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


Last night, Bahr, Falin and I had a long and useful discussion (from 8:00 p.m. until after midnight) in my residence. Falin, whom I met last summer in Moscow, adopted throughout a low-key, non-controversial negotiating stance of give and take. The discussion of our respective points of view was very helpful to Bahr and me in clearing up many ambiguities of the Russian position, and in turn Falin evidently understood for the first time much of the reasoning underlaying our position. A continuation of this type approach could lead to substantial progress and possibly a final agreement in the near future.

Falin speaks adequate English, and thus all of our discussion was in English. The difference between Falin’s and Abrasimov’s personality [Page 700] and style and the elimination of the language barrier represents an improvement difficult to overestimate. Falin is thoroughly conversant with his subject matter, as of course is Abrasimov, but has a high degree of flexibility of approach in contrast to the rigid, polemical approach of Abrasimov.

The basis for our discussion was that neither side would attempt to impose its concept of legal position on the other and that to achieve this neutral language would be employed in the general provisions. Another cardinal principle is that our decisions are tentative and subject to withdrawal or change in the light, for example, of any objections or suggestions you may have or of possible reactions from the French and British when the issues reach them.
With these underlying principles, we went through the non-substantive parts of what I shall call the Bahr draft, as sent to you with my message of April 30.2 A detailed review of these provisions resulted in the tentative conclusions set forth at the end of this message.
Last week Bahr pressed me hard to consent to giving Falin at once the substantive parts of the draft, stating that the Chancellor very much wanted this to be done. I explained to him that this was not advisable, but should be delayed until after the working level meeting, for several reasons; namely, (a) I had told you that this would not be done until after that meeting, (b) by waiting until after the meeting we will have the benefit of additional input from it and at the same time will be in a factual position of having outlined orally the conceptual approach of the Bahr draft to the British and French before we give it to the Russians (something that might some day be useful in the event there should ever be a leak with regard to our talks with Falin), and (c) the passage of a week to ten days could make virtually no difference with regard to going forward to final agreement. Bahr accepted this, but again last evening, with Falin present, urged that we forthwith give Falin the substantive portions. Once again I refused, and Falin remained silent concerning this issue.
The next meeting of us three will be on Wednesday evening, May 19, following the working level meeting. At that time, unless you think otherwise, we would plan to start giving to Falin, either section by section or, perhaps preferably, in their entirety, the substantive parts of the Bahr draft. This would seem to be justified in view of the negotiating stance of Falin last evening, clearly indicating his desire to push forward to an agreement that would be satisfactory to all parties.
We must soon determine the best method of feeding the results of our talks into the negotiations. There are various ways of doing this, [Page 701] one way for example being that the Chancellor, through Bahr, could advance them to the three powers as representing the desires of the FRG. They would then be fed into the regular channels of the three powers. I shall discuss this question fully with Bahr soon and send you our recommendations.3


The first issue that arose was whether to use the term “Western sectors of Berlin,” “Western Berlin” or “Berlin (West).” Falin contended that “Western sectors of Berlin” violates their concept of the status of the city, since it indicates acceptance of our view that all of the city is still under Four Power control and that the Eastern sector is not a part of the GDR. Our position is basically (a) that the use of the words “Western sectors” is necessary to establish clearly that these sectors are not a separate political entity and (b) that their use does not prejudice the Russian legal concept. Falin contended, with justification, that both the Allies and the FRG have repeatedly referred to the area as “West Berlin” or “Berlin (West)” and that our argumentation therefore was not entitled to great weight. The term “West Berlin” is not acceptable to the FRG, who are pressing for use of the term “Berlin (West)” and have been using this term quite a bit lately in public statements and otherwise. We agreed that the issue was subject to further discussion but that tentatively the term “Berlin (West)” would be used so that we could go forward to the other parts of the agreement.

Comment: Since the Russians have consistently taken such an adamant position with regard to this throughout our discussions, and since in my opinion the issue is not of major importance to us, I would [Page 702] recommend that at the proper time we accept use of the term “Berlin (West).” In my opinion this would not prejudice our position.

A. Preamble. This remains unchanged.

B. Part I. General Provisions.

Paragraph 1. The words “in the area of their jurisdiction” were deleted, and “within the subject matter of this agreement” was inserted instead, so that this subdivision 1 would read as follows:

“1. The four governments are of the unanimous view that, within the subject matter of this agreement, the use or threat of force must be excluded and disputes shall be settled solely by peaceful means.”

Paragraph 2 is unchanged.

Paragraph 3. The words “and as provided for herein and in the other agreements referred to herein” were inserted so that this paragraph would read as follows:

“3. The Four Powers are of the unanimous view that the situation which has developed in this area, irrespective of the difference in legal positions, and which is provided for herein and in the other agreements referred to herein shall not be changed unilaterally.”

