39. Telegram From the Embassy in Germany to the Department of State1

14207. Subject: Ambassador’s Call on Chancellor Brandt.

Brandt received the Ambassador late yesterday, Oct 28, the first Ambassador to be received by the new Chancellor.2 (Brandt received Soviet Ambassador Tsarapkin later yesterday, and will receive the British and French Ambassadors tomorrow.)
After the Ambassador had congratulated Brandt warmly on his election as Chancellor, Brandt stressed that NATO and ties with the US remain fundamental to his government. Germany plans to work for reconciliation with Eastern Europe, he said, but only from a base rooted firmly in the West. “Our basic security interests dictate that Germany cannot operate from a position in between East and West.”
Brandt thanked the Ambassador warmly for the President’s message of congratulation, adding that he had answered the President’s message3 before replying to messages from any other heads of government. Brandt said he hardly feels himself a stranger to the President, having seen him many times since they first met in 1954. Brandt also added that he doesn’t really feel himself an opposition leader who has waited out in the cold for 20 years, pointing out that throughout the long period he was Governing Mayor of Berlin, when he had innumberable dealings with America, he had not been an opposition leader as far as Berlin was concerned, although he had been a member of the opposition party in the Federal Republic.
The Ambassador replied that he found nothing in the government declaration4 which was inconsistent with US policies. It served to show the basic consistency of both US and German policy goals ever since the war. Like the German Government, the US gave full support to Western European integration and the entry of Britain into the Common Market. The Eastern policy of the new German Government and [Page 110] its position on the NATO alliance were of course likewise fully consistent with US policy objectives. On defense policy, the Ambassador thanked Brandt warmly for the extraordinarily prompt and reassuring answer to Secretary Laird’s message on Germany’s intention to maintain its defense effort.5 The Ambassador assured Brandt of the administration’s intent to maintain substantial US forces in Europe, although at the same time pointing to heavy pressures in certain quarters in the US for reduction. To counter these latter pressures, it was vitally important that Germany and other European countries do everything possible to improve their own defense contribution. Finally, the Ambassador specifically thanked Brandt for including two specific items in the government’s program of action in the foreign policy action program: (A) the intention to take an active part in the NATO committee on challenges to a modern society, and (B) the intention to take up the US offer to participate in limited areas of space research.
Brandt said he was aware of the President’s interest in these two points. On the NAC committee, Brandt said the German Government planned to have Prof. Weiszacker6 actively involved in the work, which would in turn facilitate the involvement of other leading people in the academic world. On defense, Brandt said that he had deliberately included a reference to personnel problems and public acceptance of the military to ensure the effectiveness of their mission. He [Page 111] felt this necessary for morale. He also spoke approvingly of Helmut Schmidt as a man who would bring both leadership and expertise to the Defense Ministry.
Brandt said the government declaration was very long and detailed because his government was a coalition. Many items had to be included because they were pet projects of the FDP or members of his own party. Brandt also commented that the government had set out for itself a very active work program. (Comment: The long list of domestic programs will impose heavy strains on the FRG budget, with consequent changes to the attainment of defense goals. Hence the new government’s problem will be similar to our own, with the added handicap of being a coalition.)
Brandt’s comments on the NPT and voting rights for Berlin Deputies will be the subjects of separate messages.7
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 17 US–GER W. Confidential; Immediate. Repeated to London, Paris, Moscow, Brussels, The Hague, Luxembourg, Rome, USNATO, and Berlin.
  2. For a German record of the conversation, see Akten zur Auswärtigen Politik der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, 1969, Vol. 2, pp. 1167–1169.
  3. See Document 38.
  4. In his government declaration on October 28, Brandt announced his intention to: negotiate renunciation-of-force agreements with the Soviet Union, Poland, and Czechoslovakia; urge the four powers to reach an agreement improving the situation of Berlin; and hold formal talks with East Germany leading to “contractually agreed cooperation.” In perhaps the most controversial line, Brandt declared: “Even if two states exist in Germany, they are not foreign countries to each other, their relations with each other can only be of a special nature.” A translation of portions relating to foreign policy and the Embassy’s preliminary assessment are in telegrams 14168 and 14174 from Bonn, October 28. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 15 GER W and POL 15–1 GER W, respectively) See also Documents on Germany, 1944–1985, pp. 1049–1050; Brandt, People and Politics, pp. 236–237, and My Life in Politics, p. 209. In an October 29 memorandum to Kissinger, Sonnenfeldt highlighted the following passage from the declaration: “The close ties between us and the United States exclude, as far as the Federal Government is concerned, any doubt about the validity of the commitments which the US, by treaty and conviction, has assumed in regard to Europe, the FRG and West Berlin. Our common interests require neither additional assurances nor recurrent declarations. They are capable of supporting a more independent policy and a more active partnership on the part of Germany.” After reading Sonnenfeldt’s memorandum on November 5, Kissinger wrote in the margin: “We will come to regret German ‘flexibility’.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 682, Country Files, Europe, Germany, Vol. III)
  5. In a recent conversation with Pauls, Laird had expressed some concern about the defense policy of the Brandt administration, particularly in view of Congressional opposition to maintaining American force levels in Europe. (Telegram 14122 from Bonn, October 27; ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, DEF 6 GER W) Acting on official instructions, Pauls informed Rogers on October 28 that “the German Government does not intend to reduce the quality or quantity of the German contribution to NATO.” (Telegram 182823 to Bonn, October 29; ibid.)
  6. Reference is presumably to Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker, a prominent German physicist and philosopher.
  7. Brandt’s comments on the Non-Proliferation Treaty were reported in telegram 14209 from Bonn, October 29. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, DEF 18–6) For his comments on the voting rights of Berlin Deputies, see footnote 4, Document 30.