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


Falin returned from Moscow yesterday, and Bahr and I had a long meeting with him last evening. He stated that he had reviewed everything with Gromyko and that there were no serious problems except that Gromyko had turned down the use of FRG passports by West Berliners in Russia. Falin said that he had transmitted our arguments with regard to the legal and political positions to Gromyko but without favorable results.

In my last cable2 I outlined our reply to the legal position of the Russians about this. We also pressed the point that it would be distinctly contrary to the spirit of the agreement if the Russians and the Three Powers could not agree on this very vital issue and if Russia went her own way. Bahr took a hard line on this, supported by me, and finally flatly stated that the issue was a political one of great importance and that the Chancellor would not accept any agreement unless the question were favorably resolved. It was left with Falin this way, and he is going back [Page 799] to discuss the matter with Abrasimov and Gromyko. In actual fact, this issue is not important to us but does have real political value to the Brandt government, particularly in the light of the fact that an agreement cannot be secured without the Consulate General and this would be a balancing political item. Therefore I think Bahr took the right approach tactically, although the approach may have to be changed.

Ambassador Sauvagnargues has taken a very strong position against the phrase in part II A and part II C “after consultation and agreement with the Government of the GDR.” He contends that this dilutes the Soviet responsibility and has made his position fully known to Abrasimov and Falin and to the Allies. The French approach is a highly formalistic one, where form takes precedence over substance, and Sauvagnargues had become emotionally deeply involved over this issue. He has no objection to the same phrase being in annex I and annex III, which, of course, are integral parts of the agreement. I have pointed out to him that in fact the phrase does not dilute Russian responsibility but enhances it by making all these sections of the agreement consistent and imposing on the USSR a stronger responsibility with regard to insisting that the GDR live up to the agreement. This would become even more valuable as the GDR is increasingly accepted into the community of nations. However, thus far he is adamant and evidently has the full support of his government. I discussed this last night with Falin, and he is going to consider whether they will take out the phrase in order to placate the French.
Falin, speaking for Gromyko, raised various other suggested changes, some of which were adopted and others not, and Bahr brought back some changes from the Chancellor.3 An outline of the nature of these and the way they were handled is attached.4 Also attached is a draft-minute [Page 800] to be initialed by the four parties with regard to the Consulate General and other aspects of Soviet presence in the Western sectors.5
In the meetings starting August 10 we can probably expect the Soviets to follow their usual tactics of escalating demands the nearer we get to what would seem to be an agreement. (The passport issue does not fall in this category, since, as I outlined in my last message, Falin, after turning it down, only very reluctantly agreed to take it up again with Gromyko.) The Soviet ability to resort to such tactics will, of course, be enhanced by the fact that the French in particular will be difficult to handle in the meeting because of their deep commitment to various words and phrases and other formalistic things, although with regard to substance I would not expect too much serious trouble from them. There is a possibility, however, that instead of coming out with a complete agreement next week, it would at some point become tactically advisable to have an adjournment. If such should appear to be the case, I shall be in touch with you.
I shall be in Potsdam on Friday to map out strategy with Falin, Abrasimov, and Kvitzinskiy. Bahr and I tentatively have another meeting with Falin Sunday evening.6
Many thanks for your cable and for your action with regard to the Consulate General.7 It is quite clear that this is a top priority item and an essential element of a satisfactory agreement. I hope that it will be possible for me to have formal approval before it is needed during next week’s sessions. In any event, unless you advise me otherwise and provided we secure the agreement substantially as it now stands, I will consent to the Consulate General, subject, of course, to the fact that the entire agreement is ad referendum.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 59, Country Files, Europe, Ambassador Rush, Berlin, Vol. 2. Top Secret; Sensitive; Exclusively Eyes Only. The message 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 2226Z. According to an attached note, the message was disseminated only to Kissinger and Haig.
  2. Document 274.
  3. In a special channel message to Kissinger on August 6, Bahr reported on the passport issue: “The Chancellor instructed me on the 6th to maintain our position. We are faced with the following situation: both sides reiterate that the consulate general and Federal passports are necessary for conclusion of the agreement. For us, it would be conceivable to have an agreement without a consulate general and passports. I consider it possible that both of these points will remain open during the next several weeks. We should have the nerve then to proceed with this position another week later into the next round. I am not sure in my assessment, whether we are dealing with a definitive, negative decision of the Russians on the passports or with their typical poker-playing in the final round.” This excerpt was 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 [1 of 3]) For the full German text of Bahr’s message, see Dokumente zur Deutschlandpolitik, 1971–1972, Vol. 1, Nr. 79, p. 347.
  4. In the attached outline, not printed, Rush reported, for instance, that the language on Federal presence had been revised “at Gromyko’s suggestion and represents what we wanted all along but what he had refused to give before. What changed his mind I do not know.”
  5. Not printed; for the final text of the minute, including several revisions and additions to the attached draft, see Documents on Germany, 1944–1985, pp. 1142–1143.
  6. August 6.
  7. See footnote 4, Document 274.