49. Editorial Note

On January 23, 1970, the NSC Review Group met to discuss a paper drafted by the NSC staff on U.S. policy toward Europe. The paper, intended as the basis for further discussion by the NSC on January 28, was divided into two parts, the first on alternative structures and the second on specific policy issues, including the recent emergence of Ostpolitik as an important factor in European affairs. The section on Germany began as follows:

“German issues are, of course, the basic East-West problems in Europe, and thus closely linked to European security, including negotiated force reductions. The Eastern policy (Ostpolitik) which the new Brandt government apparently intends to pursue could introduce a potentially troublesome and disruptive element in East-West relations and within the Alliance. Bonn apparently intends to put primary emphasis on direct and parallel negotiations with the USSR, East Germany and Poland on a wide range of issues. Provided the USSR, after considering East German interests, continues to encourage these efforts, Bonn may become less inclined to defer to Western interests and views. This could lead to some disagreement and discord between West Germany on the one hand and its allies, particularly the US and France, on the other.

“As it applies to East Germany the new Ostpolitik assumes that the cumulative effect of agreements on functional problems will lower the barrier to increased contacts. In these efforts, however, Bonn may agree to most East German demands short of de jure recognition.

“Thus, certain specific problems will arise in terms of our own interests:

  • —the four power responsibility we bear for a final German settlement may gradually be subsumed in German negotiations with Moscow and East Germany;
  • —the special responsibilities we bear in Berlin may become complicated by the upgrading of East German sovereignty, or by the introduction of the Berlin question in all-German negotiations;
  • —our ability to influence and control the evolution of a German settlement may decline or come into conflict with Bonn;
  • —the US could be caught in a position between Bonn and Paris, if German Ostpolitik seems to be dictating the overall Western approach to the USSR.

“A final consideration is the fact that the internal power base of the Brandt government is by no means secure. Each step of the way in developing a new Eastern policy the government will face major opposition. Thus, we could find ourselves confronted with choosing positions which will have internal repercussions, without great assurance [Page 138] of the stability of the government over a long enough period to implement those policies we will be called on to support.” (“Discussion of United States Policy Toward Europe,” undated, pages 27–28; National Security Council, NSC Review Group Meetings, Box 92, Review Group Mtg. 1–23–70, U.S. Policy Toward Europe)

As chairman of the Review Group, Kissinger opened the meeting by outlining the background of the paper. According to Kissinger, President Nixon, having pushed “for some months for a systematic review of our European policy,” wanted to consider a “general approach” first before proceeding to matters in detail. Kissinger, therefore, suggested that the discussion focus on alternative structures (Part I) rather than specific issues (Part II), explaining that many of these issues were already being considered within the NSC system, “except for Germany, on which he felt something was required.” Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Hillenbrand, however, was troubled by the “rigid dichotomy” of the paper, commenting that, in raising specific issues, the paper assumed a “static and not dynamic situation” in Europe. Hillenbrand also thought that the paper reflected judgments which, if accepted, would “predetermine the answers.” When Kissinger asked for an example, Hillenbrand cited the section on Germany, which was “loaded with anti-German assumptions,” including the supposition that there was “something inherently dangerous in the German conduct of its relations with the East.” After Hillenbrand cited further examples, Kissinger asked him what he meant by an “anti-German bias.”

“Mr. Hillenbrand replied that the paper makes pessimistic assumptions about a German turn to the East. He cited on page 28 the statement ‘problems will arise,’agreeing that problems may arise or could arise in a different form. He thought the paper was too pessimistic about German motives and developments and said this reaction was shared by the German Country Director [Sutterlin] and by many others in State.

“Mr. Pedersen added that on page 27 the paper discusses problems and omits the advantages.

“Mr. Hillenbrand cited the premise that the Federal Republic is likely to pursue its Eastern policy at the expense of the U.S.

“Mr. Kissinger saw two problems: that the Germans might pursue their Eastern policy at the expense of their Western ties; or that in the pursuit of their Eastern policy, they might move in this direction without necessarily so intending.

“Mr. Hillenbrand agreed that these were good questions.

“Mr. Kissinger asked if this stated the issues fairly.

“Mr. Hillenbrand agreed that the issues were stated fairly.

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“Mr. Sonnenfeldt considered Mr. Hillenbrand’s comments to be fair. He asked if the effects of the Brandt statements on Germany’s Eastern policy might raise problems despite his intent.

“Mr. Kissinger agreed that the paper should be rewritten along the lines of Mr. Hillenbrand’s comments to include: a statement of the advantages of Germany’s Eastern policy and a distinction between a German policy pursued at the expense of Western ties, and a German policy which might raise problems, despite German intentions.

“Mr. Hillenbrand agreed that this would be satisfactory.”

At the end of the meeting, Kissinger decided to drop Germany from the subjects to be discussed by the NSC on January 28. As an alternative, he asked Sonnenfeldt to prepare a NSSM on Germany and Berlin “in the context of the Brandt visit” to the United States in April. (Ibid., Minutes Files, Box 121, SRG Minutes 1970 (Originals))

Kissinger did not approve a NSSM on Germany and Berlin until December 29, 1970, when he signed NSSM 111 (Document 156). Instead, Kissinger evidently decided to consider these issues under NSSM 83 on European security, which he had signed on November 21, 1969. NSSM 83, as well as additional documentation on European security, is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XLI.