193. Memorandum From Helmut Sonnenfeldt of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • Berlin Negotiations: Status Report

There are now three negotiations in progress: the Four Powers, Bahr/Kohl, and the Senat/GDR. All were active this week.

The Four Power Negotiations

The Four Ambassadors met on March 9.2 The meeting produced absolutely no progress, and in fact was one of the most sterile sessions so far. Almost the entire discussion was devoted to placing blame on either side for the lack of progress, and endless debate about terminology (definition of the subject matter of the talks, and the transit/access formulations). On several occasions, Abrasimov retreated to the old Soviet positions of last November and December.

Abrasimov panned the Western draft agreement of February 53 which he said was in need of radical revision and which could not serve as an agreed point of departure. This may indicate that the Soviets might decide to offer their own counter-draft, rather than trying to revise it.

Both during the meeting itself, and at the subsequent lunch, Abrasimov repeated that he would offer something new on access if only the Western side would offer something on Federal presence, and Soviet presence (a consulate general) in West Berlin. In defining Soviet interests on Federal presence Abrasimov listed:

  • —a maximum of one or two annual Bundestag committee, fraktionen and ministerial meetings in West Berlin, perhaps dealing with cultural or economic matters;
  • —all the federal ministerial offices now in West Berlin should be represented by only one office;
  • —a clear and explicit statement that West Berlin is not a Land or a part of the FRG;
  • —a private Western statement prohibiting neo-Nazi activities in West Berlin.

This listing of Soviet requirements is probably not the complete list of continued Soviet desirata. For example, there is no mention of party congresses, a point which has caused the recent autobahn harassments and on which the Soviets have always insisted. However, the points contained in the list do represent a fair degree of movement from the original Soviet categorical demands for total elimination. There is not too much distance between the new Soviet position on committees and fraktionen and BrandtBahrEhmke position (indeed, Barzel even hinted that he could accept something along these lines). The centralization of FRG ministries is also close to the Bahr proposal (but it might mean the elimination of Federal courts). The Western side could not accept inserting in a Four Power agreement any statement that Berlin was not a part of the FRG. It is quite possible that this point could be handled by some sort of private unilateral as the Soviets have suggested for dealing with neo-Nazi activities. One difficulty is that Abrasimov insists on receiving the final Western concessions on presence before he will even begin to reveal the concessions he claims he will make on access.

The Western side urged that priority treatment be given to access in order that the Four could give the signal for the inner-German negotiations to begin. However, Abrasimov made it clear that the Soviets still desired to treat all subjects as a package, and would not agree to special treatment for access or inner-Berlin improvements. It seems obvious that the Soviets wish to stonewall in the talks until they are reasonably convinced that we have little more to offer on presence (FRG and Soviet) and until they see little hope for undercutting the Four Power talks by the Bahr/Kohl and Senat/GDR talks.

The Four Ambassadors will meet again on March 25.

The Senat/GDR Talks

The first meeting of Senat and GDR representatives took place in East Berlin on March 6. The GDR attempted to involve the Senat in a broad range of topics which they knew the Senat could not discuss without prior Four Power agreement. The Senat representatives specified that general access questions and the issue of permanent entry by West Berliners into the GDR hinged on the precondition of prior Four Power basic agreement. Similiarly, agreements in the economic, scientific and technical areas should be handled throught the IZT channel.

Aside from these GDR efforts to broaden the talks, and despite the usual arguments over geographical nomenclature, there was discussion of Easter passes. The GDR made a vague offer to permit West [Page 576] Berliners to visit East Berlin and “other districts” of the GDR. To be sure, the GDR included the requirement for visas—for which they suggested that a GDR consulate in West Berlin would be useful to facilitate visa issuance. The GDR proposed that individual GDR citizens would have to “sponsor” a visitor, and the application would have to be then approved by the GDR, and finally presented to the West Berliner on entry. This provision is more onerous than the procedures for West Germans who enter East Berlin.

At the next meeting on March 12, the Senat hopes to gain GDR acceptance of entry procedures at least equal to those used for West Germans. The Senat will also probe for more information on the issue of entry into the GDR beyond East Berlin—an area which the Allies are concerned might bolster the Eastern concept of West Berlin as an entity, and might undercut the Western position concerning the representation of West Berlin abroad.

Bahr/Kohl Talks

Following the February 26 Bahr/Kohl meeting, the Germans told us that Bahr had agreed to draw up a model transit agreement in order to demonstrate to Kohl that it would not be feasible to work out an agreement confined to transit alone. Bahr had again made clear to the GDR, however, that Berlin access could not be a part of any transit agreement. The German move concerned the three Ambassadors, particularly the French and British who thought that the Germans were creating an atmosphere of haste and moving too close to the Soviet objective of emphasizing GDR sovereignty which would outflank the Four Power discussions on access.

