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


  • Barzel on Fate of Eastern Treaties; Wants a Message From Us

Barzel this afternoon told our Political Counselor in Bonn, Jock Dean (Tab A)2 that his main objective now was to keep pressure on Brandt to oblige him to move toward a bipartisan Eastern policy. Specifically Barzel wants to delay ratification of the Eastern treaties for two or three weeks, during which time West Germany would seek concessions from the Soviets and East Germans. These concessions should be (a) written Soviet acceptance of the fact that the treaties did not bar German self-determination; and (b) a binding commitment from the GDR to improve intra-German travel.

Barzel said that he needs such a concession to achieve his ultimate objective of turning his party around on the treaties. He assumed that the US government would not consider such a two or three week delay as having a negative effect on the Moscow Summit, if it were designed to achieve a bipartisanship in Eastern policy.

Barzel said the Eastern treaties would likely not get even a simple majority if a vote on them were held as scheduled on May 4. This is because of the likelihood that several FDP deputies would either vote or abstain.

After asking whether there was any message from Washington for him, Barzel said he thought that a confidential message from [Page 1016] Washington to both him and Brandt urging renewed efforts toward bipartisanship would be helpful “even if it meant a limited delay in the ratification process.”

Comment: The situation is very fluid in Bonn and Brandt’s plans uncertain. One group of his advisors, and also President Heinemann, evidently wants him to try to bring about new national elections before submitting the treaties for ratification. Another group favors pushing for a ratification vote next week. According to Barzel, Brandt is inclining to the latter group and wants to force the treaty issue to a vote.

In a separate discussion with our chargé in Bonn this afternoon, Bahr confirmed that Brandt does not want to change the ratification scenario and is determined to hold the treaty vote as scheduled, May 4 or 5.3 Bahr said the Chancellor wants to adhere to the schedule so that the Bundesrat can act as planned on May 19. Thus when the President goes to Moscow he will know where he stands on this particular aspect of East-West relations.

Under these circumstances, I think it would be very unwise to send any messages. Our political counselor thinks Barzel is serious in his wish to achieve bipartisanship. But who knows whether the Soviets and East Germans will grant the concessions he says he requires? And if they should, who knows whether his authority over the CDU/CSU is strong enough to turn his party around?4


That we make no communication to Bonn.5

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 686, Country Files, Europe, Germany (Bonn), Vol. XI. Secret; Exdis; (Outside System). Urgent; sent for action. This memorandum, and the one attached at Tab A, are based in part on telegram 6023 from Bonn, April 28. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 15 (GER W)
  2. Attached at Tab A is an informal memorandum, April 28 (7:30 p.m.), in which Sonnenfeldt informed Kissinger that “the German situation is getting messier by the minute.” “[W]e obviously cannot accept Barzel’s request for a message,” he argued, “since it would favor his position (even if that position could be construed to be statesmanlike and honorable). We simply cannot afford to intervene in this highly fluid situation. Moreover, in terms of our Soviet policy right now, while I think the delay Barzel is shooting for would in fact objectively help us, we clearly should not be caught with our hand in the jampot.” Sonnenfeldt further suggested that Kissinger might mention to Dobrynin that “we expressed gratification to Brandt on his defeat of the noconfidence motion (which we did in the backchannel to Bahr reporting on your Moscow trip).” For the April 27 message, see Document 358.
  3. The Embassy reported the discussion in telegram 6020 from Bonn, April 28. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 15–1 GER W)
  4. In telegram 6035 from Bonn, April 29, the Embassy reported that Barzel had met an Embassy officer that morning to review his discussions the previous evening with Brandt and other coalition leaders. During the meeting, Barzel repeated his request for a message from Washington. “He said it would be useful,” the Embassy explained, “if a private US statement could be made to the leaders of all three Bundestag parties to the effect that if there was a prospect to achieve a broader base of support of German Eastern policy in order to avoid the damage resulting from continuation of controversy over this issue, it should be pursued.” (Ibid., POL 15 GER W)
  5. In spite of this recommendation, Kissinger sent the following undated message to Bahr: “We have had a suggestion from Barzel that we make a confidential statement to both the Chancellor and Barzel that we would welcome it if renewed efforts were made in the present situation to achieve a more bipartisan approach to the Eastern treaties even if this means a certain limited delay in the ratification process. Obviously, the President would wish to undertake nothing that would complicate the Chancellor’s situation. I would therefore appreciate your urgent reaction to the above suggestion—to which there has, of course, been no reply—and any other comments you think it is useful for me to have at this time.” (Ford Library, National Security Adviser Files, Kissinger and Scowcroft West Wing Office Files, Box 35, West Germany—Egon Bahr Communications)