286. Memorandum From Arthur Downey of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • The Berlin Talks: The August 11–12 Sessions

The August 11–12 discussions centered on Federal presence, inner-Berlin communications, access and the Final Quadripartite Protocol. The atmosphere changed markedly from the warm glow of August 10: on the 11th Abrasimov made deliberate attempts to tangle with the UK Ambassador which heated passions on both sides; during the shorter meeting on the 12th, the atmosphere was cooler and Abrasimov was less rough (though unyielding).

Federal Presence. Agreement was reached on the text of an Allied letter of clarification/interpretation relating to the new short-form provisions in the main Agreement on Federal presence. The interpretive letter, however, is itself not free from ambiguity. For example, it contains the sentence:

“Single Committees of the Bundestag and Bundesrat may meet in the Western Sectors in connection with maintaining and developing the ties between those sectors and the FRG.”

Ambassador Rush advanced the proposition that “single” committee meetings of several committees could be held simultaneously [Page 826] when they were dealing with the same subject matter or when it was otherwise appropriate. In response, Abrasimov agreed vaguely by suggesting that if there were meetings of the Finance and Budget Committees on matters connected with West Berlin, the Soviets would not protest. Abrasimov offered this on his word “as a gentleman”—but refused to include it in the clarifying letter.

On this issue, the major difficultyduring the two sessions was the question of the addressee and the extent of acknowledgment/acceptance. The question remains unresolved. Abrasimov would like the letter to be sent to the Chancellor and a copy sent to him, which he would at most tacitly note (no written pledge or acknowledgment). The Allies, on the other hand, wish the letter sent to the Soviets, coupled with an acceptance indicating agreement with the contents. State has subsequently sent instructions2 pointing out that a mere Soviet acknowledgment of receipt of an Allied communication would lack any binding legal effect. For it to have any binding effect, it must involve transmission of an original note to the Soviets and it must generate a positive response in which the Soviets concur in the understandings contained in the Allied note.

(This all sounds rather legalistic, but the fact is that the idea of resorting to an interpretive letter came about because there could be no agreement on the hard points in Federal presence. If we permit the Soviets to avoid all acceptance of these points, we have gained nothing more than a unilateral Allied assertion to which the Soviets for the time being have decided not to object.)

Final Quadripartite Protocol. After two days of discussion, a final text was agreed. It provides that the Four Power Agreement and the German Agreements enter into force simultaneously, and shall remain in force together. (The last point is rather unclear. By its terms, the GDR denounce its agreement with the FRG, and as a result, the Four Power Agreement would lose its force.) There is also a consultation provision. Most of the discussion related to whether a hierarchy of agreements was developed (the German agreements are termed “consequent” to the Four Power Agreement), and over the details of the consultation provision.

The detailed reporting cable (not the highlights)3 reveals that the French Ambassador gave up the guarantee provision: “each Government will take appropriate action in order to see to it that the abovementioned arrangements are applied.” This provision had been key to [Page 827] the Western side, since it committed the Soviets (however inadequately) to guarantee the GDR’s performance. Now, this concept is totally lost—unless one is prepared to engage in great linguistic gymnastics to discover a guarantee in the consultation provision. As far as we are aware, Ambassador Rush had not sought instructions with respect to dropping this major point.

Access. During the discussion on August 11, there was a sharp conflict between the Soviet and French Ambassadors over the question of including “in agreement with the GDR” in the body of the Agreement relating to the Soviet “commitment” on access. The French Ambassador noted that the Soviet access commitment was already weak, and to introduce the GDR would have the effect of placing in question Soviet responsibility for the entire access issue. Abrasimov remained unmoved. The French consider this a point of principle on which they will not yield.

Most time was spent on the general question of the extent of permissible GDR inspection and search. Abrasimov insisted on allowing spot checks and “infrequent” inspections. In the end, there seemed to be agreement that on sealed conveyances, inspection will be restricted to seals and accompanying documents. The question of persons and hand-baggage was more difficult. Ambassador Rush pressed hard for a firm statement that any exceptions from the no-search and no-inspection rule should be specific. He suggested that a list could be developed relating exceptions such as transport of military material, narcotics, and contraband. Final consideration of the point was put off until the August 16 session, after general but tentative Allied acceptance of an Abrasimov text containing unacceptable references to general transit abuses, GDR law and normal international practice.

Inner-Berlin communications. A text was agreed for the annex relating to entry into East Berlin, enclaves, and general communications. The major issue had been over the exact terminology of the areas involved. The accepted formulation calls for improvements in communications between West Berlin and those areas bordering it (i.e., East Berlin and contiguous GDR) and those of the GDR not bordering it. The conditions under which West Berliners might enter East Berlin shall be “comparable” to those applying to other persons entering those areas. (It is unclear whether these refer to the same conditions as FRG residents, or to the normal conditions for any international traveler.)

Soviet presence. This issue will be formally discussed on August 16, but there is a cryptic report that it was reviewed at lunch.4 Abrasimov [Page 828] evidently suggested that he and his successor would be prepared to offer a sort of consular protection in the GDR for Allied nationals. He also proposed that he could reduce the Soviet demand for a Consulate General to a “mere” Consulate if the Western side would drop its demands for Soviet acceptance of FRG passports.

The Ambassadors are planning to proceed on August 16 with consideration of access, and Bonn/Berlin ties, and then turn to Soviet interests. They apparently intend to continue the daily sessions through the week as necessary.

We have learned informally from State that Ambassador Rush intends to come to the US for consultations on August 23, and then to return to Berlin in order to sign the Agreement on August 27 or 31.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 692, Country Files, Europe, Germany (Berlin), Vol. IV. Secret. Sent for information. Kissinger initialed the memorandum, indicating that he had seen it; according to an attached form, the memorandum was “noted by HAK” on August 18.
  2. Telegram 147244 to Bonn and Berlin, August 12. (Ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 28 GER B)
  3. On August 11 the Mission reported the highlights of the day’s session in telegram 1603 and details in telegrams 1607, 1608, 1614, and 1615. The Mission reported the highlights of the August 12 session the same day in telegram 1619 and the details the next day in telegram 1622 and 1623. (All ibid.)
  4. The “cryptic report” evidently refers to information on the August 12 luncheon forwarded in telegram 1619 cited in footnote 3 above. A detailed report on the luncheon conversation is in telegram 1636 from Berlin, August 14. (Ibid.)