Late on March 4 the Germans gave the three embassies copies of a draft model transit agreement which Bahr was going to offer to Kohl at their March 8 meeting. (The text of the agreement is at Tab A).4 The agreement relates to FRG traffic transiting the GDR en route to Eastern Europe, and to GDR traffic transiting the FRG en route to Western Europe—access to and from Berlin is not involved. The draft recognized that transit traffic is subject to the laws of the transited state, though it provided for the elimination of the need for passports and visas in transit.

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The Three Ambassadors became upset at Bahr’s plan and the lack of due notice and consultation. They feared that the draft would encourage the Soviets to persist in their approach that Berlin access is really a question of transit over the territory of a sovereign nation, and so to apply the transit points in the Bahr draft to Berlin access (e.g. acceptance of border controls, and applicability of GDR national legislation to access). The evening before the Bahr/Kohl meeting, the Three Ambassadors met with Bahr and stressed that the Soviets were hoping to get progress through the German talks (Bahr and Senat) and so undercut the Western position in the Four Power talks. The Three suggested that Bahr not present his model agreement.

In defense, Bahr argued that he had earlier made it clear to the GDR that Berlin would not be included in his model transit agreement. Also, Bahr argued, the GDR was fundamentally uninterested in concluding any agreement with the FRG, and would do so only under Soviet pressure following a prior Four Power agreement. Bahr explained that the FRG very much wanted to conclude some type of agreement with the GDR to symbolize the first step in FRG/GDR relations; transit was the only field where this could be done. In the end, Bahr agreed not to offer to Kohl his model agreement.

At the March 8 meeting, Bahr reportedly told Kohl that “at the desire of the Three Powers” and because of the connection with the Four Power negotiations, he was not in a position to talk about a model transit agreement. Kohl was “shocked.” He immediately asked for a two hour break. Upon return Bahr [ Kohl] said that he would explain his government’s thoughts about a transit agreement, which included some limited concessions to the FRG position: the agreement need not be ratified, Berlin traffic relationship could be handled as an annex, a termination clause was unnecessary. Bahr and Kohl agreed to meet again on March 17.

The day after the Bahr/Kohl meeting the French Ambassador in Moscow met with Gromyko for one of their regular exchanges of views. In their conversation, Gromyko was particularly annoyed and upset that the Allies had pressured Bahr not to present the model agreement. The most interesting part of this is that Gromyko was well aware of the events in the Bahr/Kohl meeting just 24 hours before. (You will recall that Bahr in the past claimed that the GDR was not keeping the Soviets informed. One can speculate about the apparently sudden Soviet access to rapid information. Conceivably, Kohl, in the two hour break before he made his new offer, was in touch with the Soviets.)

If the SPD suffers heavy losses in the Berlin and Rhineland/Palatinate elections this month we can expect even greater pressure within the Brandt Government for visible evidence of success in any of the three sets of negotiations. It is doubtful that the Soviets will [Page 578] offer concessions in the Four Power talks until their efforts in the German negotiations have played out. It is just possible that some sort of agreement for Easter passes may come out of the Senat/GDR talks, though it is too early to tell with any assurance. The Bahr/Kohl talks are perhaps the most difficult for they are potentially the most complex. And the pressure for movement may be greatest there.

Kohl’s concessions, limited as they were, may very well have been the product of Bahr’s refusal to talk about his model agreement because of Allied pressure. Another product of the Allied conflict with Bahr will be greater consultation on the Bahr/Kohl talks and better coordination with the other sets of negotiations.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 58, Country Files, Europe, Berlin, Vol. 2 [2 of 2]. Secret. Urgent; sent for information.
  2. The Mission reports on the quadripartite meeting of March 9 are in telegrams 469, 473, and 474 from Berlin, March 9, 9, and 10, respectively. (All ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 38–6) An account on the Ambassadorial luncheon of the same date is in telegram 2837 from Bonn, March 10. (Ibid., POL 28 GER B)
  3. See Document 173.
  4. At Tab A is telegram 2615 from Bonn, March 5, reporting the discussion the previous day among the three Western Ambassadors on coordination between the BahrKohl talks and the quadripartite negotiations; see footnotes 7 and 9, Document 191. An informal translation of the model transit agreement is in telegram 457 from Berlin, March 8. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 28 GER B) For text of the eventual traffic agreement, which was signed in Berlin on May 26, 1972, see Documents on Germany, pp. 1191–1198. An account of the discussion between Bahr and the Western Ambassadors on March 7 is in telegram 459 from Berlin, March 8. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 38–6)