330. Message From the German State Secretary for Foreign, Defense, and German Policy (Bahr) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

Independent from what is reported in official channels, the Chancellor would like to impart the following impressions to the President:“1) Brezhnev, who clearly acts like he is in charge, appeared seriously interested in what he called ‘balanced’ troop limitations. He asked me if I thought this interest is reciprocated on the American side.2

2) In general, Brezhnev reviewed American policy from a new perspective, spoke with respect of the President and of his hope to make progress on the reduction of tensions. This all sounded considerably more positive than one year ago.

3) In the course of mostly lengthy, very critical comments about China, Brezhnev mentioned the President’s upcoming trip there without the usual polemics.

4) Brezhnev was completely reserved in discussing the difficulties that have arisen in our talks with the DDR due to the German translation. He was clearly inoculated by the DDR, poorly informed on the details and anxious to avoid allowing me to engage him on the issue.”

I would like to add the following:

The Russian comments and questions on MBFR are almost word for word the same as several months ago on Berlin: we really want it but do not know whether the Americans really want it too.

The Russians made so many concessions on Berlin—in comparison to their position a year ago and still in their March paper of this year— that they would feel betrayed if the Moscow Treaty is not ratified.

Brezhnev will be reassured by his trip to Yugoslavia.3 His policy in Western Europe does not tolerate tensions in the Balkans.

I had interesting experiences with Brezhnev personally. The same goes for my insights into how the leadership structure functions. I [Page 923] would like to discuss this at our next personal meeting. Perhaps the annual meeting of the Nord-Atlantik-Brücke4 will provide an occasion to do so.

Warm regards.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 60, Country Files Europe, Egon Bahr, Berlin File [1 of 3]. Top Secret. The message, translated here from the original German by the editor, was sent through the special Navy channel in Frankfurt. There is no time of transmission or receipt on the message. For the German text, see also Akten zur Auswärtigen Politik der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, 1971, Vol. 2, pp. 1432–33.
  2. Brandt visited Brezhnev at Oreanda in the Crimea September 16–18.
  3. Brezhnev was in Belgrade September 22–25 for meetings with Yugoslav President Tito.
  4. Reference is to the Atlantik Bruecke, or Atlantic Bridge, a private nonpartisan association founded in 1952 to promote closer ties between West Germany and the United States.