215. Message From the German State Secretary for Foreign, Defense, and German Policy (Bahr) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

I am going to the Bilderberg conference2 in order to see you there. I am considering whether it would be useful to spend a day at the State Department either before or after the conference. Please give me your advice.

Regarding the Soviet paper:3 on the basis of our experience, information and the reaction of Kohl, we look at it as a sign of the Soviet intention to come soon to a positive result.

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Judging by the starting point of the talks and the Soviet attitude until the last several weeks—to show concession on access routes only after agreement on Federal presence and to ignore foreign representation until the last phase of the negotiations—the Soviets have placed their entire position on the table. That in fact saves time.

It corresponds with the Soviet tactic to formulate maximal positions that at the same time provide plenty of room for negotiation, much as the Western position paper from the beginning of February.

In this situation, which the Soviet side sees as the beginning of a decisive phase, we think it would be best for the Western side to react accordingly, that is, positive in principle with many suggestions for change and not negative in principle with the acknowledgment of several positive points.


In its formulations, the Soviet paper also attempts, as much as the Western paper, to assert its own interpretation of the law. Although understandable, this contradicts the previous agreement to negotiate a practical settlement that does not disturb respective interpretations of the law.

We have a certain concern, because the attempt to recover the quadripartite responsibilities of 1949 for civilian access will fail. On the other hand, it is worth noting that the Soviet paper provides for a commitment of the four powers in case the German agreement does not function.


In my view, your remarks to Dobrynin4 go too far in several questions of form and not far enough in several questions of substance.

In order to make this clear in detail, I would need to prepare a revised version of the Soviet paper. Even that would also be insufficient without the opportunity to justify and discuss the proposed changes in detail.

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This is obviously not possible in this channel. We are working on a new draft which I will bring with me.

Anyway your intention was certainly correct to avoid involvement in a discussion of details with Dobrynin.


The discussion of details between Rush and Abrasimov will be useful. At the same time, the contact between you and Dobrynin should be reserved for decisions about political guidelines.

I will review our positions in detail with Rush after we have spoken with each other. This suggests limiting the meeting of four Ambassadors on the 16th to a general discussion and the attempt to obtain additional clarifications from the Soviets.

I will be on vacation for several days but remain within reach.5

Kind regards.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 60, Country Files, Europe, Egon Bahr, Berlin File [2 of 3]. Top Secret. The message, translated here from the signed German original by the editor, was sent through the special Navy channel in Frankfurt. No time of transmission is on the message; a handwritten note indicates that it was received in Washington at 1732Z. No evidence has been found to indicate whether Kissinger saw the message in San Clemente or after his return to Washington on April 5. For the German text of the message, see also Dokumente zur Deutschlandpolitik, 1971–72, Vol. 1, pp. 173–174.
  2. Reference is to the Bilderberg Group, a loose organization of prominent political and business leaders dedicated to improving relations between Europe and the United States, named after the Hotel Bilderberg in Oosterbeek, Holland, where its first meeting was held in May 1954. In a brief special channel message on March 30, Kissinger had asked Bahr: “Are you going to the Bilderberg conference? We should have a chance to talk there.” (Ibid.) The group met in Woodstock, Vermont on the weekend of April 24–25. See footnote 2, Document 224.
  3. See Document 201.
  4. Kissinger sent Bahr a special channel message on March 29 reviewing his meetings of March 22 and 25 with Dobrynin: “Dobrynin wanted to know whether we accepted everything except the items to which I objected. I replied that these points indicated a general attitude that details had to be handled by Rush. With respect to Federal presence, I told Dobrynin that we could not move until there was some significant progress on access. With respect to Soviet presence in West Berlin, I told Dobrynin that: (a) we would not agree to a Soviet Consulate General, (b) that we would agree to an increase of Soviet commercial enterprises, (c) that they could be established on a nondiscriminatory basis (except for the special position of the FRG). I agreed that Abrasimov and Rush could meet privately to discuss the details of the attached comments,” referring to the points raised by Rush in his message to Kissinger on March 21, Document 203. Kissinger concluded: “Please remember that on our side only Rush knows of this channel. Please let me have your comments soonest.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 60, Country Files, Europe, Egon Bahr, Berlin File [2 of 3]) For the full text of Kissinger’s message, including the attached “partial comments,” see Dokumente zur Deutschlandpolitik, 1971–1972, Vol. 1, Nr. 40, pp. 166–168.
  5. Kissinger replied by special channel on April 12: “I look forward to seeing you at the Bilderberg conference. We can then review the entire situation. It might be useful to come to Washington for a day, preferably before, since I may spend some time on vacation the week after. However, since your primary reason should be to visit the State Department, this should not be decisive. Look forward to seeing you.” (Ibid.)