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


  • Additional Material for Bahr Meeting

State has sent over a paper (Tab A) containing, first, a series of questions relating to Brezhnev and Soviet policy and, second, comments and talking points relating to treaty ratification issue.2

In regard to the latter, you should note that Bahr has twice talked to our Political Counselor in Bonn, Jock Dean, concerning possible White House intervention with Barzel.3 The purpose would be to persuade Barzel to get two CDU Land Minister Presidents (Kohl and Stoltenberg) not to vote against the treaties in the Bundesrat, thereby removing the need for an absolute majority in the Bundestag.

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If Bahr does indeed raise such a proposition, it has to be seen against the background of the President’s statements to both Brandt and Barzel that we consider the ratification issue an internal German one.4

The US has only two ways in which to influence the outcome in Bonn: (1) to urge the Germans to ratify and (2) to urge the Soviets to make additional concessions which take the wind out of the sails of the CDU/CSU. The first is much the trickier since, however confidential, it will leak and eventually place responsibility for the treaties on us, not the Germans. It would of course also constitute a departure from what the President told Barzel and Brandt.

A variant of (1) would be to paint a grim future for East-West relations in the event the treaties fail. But we cannot have an interest in creating self-fulfilling prophecies in this respect. The Soviets should not be absolved of responsibility for their actions ahead of time; and we should not assume that the conjunction of interests that have led the Brezhnev coalition to its present policies would automatically lapse with the failure of the German treaties.

I think our best posture right now is to await the results of the B-W5 elections on April 23. If the SPD/FDP squeaks through to be able to form a government (one current poll suggests this), there will be no problem. Even if the CDU wins out but with the FDP still running reasonably well, chances are that Brandt can hold the majority in the Bundestag. The most difficult case would be the one where the CDU wins and the FDP is so badly trounced that its Bundestag members begin to run for cover in the CDU. This could lead either to new federal elections, or a constructive vote of no confidence replacing Brandt, or simply defeat of the treaties.

In any case, we should wait to take stock on April 24, meanwhile telling the Soviets to keep anteing up.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 686, Country Files, Europe, Germany (Bonn), Vol. XI. Secret. Sent for action. Another copy indicates that it was drafted by Hyland. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 270, Memoranda of Conversations, 1968–77, Chronological File) According to an attached routing form, Kissinger noted the memorandum on March 29, i.e. after his meeting with Bahr. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 686, Country Files, Europe, Germany (Bonn), Vol. XI)
  2. Attached but not printed at Tab A is a briefing paper forwarded under cover of a memorandum from Eliot to Kissinger, March 27. The paper included the following discussion on ratification: “It has been our policy to avoid direct involvement in the Bundestag debate on the Eastern treaties. On March 22 the White House provided guidance on the subject with an indication that the President wished all American officials to observe it strictly. Underlying this policy are evident disadvantages which could result from direct American intervention: (a) These treaties are of historic importance to the German people and the German Parliament should bear full responsibility for the ultimate decision. (b) The USSR will gain certain long held objectives through the treaties. It has shown a readiness to clarify several points at issue in FRG/USSR relations to achieve its ratification. If we push the Bundestag to ratify the treaty in Moscow, the Soviets and the East Germans will be relieved of the necessity to take further steps to ensure ratification which could be quite beneficial to the Western side. (c) Finally, there is the question of how the United States could take a more active posture without giving the impression of direct involvement in German domestic affairs, in which case the results would be unpredictable.” (Ibid., Box 286, Agency Files, State, Vol. 16) In a March 22 memorandum to Eliot, Haig forwarded the President’s instructions that all U.S. officials adopt the following line in response to questions on the ratification debate: “It would be quite improper for me to comment on the vote in the West German Parliament. Moreover, I will not speculate on the effect of their decision, one way or another. As for the Berlin agreements, they have an intrinsic merit. We are prepared to sign them at any time. The relaxation of tension over this issue should be in the interest of all parties concerned.” (Ibid.)
  3. See Document 344.
  4. See Documents 335, 336, and 338.
  5. Baden-Württemberg.