365. Memorandum for the Record1


  • Dr. Kissinger’s Meeting with Ambassador Pauls, Friday, May 5, 19722

Replying to Dr. Kissinger’s question of how he has been doing, Pauls said “not so good, not so bad.” He asked whether Dr. Kissinger had been busy. Dr. Kissinger agreed that he had.

Pauls then said he wanted to describe the present situation in Bonn in regard to the ratification of the Eastern treaties. Efforts to reach common ground had as yet neither succeeded or failed. The leaders on both sides were trying hard to find a solution, but they have difficulties within their Parties. Neither group of leaders has a free hand. There would be continuing efforts over the weekend and the debate could begin on May 9. On the other hand, the CDU might succeed in getting an indefinite postponement. The government may not have a majority. This would mean stalemate, to Pauls a very discouraging situation.

Pauls then talked about the difficulty of having new elections before autumn. He pointed out that summer vacations begin in North Rhine-Westphalia on June 20th and would then continue in the rest of Germany throughout the summer. Then there would be the Olympics at the end of the summer.3 Pauls reviewed the difficulties involved in dissolving Parliament stemming from the no confidence system set up in the Basic Law and from such selfish reasons of Parliamentarians as their concern over pensions. Pauls concluded that everything argues in favor of finding common ground, but given the difficulties he could only give a 50–50 chance.

Dr. Kissinger said we were watching the situation with interest. He is taking no calls from Germany. Pauls noted that Secretary Rogers would be in Germany Sunday and Monday and would be seeing Brandt. Dr. Kissinger said “I don’t think he will express a view.”4

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Pauls then said that perhaps the Secretary or Hillenbrand could see Barzel, Schroeder or Strauss.5 It was after all in the US interest to find a solution and the CDU leadership was having great difficulties with parts of the Party membership. It takes much convincing and it would be useful, especially now, to strengthen the hands of those who are trying, that is the leaders of the CDU. Pauls said that he was speaking without instructions but he was deeply concerned about failure. Dr. Kissinger asked Pauls if he thought the current efforts would fail. Pauls said he was not too hopeful on the basis of the information he was getting, but because success is “the only way” it was his “feeling” that things will work out. The basic problem was how to work out a compromise that could be presented to the Soviets. Dr. Kissinger said he thought that the Soviets would be reasonable. Pauls said it seemed that the Soviets were prepared to receive a resolution worked out by the Parties in Bonn.

Dr. Kissinger said that as a German expert he had always believed that the treaties would pass but he was not saying this as an official. Pauls recalled that Dr. Kissinger had stated this belief before. Pauls commented that postponement might not be failure. Dr. Kissinger asked how long a postponement there might be. Could the government reintroduce the treaties in June. Pauls said that it could but of course the situation of no majority remains and so would the stalemate. Dr. Kissinger commented that it used to be said that a situation like the present one—a stalemate—was impossible but now the Germans had proved it could be done. Dr. Kissinger said he would talk to the President about the situation, but officially we would stay out of it. However, he would talk to Pauls if there was a change. Pauls said he was not suggesting anything official or public, he was suggesting that secretly and privately we make our interests clear and that failure would not serve our interests.

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Dr. Kissinger said as he saw it, three things could happen: a compromise this weekend; if not, the treaties would either pass or fail. He asked Pauls to keep him posted, which Pauls said he would do. He added that if the treaties passed by a simple majority, Barzel and Strauss might still try to prevent the Bundesrat from vetoing [voting?]. Dr. Kissinger asked Pauls to stay in touch over the weekend.

Pauls then said he was watching the Vietnam situation with compassion. He asked what impact it would have on relations with Moscow. Dr. Kissinger said we will not accept defeat. There probably would be an impact if things go beyond a certain point, but we will do what is necessary. Pauls asked what the “certain point” was.

At this point Dr. Kissinger was called away to see the President.6 He suggested that the conversation might be continued later the following week but meanwhile asked Pauls to stay in touch on the German situation over the weekend.7

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 687, Country Files, Europe, Germany (Bonn), Vol. XII. Confidential; Nodis. Sent for information. Drafted by Sonnenfeldt. According to an attached correspondence profile, Kissinger noted the memorandum on May 20.
  2. The meeting was held at the White House from 3:15 to 3:25 p.m. (Record of Schedule; Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 438, Miscellany, 1968–76)
  3. The 1972 Summer Olympics were held in Munich, August 26–September 10.
  4. Rogers was in Bonn May 6 and 7 as part of a 9-day tour to consult with European leaders on the upcoming Moscow summit. Upon his arrival in Bonn, Rogers made the following statement on ratification: “Although my visit here happens now to coincide with the effort in Bonn to resolve the question of the ratification of the treaties with Poland and the Soviet Union, I want to emphasize that my visit has been planned for many weeks. I had expected to be here after the parliamentary vote on the treaties. While in the Federal Republic I intend to avoid any comment publicly or privately which in any way could be considered as interference by the United States Government in what is entirely an internal matter for the Federal Republic. I am confident that the Government and the people of the Federal Republic understand that any such comment would be inappropriate and contrary to the purpose of my visit.” (Department of State Bulletin, May 29, 1972, pp. 773–774) Rogers interrupted his trip on May 7 and returned to Washington for an emergency meeting of the National Security Council the next day on Vietnam.
  5. During a meeting with an Embassy officer on May 5, Bahr requested the opposite, i.e. that Rogers refrain from any contact with opposition leaders during his visit to Bonn. “Bahr said he believed that if the Secretary were to see Barzel,” the Embassy reported, “latter would inevitably attempt to publicize the content of the discussion, the Government would then reply, and the US would be caught in between.” (Telegram 6326 from Bonn, May 5; National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, ORG 7 S)
  6. According to his Daily Diary, Nixon met Kissinger in the Executive Office Building from 3:36 to 3:46 p.m. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Central Files) The two men discussed the military situation in Vietnam. (Ibid., White House Tapes, Recording of Conversation Between Nixon and Kissinger, May 5, 3:36–3:46 p.m., Executive Office Building, Conversation 336–7)
  7. On May 7 Pauls called Kissinger at 5:45 p.m. to report on negotiations in Bonn for a joint parliamentary resolution on ratification. Pauls: “I told you on Friday that I thought, on the group of the information that I got, that it sounds 50–50. I would say today it’s 65 to 35.” Kissinger: “Good.” Pauls: “In moving toward a compromise solution. Draft resolution seems to be acceptable for all sides including the Soviets—I think we are going to get the answer tomorrow, and Barzel has found some more backing inside of his party and this also maybe will be decided tomorrow, and Barzel and the Chancellor are going to see each other privately again tomorrow evening.” Kissinger: “I see.” Pauls: “So that I hope that until Tuesday [May 9] the state will be certain in Parliament.” Kissinger: “I see.” Pauls: “It’s not yet decided but it looks somewhat better than the day before yesterday.” Kissinger: “And would they then vote on Tuesday.” Pauls: “No, on Wednesday.” Kissinger: “I see.” Pauls: “On Wednesday. And I wanted to give you this information.” Kissinger: “Well, I am very grateful.” (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 372, Telephone Conversations)