22. Telegram From the Embassy in Germany to the Department of State1

9728. Subj: Ambassador Rush’s Initial Call on the Chancellor.2

[Page 63]
The Ambassador paid his initial call on Chancellor Kiesinger today. Also present were Carstens and the DCM.
The Chancellor began by extending his hearty congratulations on the success of Apollo.3 He said he was particularly appreciative of the President’s telephone call to him, expressing thanks for the message of congratulations which the Chancellor had sent.4 The Ambassador characterized the Apollo achievement as something to which all mankind had contributed. He also said he felt the expenditure on the space program would prove itself fully justified. Space and nuclear energy have great possibilities for the future of mankind.
After the Ambassador told the Chancellor that the President very much looked forward to their meeting in Washington, the Chancellor said that he held the President in high regard. In addition to his other qualities, he had the calmness and serenity which are essential to the head of the most powerful nation in the world. The Chancellor said, in connection with his Washington visit, he was delighted that the question of offset had been disposed of, recalling the unfortunate experience of Chancellor Erhard in his visit to President Johnson.5 The Chancellor said that US-German relations were in excellent shape and that close ties with the US were the top priority of his government. Polls have shown that 80–85 percent of the German people share this view.
European unity is a second major objective of the German Government. There is also cause for encouragement on this front. Pompidou certainly will prove to be more flexible. The Chancellor said he [Page 64] approved the French proposal for a European summit. He felt also that European unity was very much in the interest of the US Government.
On East-West relations, the Chancellor said that he had no illusions. He felt Soviet attitudes were basically unchanged. Such activities as negotiating for a natural gas pipeline from the Soviet Union to Germany and other bilateral cooperation projects will not change the basic problem. Some German political leaders visiting Moscow (an obvious reference to Scheel and Genscher) may have illusions, but he did not share them. The best the German Government can do in its dealing with the Soviet Union is to go on being as friendly as possible and try to lessen Soviet antagonism toward Germany. The Chancellor expressed his great interest in the SALT talks and hoped the President would tell him something about his plans in this regard.
The Chancellor also said that a recent American journalist visitor (Alsop) had asked him “When is Germany going to start throwing its weight around?” Others in the American press have referred to “strong man Strauss” and characterized the Chancellor as being weak. The Chancellor said he trusted the American Government understood that he was not “weak” but would take a firm line in those areas where he could and had no illusions in particular on East-West relations.
In conclusion, the Chancellor reiterated that the main tasks of his government were in order of importance: (A) the maintaining of strong ties with the US, (B) building a united Western Europe, and (C) at least weakening the antagonism of the Soviet Union. The main aims, therefore, of German policy coincide very closely with those of the US. Anti-Americanism was certainly non-existent in Germany. The Chancellor said he had once told de Gaulle that his strong anti-American comments had contributed greatly to the decline of de Gaulle’s popularity in Germany. de Gaulle had replied that he was not personally anti-American, but that he had to make such comments in order to bolster the national identity feeling of the French people, who otherwise would have been swallowed up in any amorphous Atlantic community.
The Ambassador replied that the goals and objectives of the German Government as described by the Chancellor did indeed coincide very closely with those of the US. The President attached the highest importance to Germany in its general relations with the outside world. The Ambassador also welcomed the offset agreement, referring to its timeliness in meeting the criticism of the inward-looking minority in the US who want to cut back our overseas commitment. These people think that the US should concentrate its efforts on solving domestic problems, ignoring the fact that they can only be dealt with in a world setting.
The Chancellor replied that Germany of course had a great interest in US efforts to solve its domestic problems. US success in doing [Page 65] so was important to the whole world and particularly to America’s friends and allies. In this context, the Chancellor said, he was very much interested in the President’s proposals for coping with the problems of a modern society, particularly the problems of youth and the impact of modern technology. He said he was not a “cultural pessimist” and did not share the views of those who held that the more modern technology progresses, the less the possibility for the individual human being to realize his potential. He said he thought it was very important for political leaders to concentrate their attention on problems like youth and the impact of modern technology. Such problems should not be left to a few “excited sociologists.”
The Ambassador agreed and said that it is most important that political leaders concern themselves with what has gone wrong with our society and has led to such things as the alienation of students at the universities. The Ambassador also agreed that the more modern technology expands, the greater the opportunities for the individual, but there are also dangers. The technical possibilities of mass media can lead to mass reactions.
As for European unity, the Abassador confirmed the support of the US, but pointed out that it will of course require time. American history itself demonstrates this. What is required is steadfastness of purpose. On East-West relations, the Ambassador agreed that we are, whether we like it or not, engaged in a power struggle with the Soviet Union, but at the same time we should miss no opportunity to broaden our understanding of what it is that divides us and seek solutions. The Chancellor said he agreed wholeheartedly with this sentiment.
Comment: The atmosphere of the conversation, like that with Brandt yesterday,6 was warm, friendly, and relaxed.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 17 US–GER W. Confidential. Repeated to USNATO, USEC, Berlin, London, Paris, Moscow, Rome, The Hague, Luxembourg, and Brussels.
  2. For a German record of the meeting, which indicates that it was held from 10 to 10:45 a.m. on July 24, see Akten zur Auswärtigen Politik der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, 1969, Vol. 2, pp. 842–845.
  3. Reference is to the historic Apollo 11 mission, which took off on July 16 and, after the first lunar landing on July 20, returned to Earth on July 24.
  4. Nixon talked briefly with Kiesinger by telephone on July 21 at 2:37 p.m. (President’s Daily Diary; National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Central Files) No substantive record of the conversation has been found. Kiesinger’s message is dated July 20. (Ibid., NSC Files, Box 753, Presidential Correspondence File, Germany, Chancellor Kiesinger)
  5. The new offset agreement was signed on July 9. For text of the joint statement announcing the settlement, see Department of State Bulletin, August 4, 1969, p. 92. In a July 15 memorandum, Kissinger briefed the President as follows: “We have concluded a two-year, $1.5 billion offset agreement with Germany. Both sides were well satisfied with the result and the atmosphere was extremely cordial throughout the negotiations. The new agreement is far better than its two predecessors because: (a) More than half of the offset is for German military purchases in the U.S. (compared with 10–15 percent in the recent past). (b) The maturities on the German loans to us are for 8–10 years (compared with the previous maximum of 41/2 years). (c) We will get concessional interest rates of 31/2–4 percent on these loans (compared with market rates in the past, which would mean at least 6 percent now). The settlement should help significantly the atmosphere for the visit of Chancellor Kiesinger.” Nixon marked this paragraph and wrote “great job” in the margin. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 9, President’s Daily Brief, 10–17 Jul 69) Regarding the negotiations that preceded the agreement, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. III, Document 24.
  6. An account of the discussion between Rush and Brandt is in telegram 9618 from Bonn, July 23. (Ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 17 US–GER W)