253. Editorial Note

On June 14, 1971, Assistant to the President Kissinger met Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin in the Map Room at the White House from 5:11 to 5:47 p.m. to discuss several issues, including the Berlin negotiations. (Record of Schedule; Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1968–76) According to the memorandum of conversation, the two men had the following brief exchange on Berlin:

Dobrynin then said that in view of the upcoming conversations with Brandt and Bahr, he wanted to let me have some formulations on [Page 737] Berlin (Tab I) which the Soviet side would find acceptable, and he hoped that I would use my influence with the Germans. I said I would have to study them. I also said I would talk to Bahr and Rush in great detail and have a brief meeting of Rush, Dobrynin and myself set up for Monday [June 21].” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 491, President’s Trip Files, Dobrynin/Kissinger, 1971, Vol. 6 [Part 2])

The informal note (Tab I) that Dobrynin delivered contained proposed language on the following “principal unsettled or partially unsettled” questions: 1) the “non-belonging” of West Berlin to West Germany; 2) the “curtailment” of West German political presence in West Berlin; and 3) the area in East Germany that residents of West Berlin would be allowed to visit. The note then addressed the “Final Act”:

“At the last meetings of the Ambassadors the Western side submitted new formulations of the Final Act, in which once again the idea is put forward about sanctioning by the Four Powers of the arrangements of the competent German authorities. Such an approach would undermine the agreement already reached among the Four Powers to the effect that an agreement on West Berlin should not lead to acquisition by any of the participants in the negotiations of additional rights or to prejudicing somebody’s rights and should not affect political and legal positions of the sides.

“Some time ago the American side approached us as regards ensuring the effectiveness of the possible agreement on West Berlin. The Soviet side made a move to meet the wishes of the US Government in this question of principle. We, as is known, suggested, that ‘in those cases if facts of violation of one or another part of the agreement occurred, each of the Four Powers would have the right to draw the attention of the other parties to the agreement to the principles of the present settlement for the purpose of holding, within the framework of their competence, due consultations aimed at eliminating the violations that took place and at bringing the situation in conformity with the agreement.’ We then received a reply that the text of the Soviet formulation is in principle acceptable to the United States.

“We are convinced that the solution suggested by us fully ensures reliability and effectiveness of the operation of the agreement in all its parts.”

After proposing language on the principal provisions of the Final Act, the note continued:

“While noting the usefulness of the meetings in Bonn on the tripartite basis, we would like at the same time to draw your attention to the fact that their results still have not found due reflection in the negotiations in Berlin.

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“In particular, at the experts’ meeting on June 9, the Western side submitted formulations on the preamble of the agreement which repeat a thesis unacceptable to us, about the so-called ‘area of Berlin’ and do not contain an important provision concerning the necessity of taking into account the existing situation, which contradicts the understanding reached in Bonn.

“Obviously it is necessary to take some measures aimed at closing the gap which exists here.” (Ibid.)

President Nixon met Ambassador Rush in the Oval Office from 6:12 to 6:45 p.m. to prepare for Nixon’s discussion the next day with German Chancellor Brandt. (Ibid., White House Central Files, President’s Daily Diary) Kissinger, who also attended, briefed the President immediately before the meeting.

Kissinger: “If you could thank him [Rush]. All he knows is the Berlin part of the negotiations. He doesn’t even know about the summit. He just knows that for reasons of your own—”

Nixon: “Yeah.”

Kissinger: “—you want to be forthcoming on Berlin in a separate channel.”

Nixon: “Right.”

Kissinger: “But if you could thank him for the discretion and delicacy with which he’s handled it—”

Nixon: “That’s right.”

Kissinger: “That would be very much appreciated.”

Nixon: “That’s about all I want to do at this point, you know.”

Kissinger: “He had a number of technical issues. I don’t know whether you want to get into the degree of Soviet presence.”

Nixon: “Jesus Christ, I don’t know anything about it.”

