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


  • FRGGDR Treaty and Our GDR NSSM

The West German Cabinet today approved the West German-East German Basic Treaty.2 Initialing and publication of the text is scheduled [Page 1089] for tomorrow, November 8. Brandt has already made a campaign speech hailing the practical advantages which the treaty brings for Germans in both states.

What the FRG Gained

GDR agreement (Article 7) to regulate practical and humanitarian questions and promote exchanges in commerce, health, science and technology, environment, transport, justice, post and telecommunications, and the exchange of books, periodicals, and radio and TV programs. Bahr and Kohl made separate agreements outside the treaty to open new border-crossing points, reunite divided families, and increase travel and trade.
A reference (preamble) to the existence of “the national question”—about which the two sides disagree—and one (Article 2) to “the right of self-determination.” Also a separate exchange of letters by which the FRG and GDR will notify each other that they have informed their respective Big Four allies that the treaty cannot affect Quadripartite agreements, decisions and practices. These references will enable Brandt’s government to claim in the Bundestag that the treaty has not permanently closed off reunification.
GDR willingness to accept separately and without contradiction a letter from the FRG on German unity.
From the three Western allies separately—a letter (preliminary draft at Tab A)3 confirming that Quadripartite Declaration does not affect the 1952 (1954) convention on relations between the FRG and the three Western allies.4 This will enable Brandt to assert that the allies too still support German unity and that the treaty does not undermine the FRG’s link to NATO, for which the 1954 convention paved the way.
Agreement (Article 8) to exchange “permanent representations,” rather than Embassies.
Finally—GDR agreement (in a separate oral exchange) that the West German permanent representative will represent West Berlin and that the FRGGDR agreements on commerce, health, etc., will apply to West Berlin too.

What the GDR Got

Virtually complete FRG acceptance (Articles 2 and 3) of its sovereignty and equality. The long-sought goal of East Berlin.
An FRG undertaking (Article 3) to respect the GDR’s frontiers and its territorial integrity and to refrain from the threat of the use of force. Almost as important for a regime as apprehensive as the East Germans have been.
A final burial of the Hallstein Doctrine5 in all its forms (Article 4).
An FRG pledge (Article 7 supplementary protocol)—of considerable economic benefit to East Berlin—to continue to trade in the advantageous “inter-zonal” framework which gives GDR products duty-free entry into the Common Market.
FRG support (Article 7 supplementary protocol) for GDR membership in the Universal Postal Union and the International Telecommunications Union.


The treaty in effect fully Germanizes the German question, with the Allied role even in West Berlin being relegated to minor importance. It is astonishing in how many areas the East Germans have agreed to open themselves up to dealings with the FRG. Brandt has gone a long way toward achieving the Annaeherung which Bahr set as a policy objective a decade ago.6 The East German regime, to ensure his success at the polls, has decided to take the risk that this will cause some Wandel in its internal structure too and in its relations with West Germany.

What about the GDR NSSM (No. 146)?7

Originally requested nine months ago, the response to NSSM 146 has been awaiting Senior Review Group consideration since April.8 The rapid pace of Four Power negotiations on a Quadripartite Declaration, the BahrKohl treaty, and the international upgrading of the GDR which has occurred over the past few months (e.g., India’s recognition and Finland’s [Page 1091] likely recognition within a few weeks)9 have solved many of the issued treated in the NSSM response. Only two major ones remain:

Whether, how and when we begin negotiating with the GDR on the question of opening up bilateral relations. Timing should be related to (1) the outcome of the FRG elections, November 19; (2) consequent prospects for signing and ratification of the GDRFRG basic treaty; (3) FRG, British and French attitudes.
How do we regard our longer-term relations with the GDR as a State?

(Conceivably, if the CDU/CSU should win the elections—a possibility—and want to renegotiate the BahrKohl treaty—less likely—we will have to deal with the minor issue of how to deal with GDR pressures to enter UN organizations. But this can be handled by normal State Department strategies.)

On a. The British are already pressing us to begin preliminary exchanges on how the Three Powers go about establishing relations with the GDR. The French no doubt feel the same way. Timing of our negotiations could be early (as soon as the GDRFRG treaty is signed, perhaps) or late (after the GDR is finally in the UN). We need to decide this now. I understand that Secretary Rogers is sending a memorandum to the President proposing that we begin discussions with the British and French soon.10

On b. We need to consider what sort of an establishment, if any, we will have in the GDR and what we want it to do. This is of course less pressing.

Your Decision

Two courses of action are possible:

  • —hold the long-delayed SRG meeting, addressing ourselves only to those parts of the NSSM response which relate to the two remaining major issues. (We can use the NSSM response as is for the discussion, focussing the SRG discussion only on the pertinent sections).
  • —reply to the forthcoming memorandum from Secretary Rogers that asks for authority to consult with the British and French by issuing a decision memorandum that will lay down a timetable for opening up relations with the GDR.

It would be preferable to air the issues in an SRG meeting, which will besides dealing with the GDR give the agencies a needed opportunity to discuss German issues and provide them with guidance for [Page 1092] the coming months. The best time to schedule it would be after the German elections.


That you indicate your preference:

Schedule an SRG meeting on the GDR NSSM.11

No meeting needed. Timetable on opening relations to be decided by memorandum to State.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 687, Country Files, Europe, Germany (Bonn), Vol. XII. Confidential. Urgent; sent for action. Haig initialed the memorandum indicating that he had seen it.
  2. For the text of the treaty and related documentation, see Documents on Germany, 1944–1985, pp. 1215–1230.
  3. Attached but not printed at Tab A is telegram 15132 from Bonn, November 6; also in the National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–1973, POL 38–6.
  4. Reference is to the Final Act of the Nine-Power Conference, signed in London on October 3, 1954. For the text and context of the agreement, see Documents on Germany, 1944–1985, pp. 419–438.
  5. Reference is to the policy, announced in December 1955, by which West Germany refused to maintain diplomatic relations with any country, other than the Soviet Union, that maintained diplomatic relations with East Germany. Although associated with State Secretary Walter Hallstein, the doctrine was formulated by Wilhelm Grewe, Director of the Political Division in the West German Foreign Office. See Grewe, Rückblenden, pp. 251–262.
  6. In an address before the Evangelical Academy in Tutzing on July 15, 1963, Bahr first discussed Wandel durch Annäherung, or “change through rapprochement,” a phrase that soon became the maxim most associated with Brandt’s Ostpolitik.
  7. Document 341.
  8. See Document 355. The Interdepartmental Group for Europe issued an updated, and nearly identical, version of the response to NSSM 146 on June 29. Davis circulated the paper to members of the Senior Review Group on September 25 for a September 28 meeting, but the meeting was postponed. (National Security Council, Secretariat Files, NSSM Files, NSSM 146)
  9. India established diplomatic relations with East Germany on October 8; Finland unilaterally extended diplomatic recognition to both East and West Germany on November 24.
  10. See Document 386.
  11. Kissinger checked and initialed his approval of this recommendation. According to an attached routing form, the SRG meeting was approved on November 13. Kennedy also wrote on the memorandum: “Per discussion with Livingston meeting scheduled 29 Nov 72.”