208. Editorial Note

On March 25, 1971, Assistant to the President Kissinger met Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin in the Map Room at the White House from 5 to 6:50 p.m. to discuss Berlin and other issues before they both left Washington: Kissinger to accompany the President to San Clemente; and Dobrynin to attend the 24th Congress of the Soviet Communist Party in Moscow. (Record of Schedule; Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1968–76) According to the memorandum of conversation, the two men discussed Berlin as follows:

“At the beginning I handed Dobrynin the formulas on access, on inter-Berlin arrangements, and on Federal presence that Rush had submitted to me [see Document 205]. Dobrynin took them and he said that he noted that even in this channel we rather stubbornly clung to our position. I said so far we had made the major concessions in this channel, but in any event all the channel guaranteed was greater speed, not greater concessions.

Dobrynin then went through the partial comments I had given him [see Document 204] and asked for clarification. He said he wanted to know first of all whether, except for the comments I had made, all other points would be acceptable. Specifically he wanted to know [Page 624] whether with respect to the Soviet presence the only thing that was objectionable was the Consulate and everything else was acceptable. I told him that anything that had a diplomatic status was probably not acceptable. Dobrynin said that this presented major problems for the Soviet Union because obviously every enterprise was a State enterprise and their representatives abroad were State officials.

Dobrynin also wondered whether I could assure him that there would be nondiscriminatory treatment of Soviet concerns in West Berlin. I said I would have to check this since this was a technical point. He asked if I were implying that we wanted to write into an agreement discriminatory treatment of Soviet interests. I replied that I was not implying anything; I just had to check it in order to make sure that I knew what I was talking about. I would let him know as soon as possible.

Dobrynin said it was important for him to be able to show some movement on our side, since we had asked for some major commitment from them on access and other issues. He then asked a number of specific questions about every part, the gist in each case being whether, except for the comments, we were accepting all the other points. I replied that he had to understand that I was not conducting any negotiation; I was just giving him the general sense. For example, I said, I had not pointed out, because it seemed to me premature, the fact that we objected to the demilitarization clause in their draft. It was not that we were quite prepared to say that Federal military activities would not be permitted in Berlin. We could not accept a blanket demilitarization clause, considering their remilitarization of East Berlin. I also pointed out that we could not accept the term ‘West Berlin’; we needed the phrases I had submitted to him in my Partial Comments.

Dobrynin then raised the question of Federal presence and asked again whether, except for the formulations which we were submitting, the other Soviet formulations were acceptable. I said I doubted whether complete prohibitions of committee meetings and party meetings were acceptable, but that we might look for some formula that moved toward the Soviet position. He said, ‘may I report to Moscow that you will move far enough towards the Soviet position?’ I said I don’t know what ‘far enough’ means. I said I thought the best thing to say was that if the Soviet position on access becomes more flexible we will move towards theirs on the Federal presence issue.

Dobrynin next asked why we asked for an additional Soviet commitment on access when the introductory paragraph is verbatim what we had handed them in the draft of the annex on access procedures. He said that he could understand that we wanted different access regulations, so he thought it was an abstruse point which depended entirely on the inter-German negotiations, not on anything that we would [Page 625] settle in the abstract. He added he could understand why we would hold out on the technical issues, but what about the commitment issue? I told him I would check and let him know.

“Finally, Dobrynin asked how the ambassadors could proceed with their work. I suggested the following procedure.

“I said that on the occasion of the next meeting of the four ambassadors, whenever that would be, Abrasimov could request a private meeting with Rush. That private meeting would be perfectly logical since it would follow on the aborted meeting of the 25th. Then Abrasimov should discuss with Rush the text of the Soviet submission of March 26. Rush would follow essentially the same points that I had already submitted as partial comments. At the end of the meeting Abrasimov and Rush should talk with only the Soviet interpreter present, to work out any procedures they might wish for additional meetings. However, it was imperative that Abrasimov make no reference to our channel while there are other Americans in the room with Rush. Rush was the only American who to my knowledge knew everything about the procedures and about the the negotiations. Dobrynin said he would see to it and that this procedure would be followed.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 491, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1971, Vol. 5 [Part 1])

On March 25 and 26 Kissinger and Dobrynin followed up their discussion of the Berlin negotiations by telephone. Kissinger called at 7:30 p.m. on March 25 to reply to Dobrynin’s queries on Soviet presence in West Berlin.

“K: I wanted to give you an answer if you would stop interrupting me (laughter). On the commercial business, no problem about equal status and so we are against discrimination.

“D: After one hour of thought, I thought you would come to this conclusion.

“K: See, you tell your Government you scored a tremendous victory.

“D: When I say equal they will say naturally.

“K: The last point—consulate general—we can be quite flexible about commercial enterprises. So, you can assume that most of the items on your list are acceptable. We want a little flexibility. And the other points on commitment and on the other two items—I have found a way of communicating there and I will have an answer before tomorrow evening.

“D: Fine.

“K: But the general sense which I gave you is almost certainly correct.

