295. Telegram From the Mission in Berlin to the Department of State1

1658. Sub: Berlin Talks: August 17 Ambassadorial Session— Highlights.

Begin summary. The August 17 Ambassadorial session of the Berlin talks saw Ambassador Abrasimov pulling back on a number of points, particularly on access, where he had moved forward during the August 16 session. Thus, he withdrew from the word “guarantee” with regard to the Soviet commitment on access, insisted on a Russian translation of the word “unimpeded” which means only “without difficulties,” and insisted on both accompanying documents and on leaving open the possibility of spot checks regarding sealed freight conveyances. He also tried to evade a written Soviet reply to the Allied communication on FRG-Berlin ties. Soviet advisers told the US advisers prior to the meeting that Abrasimov had gone too far in the August 16 session and had been instructed to pull back. By the end of the day, however, Abrasimov had dropped some of the tough defensive [Page 843] positions he had taken up during the session. He produced a proposal on the use of FRG passports which, although not ideal, nonetheless represented some movement on the subject. After a tough rearguard action, he dropped the demand for inclusion of the phrase “after consultation and agreement with the GDR” in part IIA on access. The Ambassadors agreed to meet on August 18 for a further session. Although the August 17 session failed to bring this phase of the negotiations to a conclusion, owing essentially to Abrasimov’s bravado in the August 16 session in trying to outtrump the Allied Ambassadors and its consequences, it continues possible that this might take place in tomorrow’s session. End summary.
Prior to the opening of the August 17 session, Soviet advisers Kvitsinskiy and Khotulev indicated to the US adviser that Abrasimov had gone too far in the previous day’s drafting session. In particular, he would have to renege on the use of the word “guarantees” in connection with the Soviet commitment on access and would also be required to insist on checks of sealed freight conveyances in addition to accompanying documents for such shipments.
Abrasimov’s actual conduct when the session began thoroughly verified this forecast. When Ambassador Jackling as chairman of the day opened the session and turned to the open question of the proposed Russian translation of the word “unimpeded,” Abrasimov insisted on using the Russian wording which is the exact equivalent of “without difficulties,” rather than “unimpeded,” for which adequate equivalents exist in Russian. Abrasimov then insisted on retaining both the word “may” and the reference to “accompanying documents” in paragraph 2(A) of Annex I. It was clear from Kvitsinskiy’s earlier remarks that the resultant phrase “inspection procedures may be restricted to the inspection of seals” was intended by the Soviets to leave room for the possibility of GDR spot checks.
Ambassador Rush told Abrasimov he could not have it both ways. He would have to make up his mind between having accompanying documents, which obviously also in some circumstances might provide a basis for delay of traffic, and strictly limited checks in carefully specified circumstances. The Allies were not willing to accept a text on sealed conveyances which would make a mockery of the term. Further discussion of this point was without definite conclusion but the Allies made their point to Abrasimov.
The subsequent discussion focussed on the possible exchange of letters between the Allied Ambassadors and Ambassador Abrasimov, in which the former would send Abrasimov a letter enclosing a copy of their letter of interpretation on FRG-Western sector ties to Chancellor Brandt and Abrasimov would acknowledge receipt of the Allied letter and take note of it. Abrasimov first refused to drop Soviet [Page 844] language in the draft Allied text to Brandt which would have limited the subject material of Fraktionen meetings in Berlin to topics connected with the maintenance and development of the ties between the Western sectors of Berlin and FRG. Abrasimov then tried to renege on the idea of a written Soviet acceptance of the Allied letter, claiming that a registered receipt would be adequate. The disputed language in the letter to the Chancellor was left in brackets, and Abrasimov said he would reply concerning his own note in the following day’s session.

Language was adopted for part IID as follows:

“The representation abroad of the interests of the Western sectors of Berlin can be exercised as set forth in Annex IV.”

