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

I deeply appreciated President Nixon’s considerate cable2 and am glad to report that I am now completely recovered. The upsurge of my blood pressure on September 2, the doctor says, came about primarily from the fact that after the rapid time changes involved in the trip to the States I had no time to recover but at once had to plunge into trying to overcome the serious impasse that had developed on the Russian translation and the common German text. On September 3 my blood pressure was back to normal. But I stayed under the doctor’s supervision for a few days to be sure that everything was in order, which it is. The pressure has remained at its normal 130/80, as you may have noticed from the report in Berlin 1822.3

On returning from the States, I found a deadlock with regard to the Russian translation, and an absolute refusal on the part of the Russians, supported by the French, to have a common German text. [Page 919] As you know, the latter is essential for success of the agreement.4 I immediately got hold of Falin and discussed the problem with him. He said he would do his best with Gromyko, and on September first he came back with a Russian text which was acceptable provided we had a common German text based on the English version. He further agreed that the GDR would sit down with the FRG to work out a common German text. When the two groups got together the next day, as we had suspected, the GDR text was completely unacceptable and in essence incorporated what they wanted in the agreement rather than what is there.

After steady work by the two groups there still remained on the morning of September 2, when we were tentatively slated to sign, some nineteen differences, all of them quite important. Jackling, Sauvagnargues and I had a stormy session, at which Sauvagnargues, acting chairman by virtue of rotation, insisted that we were being very unfair to the Russians, that he would not join Jackling and me in putting any pressure on Abrasimov, and that if we insisted on a common German text the GDR would be in a position to postpone signing the agreement indefinitely. I, of course, took a very firm stand to the contrary, strongly supported by Jackling, and stated I would not sign until we had a common German text. Sauvagnargues stormed out of the room. A detailed account is given in Bonn 11011.5

I felt very badly that morning before the meeting and had arranged to see a doctor, whom I saw about noon. As soon as he found the condition of my blood pressure he ordered me to bed at once, and I cancelled the meeting for the 2nd without setting a new date. The press and even the Bonn government thought that this was a clever maneuver on my part to pressure the Russians and the GDR. In any event, at about 10:30 the next morning, when my blood pressure had returned to normal, the only two remaining problems of the joint German text, namely, the use of “Bindungen” instead of “Verbindungen” for “ties” in article II B and Annex II, and the use of the term “kein Bestandteil (konstitutiver Teil)” for “constituent part” had been accepted by the [Page 920] GDR after their representatives had returned to East Berlin for further consultations. I then agreed to sign, and as you know the ceremony took place at one o’clock that day. When Neues Deutschland published the text of the agreement on September 4, contrary to the agreed text, they used the words “Verbindungen” and omitted “konstitutiver Teil,” including, however, footnotes giving the official words used in the Russian, English, and French translations. When Bahr got in touch with them about this, they stated that the FRG had violated the agreement by publishing the fact that there had been a disagreement about these words and that this released the GDR from its agreement. At the meeting between Bahr and Kohl on September 6, Kohl was adamant and no progress was made. See Bonn 11013 and 11027.6

Fortunately, Bahr and Brandt agree that it is absolutely essential that the GDR live up to their agreement and use the correct terms. There are various ways of doing this without humiliating the GDR, but from a political as well as many other standpoints, it is essential that this be done. Kvitsinskiy has stated that the reason the GDR feels so strongly about these terms is that they think that at some time they can make claims with regard to the territory of the Western sectors and that the agreed terms would prevent them from doing this. At the same time, if Brandt or Bahr refused to make the GDR accept the terms now, the opposition would tear them apart.

