348. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Prospects for Ratification of Moscow Treaty


  • German Side
  • State Secretary Egon Bahr
  • Ambassador Rolf Pauls
  • U.S. Side
  • Dr. Henry Kissinger, Asst. to the President Martin J. Hillenbrand, Asst. Secty. for European Aff.
  • Helmut Sonnenfeldt, Senior Member, NSC Staff

State Secretary Bahr assessed the prospects for ratification of the Moscow Treaty between the FRG and the USSR along the following lines:

It would be difficult to have any meaningful discussions with the CDU prior to the Baden-Wuerttemberg elections since the CDU was totally preoccupied with the campaign. Thereafter, it should be possible for leaders of the two parties to talk. Gerhard Schroeder was in a pivotal role. He was really in favor of ratification of the treaty, but if he saw he had any possibility of becoming Chancellor, he would come out against it. The CDU party leader Barzel wants to avoid a constructive vote of no confidence at all costs, since he knows that some members of his own party would not support him as Chancellor candidate and Schroeder would probably win out in the end.

Chancellor Brandt would not make the second reading in the Bundestag scheduled for early May an issue of confidence for his government. The SPD tactic would be to try to obtain a free vote.

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If that succeeded, there was no doubt that the treaty would carry with some 257–258 votes in favor. It was likely that the Bundesrat would not send back the treaty to the Bundestag for a third reading in June, even with its 21 to 20 CDU majority. If it did, Brandt would make the vote in June a vote of confidence. It seems likely, however, that Brandt would obtain an absolute majority in the second reading.

Turning to the Baden-Wuerttemberg Landtag elections to be held on April 23, Bahr conceded that if the FDP fell under 5% the Brandt government would thereafter immediately fall. This was not likely, however. The fact that the NPD vote had gone over to the CDU would drive back some of the old liberals to the FDP, despite their alienation by the unskillful electoral campaign conducted by the FDP so far. The possibility of throwing some SPD votes behind the FDP, as had occurred in Hesse, was also something to be considered.

Bahr’s personal estimate was that the FDP would get 7% of the total vote in Baden-Wuerttemberg, with the SPD moving up from 29% to 39% and the CDU getting some 51% to 52%.

A procedural possibility being considered in the event that the Moscow treaty obtained only a simple majority in the second reading was to have a vote taken in the Bundestag on a procedural resolution (Abschliessung) that Bundesrat action was not required. Under existing rules this would permit the Berlin members to vote, which meant that the resolution would undoubtedly be carried by the Bundestag and the bill would never go back to the Bundesrat.

Dr. Kissinger commented that, after an initial period of optimism in January about ratification of the treaties, the defection of Hupka and other developments had seemed to make the government’s majority more precarious.2 Bahr observed that this was essentially a psychological matter that would straighten itself out. As a matter of fact, most of the principal leaders of the CDU wanted the treaty to be ratified. After Easter, Barzel and Brandt would get together to avoid too much broken crockery, although their decisive talks could only take place after the Baden-Wuerttemberg elections.

In response to Dr. Kissinger’s question as to whether there was a possibility that the Bundestag might accept the Polish treaty while rejecting the Soviet treaty, Bahr said that this could not take place since the government would not put forward the Polish treaty under those circumstances. Moreover, the Poles would not be in a position to have [Page 988] the treaty come into effect in the absence of ratification of the Moscow treaty.3

Turning to his current negotiations with the East Germans on a traffic treaty, State Secretary Bahr noted that there were three material points of consequence: movement of East Germans westward; movement of West Germans into East Germany and the problem of crossing points. However, it was the political issues which would be decisive, and he was not at all sure if agreement could be reached on these. Soviet pressure would only be maintained on the GDR until after ratification of the Moscow treaty. It was obvious that the GDR leaders would prefer no agreement at all and reversal to the status quo ante. After completion of the inner-German talks on the Berlin agreement, the Soviets had at first refused to bring pressure on the GDR in connection with the traffic treaty, but when they were told that a more forthcoming GDR attitude in these negotiations would be helpful in the ratification process, they obviously brought some pressure to bear.4

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL GER W–US. Secret; Exdis. Drafted by Hillenbrand; approved by Kissinger. (Memorandum from Davis to Eliot, April 5; ibid.) The meeting was held in Kissinger’s office at the White House. The memorandum is part 1 of 4. The remaining parts, on Currency Exchange Problems, European Community Relations, and Presidential Visit to the Soviet Union, are ibid. According to Kissinger’s Record of Schedule, the meeting lasted from 1:22 to 3:08 p.m. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1968–76) For Bahr’s memoranda on his meeting with Kissinger, see Akten zur Auswärtigen Politrik der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, 1972, Vol. 1, pp. 347–351.
  2. See footnote 3, Document 343.
  3. Rush gave a brief report on ratification of the Eastern treaties during a meeting of the Washington Special Actions Group on March 29: “Let me say a word about the treaties, if I may. Bahr called me yesterday, Henry, before he saw you, and he expressed some optimism about the outcome of the voting. I had also investigated the vote problem before I left Germany. The Bundestag votes on May 4, and if there are 249 votes for ratification the whole thing is just about over. Then, of course, the Bundesrat votes. If the Bundesrat sends the treaties back, there will probably be another vote in the Bundestag in June. In any case, we should know in early May if there is a problem in Germany. My prognosis is that the treaties will be ratified.” (National Security Council, Secretariat Files, Minutes Files, SRG Minutes, 1972 thru 1973 (Originals)) Kissinger also met Rush for 10 minutes after the SRG meeting. (Record of Schedule; Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1968–76) No record of the discussion, however, has been found.
  4. In a memorandum to Kissinger on March 29, Sonnenfeldt reported: “I have learned that Bahr and Pauls held a press conference for German correspondents yesterday after Bahr’s meeting with you. Bahr put out the agreed statement. The correspondents then pressed hard on the Spiegel’s story about a telegram Pauls purportedly sent home reporting widespread media and official support in the US for ratification of the Eastern Treaties. By sitting silently at first and then remarking that Pauls’ views were highly respected in Bonn, Bahr left newsmen with the impression that he shared Pauls’ reported assessment. Asked by the journalists if the State Department’s earlier public statement of nonintervention in the treaty issue still stood up after his meeting with you, Bahr gave a lengthy reply, the key sentence of which was that nonintervention was not identical with lack of interest. Some correspondents present thought he tried to leave the impression that the US was indeed shifting its position.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 686, Country Files, Europe, Germany (Bonn), Vol. XI) Birrenbach called Kissinger at 2:30 p.m. on March 31 to ask about reports that Washington might abandon its policy of neutrality in the ratification debate. “We will not take any position from here,” Kissinger replied. “What we told [Barzel] remains our position and will remain our position.” Kissinger quickly added: “but I want to make sure this is not put out publicly.” (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 371, Telephone Conversations, Chronological File)