352. Editorial Note

On April 8, 1972, Assistant to the President Kissinger sent a special channel message to German State Secretary Bahr on ratification of the Moscow and Warsaw treaties. After thanking Bahr for his previous message (Document 349), Kissinger linked political developments in Bonn to military developments in Vietnam:

“With respect to sending a memorandum to the Chancellor on our view of long-range East-West relationships into which we could fit the Berlin treaty and the general issue of ratification, we now confront the problems posed by a massive invasion of South Vietnam based on Soviet arms. We are undertaking an urgent review of the implications of that situation and will communicate with you after it is completed.”(National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 424, Backchannel Files, Europe, 1972)

Kissinger reported his message to Bahr in a telephone conversation with President Nixon the next morning:

“I sent a message to Bahr. They requested a letter from you recommending ratification of the treaties. I was against it and sent a message saying under the circumstances—since this is the second time Soviet arms are engaged in an offensive—we are reassessing the whole policy. He will run to the Soviet ambassador [Falin]—we have some intelligence on him. He gave back exactly what we gave him here.”(Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 371, Telephone Conversations, Chronological File)

During a meeting in the Oval Office at 12:44 p.m. on April 10, Nixon and Kissinger briefly reviewed their strategy to link U.S. policy on Germany to Soviet policy on Vietnam:

Kissinger: “If the Soviets start a major crisis with us [in Vietnam], their Berlin treaties are down the drain.”

Nixon: “And he [Dobrynin] knows that?”

Kissinger: “That’s right. So this is the worst month—”

Nixon: “Does Dobrynin know that we could ruin the Berlin treaties—”

Kissinger: “Two phone calls and I’ll ruin them. Look, Ken Rush and I between us could ruin those treaties in one afternoon.”

Nixon: “Could you really, Henry?”

Kissinger: “Oh yeah.”

Nixon: “Great.”

Kissinger: “So they just are in a hell of a spot.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Recording of Conversation Between Nixon and Kissinger, April 10, 1972, 12:44–1:06 p.m., Oval Office, Conversation 705–13) The editor transcribed the portion of the conversation printed here specifically for this volume.

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Later that afternoon, the two men continued their discussion in the Executive Office Building. “If the Soviet Union and we are hostile to each other,” Kissinger explained, “then there is no détente in Central Europe. If there is no détente in Central Europe, there is no basis for Brandt’s policy. They need our summit for their German policy. That’s what they learned in ‘70.” After an exchange on the role of troop withdrawals in Vietnam, Nixon declared that, if the Chinese and Soviets persisted in playing games there, “we’re going to play it tough.” “We’re going to have to tell Dobrynin,” he said, “‘Well, the Berlin game is off.’” When Kissinger mentioned his message to Bahr, Nixon asked: “What did you say to the son-of-a-bitch?” According to Kissinger, the message stated that “the President was seriously considering the request for a memorandum on the possibilities of détente” and on support for treaty ratification, but, in light of the North Vietnamese invasion, was “engaged in an intensive review of the situation.” Nixon then asked: “Are you sure Bahr will pass it on?” Kissinger replied: “I’ll tell him to.” “I had Rush, who had been asked by the Germans to write a personal letter to Barzel, communicate with Barzel that we cannot now [write] the letter,” Kissinger further reported. “And I told him to give this to Pauls, the Ambassador. The Ambassador has to report back through channels, so many people in the German Foreign Office will read it. It’s certain to be picked up.” (Ibid., Recording of Conversation Between Nixon and Kissinger, April 10, 1972, 3:10–3:55 p.m., Executive Office Building, Conversation 330–31) The editor transcribed the portion of the conversation printed here specifically for this volume.