I feel sure that under pressure from the Russians the GDR will have to yield.7

The position of the French with regard to this is inexcusable. In the presence of Kvitsinskiy, Lustig stated that the French were in complete accord with the Soviets, that there was no need for a common German text, and that one could not be secured. I have good reason to believe that Sauvagnargues told Abrasimov the same thing. The French also called in the British and American representatives in Paris, Washington, and I believe London, and informed them that the Americans in Bonn were being very foolish and that Brandt wanted to sign the agreement without a common German text but that the Americans would not permit him to do so. This was a complete falsehood, and Brandt knew that it would be a disaster not to [Page 921] have a common German text and has been unyielding on this point. We must give this attitude of the French serious thought as we approach other situations, such as the MBFR and the European security conference.
At our Ambassadorial lunch on August 23, Jackling suggested that the Foreign Ministers would sign the final quadripartite protocol. Abrasimov flatly disagreed and said that no matter what his position was at the time, he had been delegated by his government to carry out the entire negotiation and to sign all agreements, and that he would sign the final quadripartite protocol for the Russians and, of course, the other Ambassadors would, he assumed, sign for their governments. (Berlin 1717)8 I was very pleased to hear this, both from a purely selfish standpoint and from another reason with which you are familiar. I hope you agree and, if so, will arrange it accordingly when the time comes.
My trip to San Clemente and seeing the President and you as well as Martha and John Mitchell was the most delightful part of the entire negotiation and one that I greatly value. The President was most generous, as were you and John, and I consider it a great privilege to have worked with the President and you on this important agreement.
I have carried through with the press conference concerning President Nixon’s vital role in the Berlin talks and this received very wide publicity here in Germany. I hope the same is true in the States. My statement at the signing9 also followed this theme, as you know. Brandt came through handsomely in his letter to the President,10 it seemed to me. I also had a meeting with the CDU leaders along the lines that we discussed with President Nixon, and it seemed to go very well. Those attending were Rainer Barzel, Gerhard Schroeder, Bruno Heck, J.B. Gradl, Leo Wagner, and Werner Marx. (See Bonn 11010)11 Kiesinger and Strauss were away on vacation.

Warm regards.

  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 1830Z.
  2. See footnote 5, Document 326.
  3. Not found.
  4. In a September 7 memorandum to Rush, Dean argued that the problem with the German translation of the quadripartite agreement was not “an internal German matter” but “first of all a matter between the US and USSR.” If allowed to maintain a separate translation, East Germany would adopt a more rigid stance not only in the negotiations for a transit agreement with West Germany but also “in its general relations with the West and in its dealings with the Berlin problem in the future.” In the event that East Berlin remained intransigent, Dean recommended that Bonn discontinue the transit negotiations. “I make this point,” he concluded, “in full knowledge of the consequences.” (Department of State, Bonn Post Files: Lot 72 F 81, FRGGDR Discussion—#2)
  5. Dated September 6. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 28 GER B)
  6. Dated September 6 and 7, respectively. (Both ibid.)
  7. During a meeting on October 1, Bahr and Kohl issued a statement on the translation issue and began negotiations for the transit agreement. (Telegram 12292 from Bonn, October 1; ibid., POL GER E–GER W) According to two U.S. observers, the statement was “notable for its circumlocution.” (Sutterlin and Klein, Berlin, p. 157) Bahr and Kohl signed the transit agreement on December 17 in Bonn. For text, see Documents on Germany, 1944–1985, pp. 1169–1179.
  8. See footnote 6, Document 314.
  9. Rush forwarded the text of his remarks for the signing ceremony on August 31 in telegram 10778 from Bonn. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 38–6) The Department and the White House approved his remarks with two minor revisions. (Telegram 161413 to Berlin, September 1; ibid.)
  10. In the letter to Nixon on September 3, Brandt declared that the quadripartite agreement on Berlin was “an important step on the road to détente in Europe.” Brandt also expressed his appreciation for the level of cooperation during the negotiations, which “deepened still further the tried and tested friendship between our two countries.” (Ibid., POL 28 GER B) Nixon replied on September 13 that the agreement was “an important step which can mean a better life for the people of Berlin and greater peace and security in Europe.” “Your own strong and effective role,” Nixon continued, “was indispensable in the success of this effort.” (Ibid.)
  11. Document 328.