333. Memorandum From Helmut Sonnenfeldt of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • Gromyko’s Reverse Linkage on Berlin and the President

Gromyko has now several times affirmed the Soviet intention to withhold final consummation of the Berlin Agreement until the FRG ratifies the Moscow Treaty. Something like this had been anticipated some time ago but then did not materialize although Wehner apparently among others things envisaged Brandt’s Soviet trip as a way of smoking out Brezhnev and persuading him not to establish this reverse linkage. None of the German reporting on the Crimean meeting indicates that the issue as such came up (though Brandt did inconclusively raise the possibly related problem of East German foot-dragging on the second-stage agreement).2 If this is correct, Gromyko’s move a bare two [Page 931] weeks after Brandt’s visit is another instructive commentary on Soviet diplomatic practice.

But, more important, this turn of events should also be seen in the light of the President’s intimate personal association with the triumph of the Berlin Agreement, which, as you know, the Soviets have at the highest level repeatedly gone out of their way to record with approbation. What they are now saying is that the President’s initiative cannot be consummated until a third power, the FRG, delivers on a new prior condition.

In addition, the President’s personal role involves a version of history—and form of reinsurance—which has been assiduously fostered by his Ambassador in Bonn (who incidentally failed fully to comply with his instructions to tone down the more Bülowesque3 adulations of the President which he had written into his oration for the initialing ceremony.)4 What this means, if the Russians persist, is that in order to realize the enormous investment of his personal prestige in the Berlin Agreement the President is maneuvered into first delivering the German ratification of the Moscow Treaty. This, of course, puts him squarely between the SPD and the CDU. Brandt, at any rate, can hardly be blamed after all that has been said of the President’s role, if he tries to save his own political life by arguing that a vote against the Moscow Treaty is a vote against the American President.

Various “compromises” have been bruited about, such as a simultaneous ratification of the Moscow Treaty and signing of the Final Quadripartite Protocol. Apart from the fact that this would probably require renegotiation of the text of the Protocol, it does not let the President off the hook since Brandt had earlier stated with the utmost clarity that the Berlin Agreement must be signed, sealed and delivered before the Moscow (and Warsaw) treaties move to ratification.

I should think that the Russians should be told in no uncertain terms, and soon, that as far as we are concerned there can be no extraneous conditions to the completion of the Berlin Agreement, which the Soviets negotiated with us not the Germans; and that therefore their commitment is to us not the Germans.

It should not be excluded that the whole German-Berlin policy remains a matter of some controversy in Moscow and that the reverse linkage may have been accepted by Brezhnev to placate some of his skeptics (though as we know he also is not above trying some last-minute exploitation of an advantageous tactical position. The Soviets, [Page 932] after all, never stop negotiating.). I should think that if Brezhnev is made to realize that his present Berlin tactics can be an obstacle to his further objectives he might have an incentive to overrule his doubters or stop trying to sell the Berlin Agreement yet another time, whichever the case may be.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 692, Country Files, Europe, Germany (Berlin), Vol. V. Secret; Eyes Only.
  2. During a meeting with Irwin in Bonn on October 7, Brandt revealed that he had, in fact, discussed reverse linkage with Brezhnev in Oreanda. (Telegram 2042 from Berlin, October 7; ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL GER W–US) In an October 12 memorandum to Kissinger, Sonnenfeldt commented: “One point which emerges from this episode is yet further evidence that Brandt is not candid with us in his dealings with the Soviets. In this case, Brandt gave us no suggestion—at least in any of the communications I have seen—that Brezhnev even hinted of reversing this linkage.” “Of course it is possible that Brandt assumed that he had convinced Brezhnev not to establish the new Junktim,” Sonnenfeldt continued, “and so there was no need to tell us how close it was. Thus, either Brandt exercised some very poor judgment in assessing Brezhnev, or he deliberately withheld important information from us, presumably in the hope that we would rush to his aid.” (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 692, Country Files, Europe, Germany (Berlin), Vol. V)
  3. Reference is to Bernhard von Bülow, German Chancellor (1900–1909), who was well known for his adulation of Kaiser Wilhelm II.
  4. See footnote 9, Document 329.