362. Action Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Hillenbrand) to Secretary of State Rogers1


In talking with an Embassy officer in Bonn, Opposition leader Barzel on two recent occasions has raised the possibility of the President sending a message to German political leaders in the current crisis.2 Barzel maintains that he is seeking a reasonable solution if the Government will move to a bipartisan foreign policy. He believes that message from the President to the Chancellor and to him emphasizing the advantages of a bipartisan approach even if it entails delay in ratification would be very helpful in resolving the present polarization.

We continue to feel that any direct intervention from Washington in the German situation would be unwise. A self-explanatory telegram in response to the messages from Bonn is attached for your consideration. Since the question of a message from the President is involved I believe you may wish to refer the message to the White House for clearance, in the event that it has your approval.


That you sign the attached telegram.3

[Page 1021]


Draft Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Germany4

Subject: FRG Political Crisis. Ref: Bonn 6023 and Bonn 6035.5

Barzel’s willingness to give Embassy such a full account of critical developments in the current FRG political crisis has greatly enhanced our understanding of the forces at play. With the assistance of the Embassy’s outstanding reporting we are following the situation closely, recognizing that it constitutes not only a test of the statesmanship of government and opposition leaders but, potentially at least, also of the cohesion of the FRG’s population in pursuit of common goals which has been generally present since the FRG’s establishment. The United States welcomes signs that the coalition parties and the opposition are seeking to bridge their differences on the Eastern treaties and is hopeful that in this way a measure of stability can be restored, even if some delay in the ratification process is entailed.
We have given careful consideration to Barzel’s suggestion of a message from the White House to the German political leaders urging a bipartisan approach on Eastern policy and sufficient delay to make this possible. We have concluded that this is not desirable for the following reasons:
The advantages of avoiding acute polarization on the Eastern treaties must be apparent both to Brandt and Barzel. For the US to point this out in an official message at this stage would be a statement of the obvious which could risk offense as direct US intervention.
Such a message could be interpreted by the Chancellor as favoring the CDU and as implied criticism of him since the CDU has charged him with neglecting bipartisanship and since any delay could conceivably run counter to his tactical interests.
Most importantly, much more is involved in the current German instability than Eastern policy. Any US intervention in connection with Eastern policy would tend to put us right into the middle of the larger complex which because of its nature must be resolved by the political forces in Germany, including if necessary the electorate.
The US position on Brandt’s Eastern policy and on the Moscow and Warsaw treaties is well and publicly documented. We think it best to leave it at that, and to allow the German body politic to resolve the difficult questions it now faces on its own responsibility without intervention from Washington.6
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL GER W–US. Secret. Drafted by Sutterlin. The memorandum is uninitialed.
  2. See Document 359.
  3. Although he initialed his approval on the draft, Rogers decided against sending the telegram. In a May 2 memorandum to Dean, David Anderson, an Embassy political officer, reported discussing the decision by telephone with Sutterlin: “Sutterlin said that Cash’s message over the weekend had been carefully considered and that it had been decided that no message should be sent to the German parties in question. A reply to Cash’s message had been drafted, indicating the Department’s strong belief that no message should be forwarded, but the Secretary decided that even this message of reply should not be sent. According to Sutterlin, Rogers was afraid that even the existence of an exchange between the Embassy and the Department on this topic might somehow be misused and might prove embarrassing to the United States Government. Sutterlin said that this general sentiment against the sending of a message reflected the strong feeling of the White House as well.” (Department of State, EUR/CE Files: Lot 85 D 330, JD Correspondence 1972) Livingston briefly informed Haig and Kissinger of Rogers’ decision in a memorandum on May 2. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 687, Country Files, Europe, Germany (Bonn), Vol. XII)
  4. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Drafted by Sutterlin; cleared by Hillenbrand, and initially approved by Rogers (see footnote 3 above). A handwritten note indicates that the original was returned to EUR on May 2.
  5. See footnotes 1 and 4, Document 359.
  6. In telegram 6128 from Bonn, May 2, the Embassy reported an exchange that day between Barzel and an Embassy officer on this subject: “At the beginning of the conversation, Barzel asked EmbOff if he had any message from Washington. EmbOff said no. At the end of the conversation Barzel said he wished to make an explicit request in view of the great damage to the political fabric of the Federal Republic which would be caused by continued controversy over the Eastern treaties. He wanted to ask for a statement from the USG to the effect that it considered attaining a bipartisan approach on the treaties highly important. EmbOff said he would report Barzel’s request but did not hold out any prospects of a response.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL GER W–USSR)