210. Message From the Ambassador to Germany (Rush) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

As you have heard through our cables, Abrasimov cancelled the private meeting with me on Thursday, March 25 and also the private meeting to be held with Ambassador Sauvagnargues on the 26th. Evidently, and hopefully, he was called off by his superiors in Moscow. I am still puzzled as to why he sent our Berlin office the message quoted in my back channel to you of March 24.2 It may have been that he wished to torpedo the talks between you and Dobrynin. How much Abrasimov knows about these talks I do not know. He made no reference to his message or his cancellation of the April [March] 25 meeting when I saw him on the 26th.
Early in the morning of March 25, I received through Sutterlin the following telephonic message from Secretary Rogers:

“The Secretary wants the Ambassador to know that, while this may not come up during his conversation with Abrasimov today, the Secretary met Dobrynin at a recent dinner of the Gridiron Club. In conversation the subject of Berlin did come up in a general way. If Abrasimov refers to this, the Ambassador should only listen and report.”

This, as you doubtless know, was subsequently confirmed by cable (State 051636).3 This discussion is now generally interpreted here as being the negotiations going on in Washington referred to by Abrasimov.


As you know, Abrasimov did table the Russian draft of proposed agreement on April [March] 26. I am sorry I was not able to go into more detail in my message to you of that day4 for use that evening with Dobrynin, but unfortunately, as Chairman of the day and as host at lunch, I was tied up with the other three Ambassadors until very late in the afternoon, too late for me to send you a full analysis for use that evening. In fact, with regard to access there is very little I could have added to the objections I raised concerning the Russian draft in my message to you of March 21.5

We will now make a very careful analysis of the Russian draft and will, of course, be sending cablegrams on this as soon as the analysis is completed by us, working in collaboration with the FRG as well as the British and French.

Bahr, probably as suggested by Brandt, is developing a very frank and friendly relationship with me and is very fully, and accurately I believe, telling me what he is doing and the pertinent thinking and actions taking place within the Federal Government about Berlin and other matters. I am anxious to preserve this relationship and accordingly I am keeping it as secret as is feasible.

At a meeting on March 24, he told me he had been designated by Brandt to work secretly with Barzel to arrange a joint approach with regard to federal presence in Berlin, particularly with regard to committee and Fraktionen meetings.6 The next day, March 25, he called me early in the morning and came to my residence in Bad Godesberg at noon just before I was to leave for Berlin. He said he had been contacted by the Soviets and requested to meet with Falin in Berlin that evening, that he would do so, and that he would inform me afterward of the results if I wished. I agreed to meet him in Berlin after his talk with Falin.7

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Bahr came to my house in Berlin at 11 p.m. the same night and stayed for about an hour.8 He told me that because he had been designated by Chancellor Brandt as the official in the Federal German Government with chief responsibility for Berlin matters and because Falin had been assigned supervisory responsibility for Berlin issues by the Soviet Government and was thus in a way Bahr’s counterpart, he had been meeting with Falin quite frequently to discuss Berlin and other issues.

On the present occasion, Bahr said, Falin told him that Abrasimov would table a draft Berlin agreement in the next day’s Ambassadorial meeting. He gave Bahr a copy of the draft and reviewed its contents with him.

Falin and Bahr also discussed the FRG-Soviet civil air negotiations, now stalled over the question of inclusion of Tegel as an intermediate landing point. Falin stated that landings in the west sectors were a Four Power matter and could only be decided by the Four Powers together.

According to Bahr, there was a discussion of the BahrKohl talks, in which Bahr developed the agreed western line that he would not discuss Berlin access questions until there had been prior Four Power agreement on the fundamentals of Berlin access.

Falin had told Bahr of Falin’s difficulties in connection with presenting his credentials in Bonn, stating that his wife had almost lost her life and might have died within an hour had she not been operated on [Page 634] when she was. Falin said he was trying to decide whether to come to Bonn now to present his credentials briefly and then to return to the Soviet Union to be with his wife, or whether he should wait until mid-April when she was feeling better to present his credentials. In the course of the conversation, Falin criticized Abrasimov for lack of diplomatic subtlety and used other language indicating the existence of friction between the two.

