283. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon 1


  • The Berlin Negotiations
[Page 819]

The Senior Review Group met on August 6 and considered generally the state of the Berlin negotiations and, in particular, the issue of whether we should permit the establishment in West Berlin of a Soviet Consulate General.2 The memorandum at Tab B,3 which was prepared as a result of that meeting, sets out the factors involved.

The negotiations will enter the intensive phase with the Ambassadorial meetings scheduled to begin on August 10. While there has been substantial progress, there still exists many unresolved questions of critical importance. We could not accept an agreement based on the current Soviet position.

The most important issue for us is access. The Soviets have indicated that they are prepared to give a unilateral commitment to unimpeded access—a point on which they had refused to yield for twenty years. However, the Soviets are attempting to dilute greatly their commitment by demanding formulations which suggest that the access to Berlin is of the same character as general international transit across a third country (with all the attendant disadvantages for the traveler).

Aside from attempting to dilute the principle of unimpeded access, the Soviets have also attempted to ensure a large role for the GDR into the access process. If the Soviet position is accepted, the GDR will have the ability to block access and still be within the scope of the agreement. To guard against this, we consider it important that an Agreement include various safeguards such as (a) no provision for the GDR to make spot checks on the contents of sealed conveyances, and no GDR inspection of baggage on through trains and buses; (b) it must be clear in the Agreement that the GDR cannot arbitrarily deny visas for Berlin travelers, and that the GDR cannot arrest travelers for crimes which allegedly took place previously.

If we hold to these minimum requirements the resulting Agreement, with respect to access, should be a distinct advance over the regime of the past twenty years.

The general issue of the ties between Bonn and Berlin has been difficult, and there remain significant areas of continued disagreement. The West has had to accept at least part of the Soviet demands that Federal German presence in West Berlin be diminished. We have tried to arrange this in such a fashion that the Soviets impliedly acknowledge the legitimacy of some Federal presence and ties. The exact extent of [Page 820] the limitations on the FRG Bundestag committees and party groups, Federal courts and legislation, and the functions of Federal offices and Ministers in West Berlin still must be negotiated.

In negotiating this general issue, we have sought to include acceptance by the Soviets of the principle that the FRG represents West Berlin abroad. Although we have not yet reached common formulations, we have gained Soviet acceptance of FRG consular protection for West Berliners, as well as other manifestations of FRG “protection” for West Berlin. The Soviets have so far refused to accept the concept of FRG passports for West Berliners, because they argue that this would mean acknowledging FRG citizenship for Berliners.

In developing our positions in the negotiations on this general issue of Bonn/Berlin ties, we have been guided by the Germans as to which specific points are considered essential for a satisfactory agreement. Since these are essentially “German” interests, as opposed to access for example, this seems to be a sound course to follow.

Resolution of these outstanding questions will depend primarily on the Soviets, since we have very few further possible concessions. There is one, however, of great interest to the Soviets: Western concurrence in the establishment of a Soviet Consulate General in West Berlin. We have already offered them a sizable expansion of commercial activities and establishments in West Berlin, but so far we have refused a new official Soviet presence in West Berlin.

Our negotiating Allies appear to have come to the position that it will be necessary to agree to the Consulate General in order to obtain an otherwise satisfactory Agreement. Ambassador Rush is also convinced of this, but points out that there must be strict limitations on the activities of such a Soviet Consulate General.

The conditions set by the West for the operation of the Soviet establishment should include a strict limitation on the number of personnel (under twenty), an understanding that it will not perform political activities (exercising Four Power rights, for example) but only consular functions, and that the Consul General will be accredited to the Three Western Commandants.

All agree that there are inherent disadvantages in agreeing to this Soviet interest. Yet, there is also agreement that we should concur, if, and only if, all major Western objectives are thereby achieved. In this manner, the disadvantages entailed in the Consulate General will be balanced by the Western gains.

The NSDM at Tab A4 sets forth the key specific requirements for an Agreement, and authorizes the concurrence in a Soviet Consulate [Page 821] General only if necessary to obtain all our major objectives. The exact terms and conditions under which the Consulate General would be permitted to operate are also set out. The NSDM reflects the judgment of the Senior Review Group, and can serve as guidelines for the final phase of the Berlin negotiations.

If you approve, I shall issue the NSDM. It will be important for Ambassador Rush to have the benefits of these instructions before the negotiating session beginning on August 10.


That you approve the dispatch of the NSDM at Tab A.5

  1. Source: National Security Council, NSDM Files, NSDM 125. Secret; Exdis. Sent for action. Butterfield stamped the memorandum indicating that the President had seen it. In an August 9 memorandum to Kissinger, Downey explained that, “in accordance with your instructions, there is at Tab A a memo for the President setting out the state of the negotiations, the key issues, and the problem of the Consulate General.” (Ibid.) According to another copy, Downey drafted the memorandum to the President on August 9. (Ibid., SRG Files, SRG Meeting 8–6–71, Berlin Negotiations (NSSM 136))
  2. See Document 279.
  3. Attached but not printed is an interagency paper submitted by the Department of State on August 7 without clearance from the Department of Defense. Davis distributed the paper to members of the Senior Review Group on August 10. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 28 GER B)
  4. Document 285.
  5. The President approved this recommendation, which, according to an attached note, was done on August 10.