331. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1


  • The BrandtBrezhnev Meeting in the Crimea

Chancellor Brandt spent some 16 hours in conversation with Brezhnev during their recent meeting. Brandt wrote to you immediately upon his return, and his special adviser, Egon Bahr, gave Ambassador Rush a special briefing.2 The translation of Brandt’s letter is at Tab A.

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Brandt’s report of his conversations borders on the euphoric. In fact, however, on most of the issues—mutual force reductions (MBFR) and a European security conference (CES)—Brandt seems to have largely gone along with Soviet views. In response to Brezhnev’s pressure for an early CES, according to a [less than 1 line not declassified] report [less than 1 line not declassified],3 Brandt agreed that there should be a preliminary conference (which is a Soviet view). He told Brezhnev that this was in accord with a discussion he had had with you on this subject.4

On MBFR prospects Brandt seems to have implied that MBFR could await the convocation of a CES. This contrasts with the US position that the issue of force level reduction is independent of a CES and should proceed as soon as possible without regard to the possibilities for convening a CES. Brandt also seems to have secured Brezhnev’s support for the position the Germans have been pressing within NATO that national forces (German) should be reduced in addition to stationed (US) forces, and that the area of reductions should be wider than both Germanies.

Brezhnev applied very heavy pressure on Brandt on the question of the ratification of the Moscow treaty. (According to a [less than 1 line not declassified] report,5 Brezhnev advised Brandt that his Chancellorship would be wrecked if the treaty is not ratified expeditiously; Brandt said it would be within five months.) On the one issue which Brezhnev could have been helpful to Brandt—the impasse over the inner-German Berlin negotiations—he refused. Indeed, Brezhnev’s advisers warned the Brandt party not to raise it again, lest Brezhnev become extremely angry.

The upshot of this seems to be that increasingly Brandt’s position is mortgaged to Brezhnev, that Brezhnev will demand further installments in each succeeding phase. In this contest, Secretary Rogers points out in the memorandum at Tab B6 that Brandt has allowed the impression to grow out of the meeting of widespread agreement and growing friendship between the FRG and the USSR, which in turn will permit the Soviets to exert greater influence in FRG policy.

There have been some interesting comments on Brezhnev’s personality and range of interests. Brandt found Brezhnev to be more relaxed [Page 925] , and self-confident than during their meeting in Moscow last year. Brandt was impressed with Brezhnev’s much greater grasp of the subject matter (last year, for example, he relied heavily on prepared material and frequently read from it, but this year he only occasionally consulted the few papers in evidence). It emerged from the conversations that Brezhnev has assumed a particular responsibility for foreign relations with Western Europe and the US, whereas Kosygin concentrates on the Near East, Algeria and Scandinavia and Podgorny on Asia.

Similar impressions were received by the French Ambassador in Moscow. In a highly unusual if not unprecedented initiative, Brezhnev called in the French Ambassador to brief him (for conveyance to Pompidou) immediately following his return from the Crimea. In the two year interval since the Ambassador had seen Brezhnev, he appeared a “changed man.” He was now thoroughly confident, relaxed and poised—even to new tailoring and manicuring. The Ambassador said that two years ago Brezhnev acted and dressed like a chief engineer of a factory, but now he behaves and looks like the owner.

Tab A

Letter From German Chancellor Brandt to President Nixon 7

Mr dear Mr. President:

The discussion with Secretary General Brezhnev left me with the impression that he is anxious to emphasize his interest in further détente in Europe. This is expressed in Soviet readiness to discuss complicated questions such as troop reductions and that in concrete terms and with the qualification that they must not lead to disadvantages for any of the parties concerned.

The Soviet side obviously has not yet developed a perfect conception, not even for the criteria to be followed. This could put our alliance into a favourable position to influence Soviet thinking. I attach [Page 926] particular importance to the conference to be held on this issue in the framework of NATO early October.8

At least Mr. Brezhnev has commented in a positive sense on our view that a troop reduction should include also national forces, that it should not be limited to the territory of the two states in Germany, and that it should be balanced.

According to my impression the Soviet Union continues to attach great importance to convening a conference on security and cooperation in Europe; it has realized that the actual questions of security cannot be left aside, and it is also aware that careful preparations are necessary. My host was interested to learn whether the Federal Republic would raise special objections during the preparation of such a conference. I have, of course, based my answer on what has been agreed in the Alliance.

Mr. Brezhnev apparently wanted above all to make sure whether the German-Soviet treaty of August last year would indeed be ratified, which I have answered in the affirmative.

The Secretary General particularly emphasized that both German sides should overcome their present difficulties—about which he had been informed in a one-sided and incorrect way—by themselves. He stressed his interest in speedy negotiations. The Soviet Union would coordinate directly with the three Western powers the signing of the final protocol to the agreement of September 3, 1971.

