment, I wanted to make sure what the Germans thought about it since we did not want to be in a position of squeezing our own allies. Dobrynin said this was acceptable and we would review the situation next week.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 490, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1971, Vol. 4 [Part 2])

Kissinger forwarded the memorandum of conversation to the President on February 22. (Ibid.) The full text is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XIII. For his memoir account, see Kissinger, White House Years, pages 825–826.