183. Editorial Note

On February 16, 1971, Assistant to the President Kissinger met Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin in the Map Room at the White House from 3:15 to 3:55 p.m. to discuss the Berlin negotiations as agreed at [Page 551] their previous meeting (February 10). (Record of Schedule; Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1968–76) According to the memorandum of conversation, Kissinger made the appointment “on the first day back from Key Biscayne [February 15] as soon as I had word that the submarine tender and a nuclear submarine had returned to Cienfuegos.” The memorandum records the following brief exchange on Berlin:

Dobrynin began the conversation in a very jovial mood and asked me whether any progress had been made on Berlin. I told him I had received some answers on Berlin from Bahr and Rush, but I was in no position to proceed because I had a particular matter to discuss about Cuba.”

The two men then debated whether Soviet naval deployments in Cuban waters constituted a violation of the agreement on Cienfuegos.

Dobrynin wanted to turn the conversation to Berlin. I said I was not prepared to discuss it until I had some explanation on the naval base and on the submarine tender.

Dobrynin said that this would be construed as very arrogant in Moscow. I replied that in the United States their behavior was construed as being very provocative. He said, ‘Will you be prepared to talk again on Friday [February 19]?’ I said I doubted it.”

Dobrynin responded by declining to deliver a message from Hanoi; the meeting “broke up in a rather chilly atmosphere.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 490, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1971, Vol. 4 [Part 2])

The next morning, Kissinger briefed the President by telephone on this “pretty starchy conversation” with Dobrynin. In relating the connection between Vietnam and Berlin, Kissinger explained that Dobrynin “said he had an answer [from Hanoi] but he wouldn’t give it because of Berlin. He will give it to me. We have to show they cannot play with us while we are negotiating.” (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 365, Telephone Conversations, Chronological File)

After meeting Dobrynin, Kissinger also sent the following special channel message to Ambassador Rush and German State Secretary Bahr: “One question put by Dobrynin which I neglected to ask. With respect to the question of Federal Ministries, Dobrynin said that our proposal was unacceptable but that they were prepared to compromise. Do you have any suggestions?” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 59, Country Files, Europe, Ambassador Rush, Berlin, Vol. 1 [2 of 2]; and ibid., Box 60, Egon Bahr, Berlin File [3 of 3]) Rush responded via special channel on February 17:

“With respect to Federal Ministries, a cosmetic approach might be taken which, instead of each of the some seventy ministries, containing about 23,000 employees, in Berlin remaining separate, all might be [Page 552] brought under a single designation, such as ‘representative offices of the F.R.G.’ In private talks I have had with Abrasimov, he has at times indicated that something like this might be acceptable, and as of now this is probably as far as we should go. This subject is a sensitive one with the public, CDU, and such members of the Cabinet as Genscher, Schmidt, Schiller and Scheel.

“As an ultimate, fallback position, some consideration might be given to some limitation on the number of offices or the number of employees, for example, the same as at present, that the F.R.G. might have in West Berlin. Another possible limitation would be with regard to the nature of the ministries, for example, those dealing with economic, cultural, monetary, but not political, activities might be permitted. As of now there is no indication that any such limitations would be acceptable to the F.R.G., but the issue has never been seriously raised with them.” (Ibid., Box 59, Ambassador Rush, Berlin, Vol. 1 [2 of 2])

Bahr, who had been out of town for several days, replied with a special channel message on February 18. The text, as translated from the original German by the editor, reads:


Yesterday’s conversation with Kohl: the GDR is now prepared to regulate Berlin traffic on a preferential basis; in other words better than the other transit arrangements. That is great progress. As before, however, they want to include this arrangement on Berlin traffic as part of a general transit agreement between both German states. In considering this suggestion we will be careful that the German agreement clearly remains a function of a quadripartite agreement, that is, to consult on our reply.

