48. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon 1
- Dobrynin’s Démarche on Berlin
Dobrynin came to see me on January 20 to protest the convening in Berlin, later this month, of committees of the West German parliament [Page 134] (Bundestag).2 The Germans have done this periodically to demonstrate their continued role in the city. The Soviets have protested to the Germans and the Allies for several years and on several occasions staged harassments on the Autobahn and with low-flying aircraft. An official Soviet protest was delivered in Bonn some days ago.
Dobrynin’s statement to me (text at Tab A) is perhaps the most toughly worded one to us since the Administration came in. Although it falls well short of threatening specific counteractions, it seeks to put on us the onus for any renewed tensions the Soviets and/or East Germans may generate. The Soviets may in fact feel that their prestige is sufficiently challenged to make some move, though even with Ulbricht straining at the leash, it is not likely such such a move would be a major one.
The démarche also seeks to make some capital of the fact that in previous contacts, and especially in your correspondence with Kosygin last spring, we proposed and they agreed to quiet bilateral exchanges of view on Berlin. We decided at the time not to follow up because there appeared to be nothing worth talking about and because the German election was impending. The matter was then overtaken by the joint Western proposal to open talks last summer which is still in play.
There can be little doubt that if Berlin negotiations should eventuate the Soviets will insist on a curbing of FRG activities in the city as part of any deal. The FRG will also have to face this issue in its own bilateral dealings with the Soviets and the GDR; this is already clear from the initial exchanges. You will recall that last year at the time of the Bundesversammlung the Germans were prepared to consider some sort of deal in this area if it involved some improvement in civilian access and in movement through the Wall. The subject may well prove [Page 135] controversial in German domestic politics and for this reason we should not permit the Soviets to pressure us into active involvement in it.
If you approve, I would propose to make a response to Dobrynin when I see him in some other connection along the following lines:
- You have noted the Soviet statement on Berlin.
- You cannot agree that the German actions referred to contradict past US-Soviet exchanges regarding Berlin.
- We have no desire to have any tension over Berlin and hope this is also true of the Soviets since any crisis in that area would have an adverse effect on our relations.
- We continue to be prepared to seek genuine improvements in the situation in Berlin and for this reason have joined with our Allies in proposing talks on the subject.
That you approve my making the above four points to Dobrynin at some suitable occasion when I am seeing him for other reasons.3
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 711, Country Files, Europe, USSR, Vol. VI. Secret; Nodis; Sensitive. Sent for action. Although no drafting information appears on the memorandum, much of the text also appears in an attached January 21 memorandum from Sonnenfeldt to Kissinger.↩
- The two men met at Dobrynin’s request to discuss “an urgent set of matters.” A memorandum records the conversation on Berlin as follows: “Dobrynin then turned the conversation to West Berlin and handed me some talking points about the situation in West Berlin which he considered extremely grave and provocative. The note itself was very tough (it is attached to a separate memorandum). I told Dobrynin that any unilateral action in or around Berlin would have the gravest consequences. I would study the talking points and if I had any reply to give, I would make it. However, I saw no sense in our discussing Europe if there were even the prospect of a unilateral Soviet action in Berlin. Dobrynin said that the Soviet Union did not make much fuss last year when the German President was elected in Berlin, but now, in effect, the whole German Parliament was meeting in Berlin again in the guise of various committees, and this could not continue. Dobrynin parted with the understanding that he would call me when he was ready to discuss European matters.” (Ibid.) For the full text of the memorandum of conversation, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. XII, Document 118. In a January 22 memorandum to Rogers, Kissinger reported that he had listened to “Dobrynin’s Démarche” but “made no comment.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 28 GER B) In his published account of the meeting, Kissinger remarked: “Significantly, the note was passed in the Presidential Channel where it would receive no publicity; Moscow, obviously, did not want a crisis in Central Europe.” (White House Years, p. 524)↩
- The President initialed the approve option.↩