255. Editorial Note

On June 15, 1971, President Nixon hosted a “stag dinner” in honor of German Chancellor Brandt at the White House from 8:11 to 9:32 p.m. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Central Files, President’s Daily Diary) In a June 15 memorandum for the President’s File, Lee Huebner of the White House staff reported that “this was a very quiet, brisk, uneventful dinner.” The President toasted the “closeness of German-American relations” and hoped that “the meeting will plant a few seeds so that we can soon harvest the new crops of progress.” According to Huebner, Brandt then gave in his toast a “remarkable review” of global affairs from the reduction of tensions in Germany and China to recent developments in Southeast Asia and East Pakistan. Acknowledging the “burden of U.S. responsibilities,” Brandt offered German support, including a degree of “cooperation commensurate with our common interests.” Huebner concluded: “Altogether this is one of the best toasts from a visiting leader during this Administration.” (Ibid., White House Special Files, President’s Office Files, Memoranda for the President, Beginning June 13, 1971)

Nixon expressed a different view of Brandt’s toast in a conversation with Kissinger in the Oval Office the next morning. “It was a pretty goddamn shameful exercise,” the President said. “He had in a gratuitous business about that we hope you bring an end to the war to Vietnam. He had in a statement about the suffering in Pakistan in there. You know, Pakistan. And he had in nothing in particular in regard to, really the grace notes, about this is the second time we have received him and nothing about how we stood by him.” Although Kissinger offered to contact German State Secretary Bahr, Nixon continued to complain: “Brandt really owes it to us. He owes it to us to say something frankly complimentary about the President. Now, I get up in all of these toasts and I praise for his—and we got back very little in return. You understand that.” Kissinger: “Yeah.” Nixon: “We get very little in return. Now this fellow owes us a great deal. He owes us a great deal. He’s got to know it. We stood up on this Mansfield amendment. We stood up. We didn’t embarr—we should have embarrassed him more than we did on the Mark. We—the Berlin thing isn’t going to go without us. But he’s playing this kind of a game, Henry.” (Ibid., White House Tapes, Recording of Conversation between Nixon and Kissinger, June 16, 1971, 10:39 a.m.– 12:07 p.m., Oval Office, Conversation 522–2)

During the conversation, Kissinger called Bahr from the Oval Office to discuss Nixon’s reaction. Speaking English “because it’s a little easier for me,” Kissinger reported: “[The President] had the impression that yesterday the Chancellor in his toast was really playing very much for his domestic situation without saying one graceful thing about, you know, his reception and what support you’ve been getting [Page 750] from us. And he [Nixon] felt that the remarks about Vietnam were certainly very ambiguous.” “We didn’t ask you to say anything about it one way or the other,” Kissinger continued. “And I just wondered, Egon, as a friend, whether it isn’t, wouldn’t be good if he [Brandt], when he met with the press today and with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he could make some positive statements about the relationship that has developed.” “Appalled” and “somewhat alarmed” by Kissinger’s report, Bahr replied in German that Brandt had been afraid that any reference in his toast to the “intensive cooperation” between the United States and West Germany might be taken as an allusion to the “backchannel” negotiations. Kissinger, however, reiterated his request for a statement: “If the Chancellor could find an opportunity while he is in this country in talking to the press to make clear that we have been helpful on, in the negotiations and in your general policy and that we have been working together, well, it would remove this slight ambiguity that he detected yesterday.” Bahr asked Kissinger to assure Nixon that Brandt had certainly not intended his remarks on Vietnam to imply any criticism of U.S. policy. (Ibid., Recording of Conversation Between Kissinger and Bahr, June 16, 1971, Time Unknown, White House Telephone, Conversation 5–92) Kissinger briefly reported Bahr’s side of the story to Nixon. (Ibid., Recording of Conversation Between Nixon and Kissinger, June 16, 1971, 10:39–12:07 p.m., Oval Office, Conversation 522–2)

During a meeting that afternoon, Nixon asked Indian Foreign Minister Singh, who had commended Brandt for a “good statement” on East Pakistan, whether the Germans were giving any economic assistance. Nixon then told Kissinger afterwards that Brandt was “flying around and lecturing us about Vietnam and lecturing us about Pakistan,” but “what the hell are they doing?”

Nixon: “He’s doing something that he oughtn’t to be doing. Henry, the Germans have got so goddamned many problems. He ought to stay the hell out of the India-Pakistan. He ought to stay the hell out of other things.”

Kissinger: “We’ll say it in Bonn. Why the hell—For all he knows, Mr. President—”

Nixon: “Yeah.”

Kissinger: “—you have your own problems with India-Pakistan, as indeed you do.”

Nixon: “Yeah.”

Kissinger: “It’s totally inappropriate. If you started holding a speech on a whole range of foreign policy issues in Bonn, everyone would say how inappropriate that is.”

Nixon: “Suppose I go over there and start talking about our, talking about the problems of Mexico and Nicaragua.”

[Page 751]

Kissinger: “Well, these still would be your problems but supposing you talked about Poland and Czechoslovakia who are, who are countries closer to them with whom they have relationships. It was totally inappropriate. And our—”

Nixon: “He wasn’t that bad really except that it just seemed to me to be dumb and presumptuous.”

Kissinger: “Yes.”

Nixon: “You know the use of their—”

Kissinger: “Well, he wrote it for his own people. Well, I gave Bahr hell.”

Nixon: “What did you just put it on? On the basis that you [unclear]—”

Kissinger: “What, I said, I said quite frankly a number of people, I’ve asked people what their reaction was. I can’t judge it, but a number of people said they thought it was not appropriate in the presence of the Democratic Senate Majority Leader [Mansfield] and a lot of others to be so relatively cool about the President and not to say any graceful thing and to say things which unintentionally give the impression that you are slapping at the Vietnam policy. And as far as India-Pakistan is concerned that is just a very delicate matter which we should each do separately. Well, he said he was sorry. He was he was amazed that anyone could interpret this, and he said that every other public statement now is going to be carefully scrutinized with that in mind. And they need us badly enough.”

Nixon: “Look, it’s just as well to shake Brandt up if he comes over here and gets the news people and he talks to Humphrey and all the left-wingers and the socialists and so forth. Let me say incidentally, as I said, I believe Rush on anything else except that I think that he is, that he is misjudging Brandt’s ability to hang on. I don’t think this man has it. And—”

Kissinger: “Well, the trouble—He is right in that if he dies or when he dies or if he, that the Social Democratic Party would split up. From that point of view he’s right. He’s the only one that they can all agree on.”

Nixon: “I agree.”

Kissinger: “As between him and the Christian Democrats, unfortunately if we get him the Berlin agreement his chances rise. That is the one price. But then let’s see what the Russians are coming up with. If they kick us in the teeth on the summit, our incentives go down again.”

Nixon: “Yeah. In a sense [unclear]—”

Kissinger: “Although it is a pretty—The reason why we are helping him is, is because that it is a pretty good agreement we are getting. [Page 752] And for us to turn it down—If it were a lousy agreement we could turn it down on substance.”

Kissinger concluded, “The worst tragedy, that election in ‘69 was a disaster.” “If this National Party, that extreme right wing party, had got three-tenths of one percent more, the Christian Democrats would now be in office.” (Ibid., Recording of Conversation Between Nixon and Kissinger, June 16, 1971, 3:41–4:30 p.m., Oval Office, Conversation 523–4) The editor transcribed the portions of the conversations printed here specifically for this volume.