Ambassador Rush again brought up the Teltow Canal issue and Abrasimov indicated a slight amount of give. The question of the use of FRG passports by West Berliners traveling in the USSR was discussed at the luncheon of the Ambassadors. Abrasimov proposed that an insert be added to FRG passports when visiting the Soviet Union, with the following data:

First and last name and photograph, residence, the notation “issued by the Senat of the city of Berlin (West) in conjunction with FRG passport number (blank) based on the Four Power agreement dated (blank). With seal and signature of the Senat.”

This insert could be stamped in Soviet consulates with the visa authorizing the bearer, “as a resident of the Western sectors of Berlin to travel to the USSR and other friendly countries.” Although only the insert would be used for travel purposes, the FRG passport would be used to obtain consular services within the Soviet Union as required. Abrasimov said this was the ultimate Soviet concession. He again offered to call up Brezhnev and obtain his consent to this proposal on the spot. The Allied Ambassadors, inured to Abrasimov’s quick deal tactics, said they would consider the proposal and discuss it with the FRG.

Following lunch, Abrasimov pulled back from the “guarantees” language in part IIA. The Allied Ambassadors fought him to the wall concerning his desire, despite reneging on the word “guarantees,” to retain inclusion of the phrase “after consultation and agreement with the Government of the GDR” in part IIA. Abrasimov retreated step by step, displaying his broad histrionic range of temper tantrums and amicability. At the end, throwing up his hands, he said “God will see that I have fought on to the very end” and added that he was removing the formula on GDR consultation and agreement from IIA.

Abrasimov then showed his serious side. He said very explicitly that the Soviet Union would not conclude negotiations on operative part II(2) of the entire agreement without satisfaction on the establishment of a Soviet Consulate General in the Western sectors.

[Page 845]

Unless the Allied Ambassadors were willing to discuss this matter in serious terms, further meetings of the Ambassadors would be a waste of time. Abrasimov returned to this matter again and again during the lunch, using the same categorical and final terms.

During informal discussions over the past several days, the French and British Ambassadors have argued that the Allied Ambassadors should indicate a somewhat more favorable perspective on the Consulate General issue. They pointed out that the Allied Ambassadors had in recent discussions been so reserved and negative about the idea of a Consulate General that Abrasimov might not feel that there was a reasonable prospect of Allied agreement to it even if he went very far on agreeing to unresolved Allied interests in other fields. In view of Abrasimov’s strong approach on this matter and of these considerations, Ambassador Rush replied to Abrasimov that at this stage he could speak only individually since the agreed ground rule of this session was that the Ambassadors were not able to make final agreements for governments but only recommendations to them. If he considered it necessary to a satisfactory agreement, he might be willing to make personal recommendation to his government on this topic subject to the understood rule that all of the parts of the agreement were to be considered as one package, if the Soviets would give the Allies full satisfaction in the remaining outstanding points in the negotiations: resolutions of the open points on access, the question of the Soviet reply to the Allied letter of clarification, the issue of FRG passports, and other points raised thus far. In that event, it would also have to be agreed that a Consulate General would have only consular functions, would be accredited to the Commandants of the Western sectors, would have no functions in the field of Four Power rights and responsibilities and that its personnel would be limited to twenty and subject to Allied or German regulations, plus a series of other conditions already discussed by the advisers and other Ambassadors. Ambassador Jackling said he was willing to make a personal recommendation to this government on the same basis. Ambassador Sauvagnargues said he was willing to make the same recommendation to his government and did not expect much difficulty if the agreement was satisfactory.
At the end of the session, Soviet representatives hastily distributed a text of part II which indicated that the Soviets had definitively dropped the consultation and agreement with the GDR clause from part IIA and might be prepared to give satisfaction on the problem of Russian translation of “unimpeded.” (Details in septel).2
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 28 GER B. Secret; Immediate. Repeated to Bonn, London, Paris, Moscow, Budapest, Prague, Warsaw, USNATO, Bremen, Düsseldorf, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Stuttgart, and Munich.
  2. The Mission reported the details of the August 17 session the next day in telegrams 1659, 1660, 1661, and 1665. (All ibid.)