5. Memorandum of Conversation1

SUBJECT

  • U.S.-German Relations
[Page 11]

PARTICIPANTS

  • The President
  • Emil Mosbacher, Chief of Protocol
  • Alfred Puhan, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for European Affairs
  • His Excellency Rolf Friedemann Pauls, Ambassador, Federal Republic of Germany

After the Ambassador had presented his credentials and an exchange of amenities, the President emphasized the good relations which existed between the United States and the Federal Republic of Germany. He said we intended to continue to have good relations with Germany. They must be conducted in candor in order to cut any misunderstandings that may arise to a minimum.

The President spoke of his intentions to revitalize NATO. He said he had given this subject top priority. This process involved a dialogue both in NATO and bilaterally on a more regular basis.

The President said that he was aware of the difficult year that was ahead for the Germans in that they faced an election. He mentioned the great respect he had for the leaders of the Ambassador’s government, Chancellor Kiesinger, Foreign Minister Brandt, Defense Minister Schroeder, Finance Minister Strauss and the others.

The Ambassador thanked the President for his kind and cordial remarks. He said it was exactly what he had expected from the President. He was gratified to hear the President’s views on NATO. As an expression of the great confidence the German people have in President Nixon, the Ambassador mentioned a recent German television program in which 84% of all Germans voiced their satisfaction at President Nixon’s election. The Ambassador said that the President personally was very popular in Germany.

The Ambassador said that he was here to intensify the relations of his government with ours and to anticipate difficulties before they were magnified. He said that in this connection, he might in the future have to ask to see the President personally for a few minutes. The President responded that if the problems were of that magnitude, he would like to be informed.2 He said he had the greatest confidence in the State Department. He said also that Dr. Kissinger of his staff was right on top of all these problems. He said it was important that we consult each other. He was not critical of the past, but when he looked at NATO, [Page 12]he sometimes had the feeling that some problems could have been avoided by a little more dialogue.

The Ambassador mentioned the problems we may face over the holding of the Federal Assembly in Berlin on March 5.

The President said that since we had already held three out of four of the Federal Assemblies in Berlin, he could only conclude that if a crisis comes, the elections would not be a cause but a pretext. The President said our position was not to be belligerent but firm.3

The Ambassador thanked the President for his remarks.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 681, Country Files, Europe, Germany, Vol. I. Confidential. Drafted by Puhan. The meeting was held at the White House. The State Department Executive Secretariat sent the memorandum to Kissinger on February 1 for approval. Upon receiving the memorandum, Sonnenfeldt noted: “As far as I know this has long since been distributed. But, in any case I have no objection to contents (since I wasn’t there trust Puhan) or distribution.” (Ibid.) According to a handwritten notation, the White House informed the Secretariat on March 10 that the memorandum had been cleared. (Ibid.) For Pauls’ report on the meeting, see Akten zur Auswärtigen Politik der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, 1969, Vol. 1, pp. 138–139.
  2. Nixon addressed the suggestion of personal contact in a memorandum to Kissinger on February 1: “I received the new German Ambassador and he seems to be personally friendly as we might expect, but beyond that you might check his background and see if he might be a pretty good one to keep in contact here in Washington. I knew him when he was the second man in the Embassy from 1956 to 1960, and I considered him to be reliable at that time.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 341, Subject Files, HAK/President Memorandums 1969–1970)
  3. In a January 31 memorandum to Rogers, Kissinger reported his own discussion on this issue with Pauls: “When the new German Ambassador called on me after presenting his credentials, I made it unmistakably clear to him that reports to the effect that I oppose the holding of the Bundesversammlung in Berlin were wholly inaccurate. I told him that there was full agreement within the U.S. Government about what representatives of the Department had told the Germans regarding our attitude on this question.” (Ibid., Box 681, Country Files, Europe, Germany, Vol. I)