378. Editorial Note

On October 14, 1972, Roy L. Ash, former Chairman of the President’s Advisory Council on Executive Organization, met White House Chief of Staff Haldeman to discuss a personal message from Franz Josef Strauss, Chairman of the Christian Social Union. According to Haldeman’s handwritten notes, Strauss had asked Ash in a meeting 3 days earlier to convey his views on the upcoming German election to President Nixon rather than Assistant to the President Kissinger. When Haldeman questioned this, Ash replied that Strauss, uncertain of Kissinger’s attitude, probably wanted to be sure that the President received the message. Although the race between Chancellor Brandt and Christian Democratic Chairman Barzel was “50–50,” Strauss had received an alarming intelligence report: Brandt was seeking Soviet support to give West Berlin full voting rights in the Bundestag. If the Soviet Union agreed, the balance of power there would shift to Brandt. The proposal, however, required four-power approval. If the United States disagreed, Barzel and the opposition could well regain the majority. There were many reasons, Strauss told Ash, why Washington should intervene in Bonn: as a conservative, Barzel was more congenial to Nixon; the interests of the United States and the Christian Democratic Union were mutual. Strauss, therefore, requested a reply from Nixon not only to hinder Brandt on the proposal but also to help Barzel in the election. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Special Files, Staff Member and Office Files, H. R. Haldeman, Box 46, Haldeman Notes, Oct–Nov–Dec 1972, Part I) “I reported this,” [Page 1077] Haldeman wrote in his diary on October 14. “Well, that’s the end of that one.” (Haldeman, Haldeman Diary: Multimedia Edition)

Nixon and Haldeman, however, discussed how to handle the message the next morning. Although conceding that his Soviet policy complicated German politics, the President decided that he could not help Strauss. In order to avoid Kissinger, Nixon instructed Haldeman to tell Deputy Assistant to the President Haig that the White House should “drag [its] feet.” Ash should inform Strauss that his message had been received at the highest level in Washington and that his views would be “taken into account.” Haig meanwhile gave Haldeman another interpretation of Nixon’s decision: “we should not help Brandt.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Special Files, Staff Member and Office Files, H. R. Haldeman, Box 47, Haldeman Notes, April 1973, Part I [sic]) A tape recording of the conversation between Nixon and Haldeman, in which the latter read from the handwritten notes of his meeting with Ash the previous day, is ibid., White House Tapes, Recording of Conversation Between Nixon and Haldeman, October 15, 1972, 9:16–10:55 a.m., Camp David Hard Wire, Conversation 220–12.

Although he apparently did not learn of the Strauss initiative, Kissinger had already discussed by telephone the question of Berlin voting rights with Assistant Secretary of State Stoessel on October 6:

“S[toessel]: Henry, another point—on this question of voting rights for Berlin. I don’t know if you’ve gotten into this at all.

K[issinger]: No, but I know the issue. We’re against it, aren’t we?

“S: We’re against it, Marty’s against it; I’ve told the Germans we’re against it.

“K: Well, what’s the problem.

“S: Ken Rush is for it.

“K: Well, the hell with him.

“S: Well, I didn’t know if he had been in touch with you or—

“K: No. What does he want—to get Brandt reelected?

“S: Well, he thinks this would be a help to Brandt and then that you’d buy the Russians, and so on.

“K: But would that be good, to help Brandt?

“S: Well, I think it would cause trouble with the Russians too in the Quadripartite Agreement.

“K: I don’t think we should go that way.

“S: Well, I just wanted to check with you. I don’t think it’s an active thing now but Rush may approach you sometime on it.

“K: Yeah. Okay.” (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 374, Telephone Conversations, Chronological File)

[Page 1078]

Stoessel reported the decision on Berlin voting rights in a memorandum to Deputy Secretary of State Irwin on October 17:

“In accordance with your request, I spoke by telephone today with Deputy Secretary of Defense Rush and told him that, after careful review of the question concerning Berlin voting rights in the light of his comments, you had decided that it would be best not to change our position on this matter, i.e., we would continue to oppose action looking to the granting of voting rights in the Bundestag to the Berlin deputies.

“Mr. Rush reviewed the arguments in favor of a change in this position. After further discussion, he said he could see both sides to the matter and he did not wish to insist further regarding it. He said he appreciated very much our consideration of his views and our interest in informing him of the results of our study.” (Department of State, EUR Files: Lot 82 D 307, Memorandum for the Record, 1972)