Warm regards.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 59, Country Files, Europe, Ambassador Rush, Berlin, Vol. 1. Top Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only. The message was sent through the special Navy channel in Frankfurt; a handwritten note indicates that it was received in Washington on March 29. The message was apparently forwarded to Kissinger in San Clemente.
  2. See Document 207.
  3. Kissinger wrote and underscored in the margin: “Get me these cables [sic].” In telegram 51636 to Bonn, March 27, the Department reported: “During meeting devoted largely to other subject, Dobrynin raised Berlin and asked whether Secretary had anything new to convey to Gromyko, whom Dobrynin would be seeing during 24th Party Congress. After Secretary replied in the negative, Dobrynin said Soviet side would be presenting new formulations during Ambassadorial meeting which represented movement toward Allied positions. Soviets hoped these would be studied with care by U.S. Government. Dobrynin then asked whether Secretary saw any need at this particular time to elevate level of discussions. Secretary replied that this possibility had been mentioned previously, and we would be prepared to consider matter if we get to a point where we felt this would be helpful. Dobrynin said he fully understood.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 28 GER B)
  4. See Document 208.
  5. Document 203.
  6. During the March 24 meeting, Bahr also told Rush that the West Germans “would accept any arrangements the Allies finally reach with the Soviets” on Soviet presence in West Berlin. “The only step they definitely would not approve would be the opening of a Soviet consulate general in West Berlin.” (Telegram 3531 from Bonn, March 24; National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 28 GER B)
  7. In a March 26 message to Kissinger, Bahr reported on his discussion with Falin. The text, as translated from the original German by the editor, reads: “1) Falin, whom I met yesterday evening in West Berlin at his request, gave me the Soviet paper on Berlin with several clarifications. I informed Ken Rush in detail last night. 2) I will make a statement on it for you in the coming days. 3) Falin, whose wife nearly died from illness, now wants to be in Bonn immediately after Easter. 4) His primary point: the Western powers would not be able to receive rights in a Berlin agreement that they do not already have. 5) He expressed doubt regarding the American intention to reach a conclusion. I contradicted him. If Moscow gains the impression that Washington is going to be serious, he would be prepared to conduct negotiations directly in Bonn with Rush. 6) To his inquiry regarding the talks with Kohl, I answered that we wanted the four powers finally to deal with and give priority to the ‘access’ issue. Surprisingly, he did not disagree. Yours.” (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 60, Country Files, Europe, Egon Bahr, Berlin File [2 of 3]) For the German text of Bahr’s message, see Akten zur Auswärtigen Politik der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, 1971, Vol. 1, pp. 508–509. See also Bahr, Zu meiner Zeit, p. 359.
  8. This account of Rush’s meeting with Bahr is based largely upon a March 26 letter to Hillenbrand in which Rush also explained: “I am sending you this information by letter not only because it is sensitive information, but because I believe that if it were to leak back to the Germans it might jeopardize a relationship with Bahr which has been developing well recently following our exchange on the evening of March 7 about his desire to negotiate on a transit agreement with Kohl. Since that time, we have seen each other privately on several occasions. Bahr has been much more open with me than he has previously, on the last occasion coming quite clean regarding his relationship with Falin and the frequency of contact involved. I believe these contacts with him may be useful to us and don’t want to risk them.” (Department of State, EUR Files: Lot 74 D 430, Department of State—Hillenbrand) Hillenbrand replied in an April 13 letter to Rush: “I think you are wise to cultivate the relationship with Bahr. For better or worse he obviously has the Chancellor’s ear and through him our own views can be communicated and taken into account as the Chancellor and Bahr develop their thinking further on Eastern policy and Berlin. Bahr clearly finds it in the German interest to be sure there is no serious conflict between the United States and the FRG. I find this reassuring since it indicates we would be able to exert a restraining influence relatively easily if this should ever become necessary.” (Ibid., EUR/CE Files: Lot 85 D 330, Amb/DCM Correspondence 1971)