“D: Thank you very much. I always was thinking and deeply believed you were a very efficient man.

[Page 626]

“K: You also think that I am easily flattered.

“D: Oh, no, no, no, come on!!

“K: When we are both out of government service, which will be a lot later for you than me, I hope you will let me read the reports you send in on me.

“D: I can tell you before. When I get back I will tell you.

“K: I will probably talk to you tomorrow. If not, I will put it in an envelope and leave it for General Haig. In that case I would call you Saturday [March 27]morning.” (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 366, Telephone Conversations, Chronological File)

In a telephone conversation with Dobrynin at 3:32 p.m. on March 26, Kissinger addressed several issues outstanding from their meeting the previous evening.

“K: Look, I want to clean up the items from yesterday. I gave you one answer already. On the access formulation, we will review our formulations and will carefully compare them with yours to see to what extent they are, in fact, in accord.

“D: Our two Ambassadors could do that meanwhile.

“K: On the formulation we gave you and the formulation you gave back.

“D: Your last proposal?

“K: I will have that reviewed in Bonn and presumably our two Ambassadors can look at it.

“D: It’s better not to mention it for the time-being?

“K: This is something I can tell Vorontsov (while you are away?) The access question can be discussed by our Ambassadors. Secondly, on the other points, on the committees and on the party, I can only repeat what I said before—if we can make progress on access, we will make every effort to move toward your position. We don’t like the phrase ‘far enough.’ We don’t know what it means.

“D: You will use your formula?

“K: We will make every effort to move toward your position. We will—in the spirit of what I have already told you.” (Ibid.)

At 8:20 p.m. on March 26, shortly after Kissinger arrived in San Clemente, the two men reviewed by telephone how to proceed on Berlin over the next several weeks, when, due primarily to Dobrynin’s absence from Washington, they would not be able to negotiate through the confidential channel.

“K: I have great confidence in your influence in Moscow. You remember I got you an answer within 24 hours on Berlin.

“D: But in this there are more countries involved in this Congress. It is difficult for me to go and say wait one week to the others and I wil take up my business.

[Page 627]

“K: I understand. On Berlin. It is best thing we get Ambassadors started as soon as—

“D: I think on 16th of April?

“K: We proceed as we discussed yesterday.

“D: They will begin and when they have difficulty then our channel will be again taken up. You will not forget to send instructions.

“K: Yes I will. But you tell Abrasimov to be somewhat cautious at first until we see how the communications work out.

“D: As you proposed they will proceed.

“K: I will be in touch with our Ambassador. If we have any questions on the technical things we can get in touch with Vorontsov. Is that the way you want it done?

“D: Vorontsov. In some cases that is not good but in this case it is OK to go through him.

“K: I have had no answer from Rush.

“D: They will discuss and then they will talk—it is difficult for me to say for them. I think 2 grown up men can work out and agree on these administrative details don’t you?

“K: I think so. However, I have heard that Abrasimov is more difficult to discuss things with than you.

“D: He could not be worse than me. I am easiest fellow to discuss everything with.

“K: I will now see what influence you have in Moscow. Have a good trip.” (Ibid.)

In a special channel message on March 25, Kissinger briefed Rush on the discussion of Berlin during his meeting with Dobrynin.

“When Dobrynin read the requirement about a Soviet commitment on access he professed puzzlement. He said the Soviet introductory paragraph contained the precise language of the formulation on access which you had sent me. What do I say prior to his departure?

“Also, Dobrynin asked whether the questions raised on the Federal Presence and our reformulations exhaust our objections. Specifically do we agree in barring committee meetings? I told him that provided access formulations were acceptable, some limitations on committee meetings could be considered.

“As for the prohibition on political parties’ congresses in the Soviet draft I told him this was unacceptable in this form but that you might discuss this with Abrasimov provided again access formulations proved acceptable. I put this forward as a personal idea subject to correction before his departure.

“Can you let me have your views soonest since Dobrynin is leaving Friday [March 26] evening for Moscow and I for San Clemente.

[Page 628]

“Warm regards.” (Ibid., Kissinger Office Files, Box 59, Country Files, Europe, Ambassador Rush, Berlin, Vol. 1 [2 of 2])

In an attached note, Kissinger instructed Captain Holschuh: “This message should be delivered to Ambassador Rush by you in Berlin at approximately 1:00 p.m. Berlin time, Friday, March 26, 1971. Ambassador Rush will be at his residence in Berlin. You should then await a reply which will be prepared by Ambassador Rush before departing Berlin.” (Ibid.)

Rush replied by special channel on March 26:

“Sorry that this must be hurried but the three Ambassadors are with me as my guests and I can only leave them for a short while.

“On access I suggest you tell him that our respective formulations will be carefully compared and we will then see to what extent they are in accord.

“Your comments to him on the other points are excellent and represent all we can say just now.

“I shall send a further message to you Monday [March 29] when I return to Bonn.

“Best wishes for some rest at San Clemente.” (Ibid.)