50. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon1


  • Brandt Upgrades Negotiations with Soviets

Chancellor Brandt’s foreign affairs assistant, State Secretary Bahr, has informed me via our special channel to Bonn that Brandt had given him the assignment of conducting the next phase of the German-Soviet [Page 140] negotiations, about an agreement renouncing the use of force.2 The first phase was handled by the German Ambassador in Moscow. It resulted in a deadlock because of Soviet insistence on, in effect, recognition of the GDR. Bahr is now to determine whether Brandt’s recent softening of German opposition to GDR recognition has provided a basis for successful negotiations with the Soviets. If so, the actual negotiations would again be handled at the Ambassadorial level in Moscow.

Bahr’s appointment has meanwhile been publicly announced in Bonn3 and I assume his message to me was intended to keep the channel alive. The Germans have so far used it only to inform us of moves they are about to make, rather than for consultations.

Bahr is an ardent advocate of an active Eastern Policy and now that his personal prestige is engaged as well he will undoubtedly press for as much flexibility as possible in Brandt’s policy.4

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 683, Country Files, Europe, Germany, Vol. IV. Top Secret; Sensitive. Sent for information. A note indicates that the memorandum was returned from the President on February 20.
  2. Helms sent Bahr’s message to Kissinger under a covering memorandum of January 26; Kissinger wrote the instruction “Let Sonnenfeldt draft reply & do memo for President.” In a January 27 memorandum forwarding the two documents to Kissinger, Sonnenfeldt noted: “[Bahr’s] message indicates that he will base himself on what Brandt said in his state of the nation address, but Bahr, who drafted that text in the first place, will know how to wring the last ounce of flexibility out of the words.” (Ibid.) The text of the message, as translated from the original German by the editor, reads: “I would like to inform you of the Federal Chancellor’s decision to appoint me in the next phase of negotiations in Moscow. Since State Secretary Harkort is leading the EEC negotiations, and State Secretary Duckwitz will open the talks in Warsaw, it seemed useful on the basis of protocol to meet the Soviet Foreign Minister on at least the same level. In the meantime the goal is to determine whether the Soviets consider the positions expressed in the ‘State of the Nation’ address as sufficient grounds to begin the actual treaty negotiations on renunciation of force. These treaty negotiations would then take place at the previous level. The Poles have already agreed in confidence to begin talks in Warsaw on February 5. Greetings, Egon Bahr.” The telegram forwarding this message also includes the following postscript: “Mr. Bahr added that he expected to begin talks with Mr. Gromyko in line with above msg in next week or ten days.” (Backchannel message 166 from Bonn, January 26; ibid.)
  3. For an account of the announcement, see Meissner, ed., Moskau–Bonn, vol. 2, p. 1209.
  4. Kissinger sent Bahr the following reply: “I appreciated your letting me know about your Moscow assignment. I will, of course, be interested in your progress and your assessment of the prospects of the negotiations as well as any observations you might have on the political situation in Moscow. Best regards, Henry Kissinger.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 683, Country Files, Europe, Germany, Vol. IV)