C. Part II.

It was concluded that for purposes of balance all of the introductory parts of the opening clauses of the subdivisions of Part II should conform. Giving effect to this, the following changes were made:

Paragraph 1. The word “respected” was deleted.

Paragraph 2. As we are talking in the agreement only about civilian traffic, not military traffic, it was agreed, for purposes of simplification and conformity, that the words “surface,” “by road, rail and waterways” and “carried out unhindered and on a preferential basis” would be deleted. The “carried out unhindered and on a preferential basis” will be inserted in the text of Annex II.

Paragraph 3. The term “Berlin (East)” disturbed Falin for the same reasons as mentioned above, namely, this would imply that Berlin (East) is not a part of the GDR. Accordingly, we adopted the phrase “to Berlin (East) and the districts of the GDR,” striking the words “environs” and “city.” Since the GDR is divided into districts (similar to the FRG being divided into Laender) and since Berlin (East) is not a district, this language could be interpreted by us in the manner that we desire, namely, that “Berlin (East)” is not modified by “of the GDR,” while it could be interpreted by the Russians as being modified by “of the GDR.”

In addition, the words “communications and the exchange of small areas” and “arranged for” were deleted and the words “related items” were inserted.

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Paragraph 4. The word “settled” was deleted.

As so modified, Part II in its entirety would read as follows:

“Part II. Provisions Relating to Berlin (West)

  • “1. The relations between Berlin (West) and the Federal Republic of Germany shall be in accordance with the provisions set forth in the letter from the governments of the three powers to the Government of the USSR (Annex I).
  • “2. Civilian traffic between Berlin (West) and the Federal Republic of Germany for all persons and goods shall be in accordance with the provisions set forth in the letter from the Government of the USSR to the governments of the three powers (Annex II).
  • “3. Travelling of permanent residents of Berlin (West) to Berlin (East) and the districts of the G.D.R. and other related items shall be in accordance with the provisions of the letter from the Government of the USSR to the governments of the three powers (Annex III).
  • “4. Problems relating to the representation abroad of the interests of Berlin (West) shall be in accordance with the provisions of the letter from the governments of the three powers to the Government of the USSR (Annex IV).”

D. Part III. Final Provisions.

This remains unchanged.

E. The Annexes.

Only the initial clauses of the annexes, terminating with the colon, were given to Falin. The conclusions were as follows:

Annex I. He objected to the term “after consultation hereon with the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany.” However, on our insistence that this is necessary to balance Annex II’s reference to the GDR, he withdrew his objection.

Annex II. This, as you know, is a key issue in controversy, for it is essential in this case that the undertakings be by the Russians and not by the GDR. Falin said that in your discussion with Dobrynin you had accepted the Soviet formulation of this initial clause, but I told him that this obviously was an error of communication, for you and I had been in close touch and you had given Dobrynin the same formulation which we were discussing. He did not press the point, and while he said that he might want to suggest some changes in the formulation, he could insure that it would be acceptable to us.

Annexes III and IV were unchanged.

F. Final Act.

The Final Act was basically satisfactory, except that we concluded that the agreements resulting from the negotiations between the GDR and the FRG with regard to details of access and between the FRG and [Page 704] the Berlin Senat with regard to details of inner city movement should be included in a wrap-up clause, so that the Four Powers would have contractual responsibility for their provisions. As you know, we have been urging this, while the Russians have been resisting it, and I was surprised that Falin tentatively accepted the concept without too much argument. We further concluded that paragraph 3 should be clarified and made more precise, but this was left for another time since the hour was quite late.

  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; Exclusively Eyes Only. The message was sent through the special Navy channel in Frankfurt. No time of transmission appears on the message; a handwritten note indicates that it was received in Washington on May 11 at 2230Z.
  2. Document 230.
  3. In a special channel message to Kissinger on May 11, Bahr reported that the meeting had been “encouraging,” particularly since Falin had adopted an “unpolemical and constructive attitude.” On the assumption that Rush would report details of the discussion, Bahr continued: “The main problem at the moment: how should the result be introduced in London? Could you possibly give Hillenbrand some guidelines? I would prefer any method that would leave the process to the Americans themselves but am ready, of course, to offer any necessary cooperation.” These excerpts were translated from the original German by the editor. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 60, Country Files, Europe, Egon Bahr, Berlin File [2 of 3]) For the German text, see also Akten zur auswärtigen Politik der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, 1971, Vol. 2, p. 744. Kissinger replied by special channel on May 12: “I am delighted that at last we are making progress. I look forward to hearing about your next meeting. As for introducing it in London I think it would be best to have you present your concept. Rush will support you. If you have other suggestions we are open-minded. I prefer not to give guidelines to Hillenbrand until after the meeting.” (Ibid.) For their memoir accounts of the exchange, see Kissinger, White House Years, pp. 828–829; and Bahr, Zu meiner Zeit, pp. 362–365.