“As before, the GDR (and Soviets) also want to conclude two German transit arrangements: one between the FRG and GDR for people and goods from the Federal Republic to West Berlin and back; and one between the GDR and West Berlin for all people and goods from West Berlin through the GDR to all countries, including the FRG, and back.

“At the moment, this point has reverted to the quadripartite negotiations. We are dealing with a question of principle here. I would be grateful if you could raise our position at the decisive moment: at the German level, the Federal Republic should only conclude an arrangement with the GDR, also for West Berlin, in which the FRG can be represented through West Berlin or the three powers.

Kohl has offered to allow me to fly with the Bundeswehr to East Berlin. This is rather strange in view of the fact that West German flights to West Berlin are not possible. I do not intend to accept this offer at the moment.
Falin arrives in the middle of next week to assume his duties.

I am very concerned about developments in Poland. In addition to worker dissatisfaction on account of the low standard of living, [Page 553] there is a quickly growing tendency of democratization, reminiscent of developments in Czechoslovakia: choice between more candidates for party committees, that is, the first signs of a genuine election. Strengthening of parliamentary budget rights vis-à-vis the government. Simultaneous liberalization in the cultural sector. It will be strange if Roman Polansky is portrayed as part of socialist culture in Poland.

“The beginning is familiar.

Brezhnev has approved the line introduced by Gierek. If developments in Poland assume the form of a brush fire, the Soviet Union must intervene earlier than in Prague in order to avoid repercussions for the Soviet leadership. In any case, such a development would lead to an impasse in East-West affairs as occurred after Prague; the GDR would enthusiastically take advantage and we would be faced with a Berlin crisis, if by then we have not yet concluded a settlement.

Regarding your question of February 16: we could propose creating one liaison office to the three powers and the Senat to which all federal ministries would be subordinate. That would be a cosmetic operation, by which it must be clear that no one who works for the Federal authorities in West Berlin would be forced to leave the city.” (Ibid., Box 60, Country Files, Europe, Egon Bahr, Berlin File [3 of 3]) For the German text of the message, see also Akter zur Auswärtigen Politik der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, 1971, Vol. I, pages 339–341

Kissinger and Dobrynin continued their discussion on Berlin in the Map Room on the evening of February 22. According to the memorandum of conversation, Kissinger conducted himself “in a deliberately aloof but correct manner.” The memorandum records the conversation on Berlin as follows:

“The discussion then turned to Berlin. I told Dobrynin that I had heard from both Bahr and Rush and that I was prepared to tell him that the United States would be willing to accept a unilateral Soviet assumption of responsibility which would then be absorbed in the third part of the agreement of a Four-Power guarantee. Dobrynin said that this was a considerable step forward, but could I give him a draft. I said since we had accepted the principle, why did the Soviet Union not make a draft. He said it would be easier if we made a draft, because then at least they knew what was acceptable to us, while if they made one, it would become a big issue.

Dobrynin then said we should also include the principles we considered necessary since I had said that we would accept the Soviet assumption of responsibility only if the principles were acceptable. I said that since the principles would still have to be implemented by the two Germanys, I would simply take the principles from the Four-Power note which I knew were agreed. Dobrynin suggested that perhaps I might incorporate one or two of the Soviet principles simply to preserve a [Page 554] degree of symmetry. I told him I would have to check with Bahr and Rush. “Dobrynin then turned to the question of Federal presence. He again urged that I come up with some formulation that the Soviets could react to, and that they were in a mood to be conciliatory. I said that this was a most delicate point and it would be much better if the Soviet side could come up with a generous proposal on access because it would help us talk to Bonn on the question of Federal presence. He said that the Soviet problem with the East German Government was exactly the opposite of ours with Bonn and that therefore I should give him some formulation. I said I could not give him any written formulation, but I would see whether I could elicit some talking points which we might discuss. Dobrynin reiterated the Soviet extreme eagerness to come to an understanding on the question of Berlin.” (Ibid., NSC Files, Box 490, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1971, Vol. 4 [Part 2])