Kissinger: “I can—if you tell him to discuss them with me, and if there’s any problem we can come back to you. You don’t need a long meeting, as long as you thank him for the—”

Nixon: “Yeah.”

During the meeting with Rush, Nixon confided that Berlin was only part of “a game at the very highest level with the Russians,” including the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks. “I’m not going into the details,” he insisted. “I know nothing about Berliners.” After praising Rush for his skill as a negotiator, Nixon asked about the prospects for an agreement.

Nixon: “But you agree that we’re going to get an agreement, don’t you?”

Rush: “Yes, yes.”

Nixon: “You do?”

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Rush: “Yes. [unclear exchange]”

Kissinger: “And they’ve made very significant moves, don’t you agree?”

Rush: “Yes.”

Nixon: “Let me say this, that the, it’s going to come. The other thing is that I’d like to get the agreement, [unclear], for other reasons, because, you know what I mean, you can’t move without it. You’ve got to stay until the damn thing is finished. So it will be an enormous achievement in itself, but when you see this thing open, you will know in a month—no, 60 days—how much would you say, Henry we’ll know whether things are going to come off?

Kissinger: “What was that? Within the next three months.”

Nixon: “The next thirty days to sixty days.”

Kissinger: “By the end of August.”

Nixon: “By the end of August. Then we’ll either want to delay it, Berlin, as an end in itself, or we go ahead on Berlin as part of a larger package, as part of a larger package, which will have historic significance far beyond Berlin.”

Rush: “Yes.”

Nixon then emphasized the importance of linkage in his calculations. Although the Russians were almost always “pathological” about the concept, both sides understood that “everything is linked.” “Berlin is something they very much need from us,” he explained, “a hell of a lot more than we need it from them.” “We’re going to make them pay. That’s really what we’re trying to do here.” Nixon asked Rush for guidance on his meeting with Brandt.

Nixon: “What should he hear from me when I see him tomorrow? [unclear] What does he want to say to me? What should I say to him? What should I say to him? What do you want me to say to him?”

Rush: “Well, he is optimistic now about the progress in the Berlin talks. I mean that—”

Kissinger: “But that’s on the basis of your channel.”

Rush: “That’s right.”

Kissinger: “So this can’t be mentioned in the presence of anyone except, you know, Brandt or Bahr or you or myself.”

Rush: “That’s right.”

Nixon: “Yeah. Oh, he only knows—”

Kissinger: “Only Brandt and Bahr know.”

Rush also reported, however, that the “very close cohesion” on the Allied side had been upset by the French Ambassador in Bonn, Jean Sauvagnargues. Sauvagnargues, for instance, recently suggested that the Allies accept that West Berlin “is not a part of the territory or state [Page 740] structure of the Federal Republic.” Rush had rejected the proposal as a “derogation of all that has been done.” Kissinger agreed that to treat Berlin as a third state was “what the Russians want.” Kissinger then mentioned the latest Soviet proposal.

Kissinger: “Dobrynin came in today with 4 pages of language which, on various issues, but there’s no sense bothering the President with it, including this one—”

Rush: “Yes.”

Kissinger: “—and it’s very close to the French formulation.”

Rush: “Yes.”

Nixon: “It seems to me that we can’t—can never do that.”

Kissinger: “They have done a whole series of things since we started the separate channel. They started it hard-line and they’ve really gone on most of it two-thirds of the way—”

Rush: “Yes.”

Kissinger: “—to our position. I think they’ve made the bigger concessions.”

Rush: “They’ve made the bigger concessions.”

As the meeting ended, Nixon and Kissinger reiterated their praise of Rush. The President also reminded the Ambassador: “And remember it’s a bigger play.” (Ibid., White House Tapes, Conversation Between Nixon and Rush, June 14, 1971, 6:10–6:45 p.m., Oval Office, Conversation 519–15) The editor transcribed the portions of the conversations printed here specifically for this volume.