I hope that the bilateral questions pending between the Federal Republic of Germany and the Soviet Union, such as trade and cultural agreements, may now be negotiated without the inclusion of West-Berlin being put into question, as it had been the case until now.

You will be interested, dear Mr. President, that Mr. Brezhnev addressed himself on several occasions to the American policy, and that in a different sense than he did a year ago. Certainly, at that time he also underlined that he did not wish to drive a wedge between us and our allies, especially our principal ally. This time, however, he expressed, at least by his words, his interest in the best possible relations especially with the United States. He mentioned this both in discussing MBFR and in general.

Without polemics he mentioned your planned trip to Peking, and that in the framework of an otherwise thoroughly polemical exposé on China. In a few days Foreign Minister Scheel will have the opportunity [Page 927] to talk with Secretary Rogers about this and some other aspects of my conversations on the Crimea.9

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your letter of August 3, 197110 which I have read with great interest. I deem it necessary to harmonize carefully the political efforts undertaken by the different countries in the Alliance with a view to reducing the confrontation and to bring about a balanced stability. We would see our own role in such a cooperative coordination clearly determined by the priority, that the development in Europe has for us. At the same time we are aware that important decisions cannot be made without giving consideration to the developments in other parts of the world. I am confident that the intensive coordination, especially in the relationship between our two governments on different levels, which has been so fruitful, will remain a stable element of our foreign policy efforts.

Accept, Mr. President, the expression of my highest consideration.11

Willy Brandt
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 753, President’s Correspondence File, Germany, Chancellor Brandt, 1971. Secret. Sent for information. A note attached to the memorandum indicates that the President saw it on October 4. In a September 20 memorandum forwarding a draft to Kissinger, Sonnenfeldt commented: “I have not tried to critique the Soviet visit for the President, but from our point of view it is pretty bad.” Kissinger wrote in the margin: “You should critique it along these lines soonest.” (Ibid.) According to another copy, Downey drafted the final memorandum to the President on September 24. (Ibid., Box 686, Country Files, Europe, Germany (Bonn), Vol. X)
  2. Bahr met Rush on September 19 to deliver an “advance account” of the discussions between Brandt and Brezhnev at Oreanda. On the basis of Bahr’s account, Rush reported: “Brandt was impressed by the extent to which Brezhnev took the American posture on the Berlin negotiations as evidence of overall American seriousness in negotiations with the Soviets. The atmosphere of the talks was relaxed and cordial. The only negative aspect of the trip was Brandt’s failure to get Soviet support for the attempt to resolve his difficulties with the GDR on the translation of the Berlin quadripartite agreement.” (Telegram 11676 from Bonn, September 20; ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 7 GER W)
  3. A copy of the report is ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 686, Country Files, Europe, Germany (Bonn), Vol. X
  4. Reference is presumably to the meeting between Nixon and Brandt on June 15; see Document 254.
  5. See the report cited in footnote 3 above.
  6. Dated September 21; attached but not printed. Another copy is in the National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 7 GER W.
  7. Secret. The text is a courtesy translation provided by the German Embassy on September 20; the original letter in German, dated September 19, is ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 743, Presidential Correspondence Files, Germany, Chancellor Brandt, 1971. A stamp on the translation indicates that the President saw it. For the German text of Brandt’s letter, see Dokumente zur Deutschland politik, 1971–1972, Vol. 1, Nr. 94, pp 386–388.
  8. Reference is to a meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Brussels October 5–6. The meeting, attended by Deputy Foreign Ministers, focused primarily on proposals for mutual and balanced force reductions (MBFR).
  9. Rogers met Scheel on October 1 in New York during annual consultations for the United Nations General Assembly. A memorandum of the conversation was transmitted in telegram 3111 from USUN (Secto 39), October 3. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 7 GER W)
  10. In the letter Nixon briefed Brandt on “some of the considerations involved in my decision to accept the Chinese invitation” to visit Beijing in February 1972. (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 753, Presidential Correspondence File, Germany, Chancellor Brandt, 1971)
  11. In his response, forwarded by Kissinger via special channel message to Bahr on October 6, the President informed Brandt of his conversation the previous week with Gromyko. “In commenting on his presentation,” Nixon reported, “I called attention to the Berlin agreement as the most significant development of the past year, since it was such a sensitive and delicate issue involving the conflicting interest of the two sides. I stressed the need to bring it to a satisfactory conclusion.” Nixon also noted that he told Gromyko that the United States could not begin preparations for a European security conference until “the Berlin agreements were fully completed and implemented.” (Ibid., Kissinger Office Files, Box 60, Country Files, Europe, Egon Bahr, Berlin File [1 of 3])