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


  • Four Power Negotiations on Berlin

We are approaching the threshold of Four Power negotiations on Berlin. You noted in Berlin a year ago that the challenge in Berlin should be ended, that the status quo was not satisfactory, and that negotiations could bring an end to the division of the city. At the April NATO meeting, Brandt urged that we determine what the Soviets would be willing to do on Berlin, and Gromyko in July suggested that the USSR was ready for an exchange of views. In August the Three Powers (US, UK, and France) initiated formal soundings in Moscow. The Soviets replied in September that they were generally interested, and in December, the Three Powers at the urging of the FRG suggested specific improvements they wished to see in Berlin. The Soviets replied on February 10 that they were ready for an exchange of views on improving the situation in West Berlin, and suggested Ambassadorial level discussions be held in Berlin on February 18.

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The Soviets and the Western Allies have clearly different views of what these talks should accomplish. The Soviet objective is to decrease the FRG’s political presence in West Berlin, to increase the Soviet role in West Berlin, and at the same time eliminate any Three Powers responsibilities for all of Berlin, East and West. Finally, the Soviets wish to establish the principle that the communication lines between Berlin and the FRG—except for Allied military traffic—are the responsibility solely of the East Germans. The Western Powers seek to enhance the city’s viability by improvements in the internal life of Berlin, assurance of uninterrupted civilian access to Berlin, while protecting the Allied position in Berlin and conceding no more than the FRG wishes with respect to its presence in West Berlin.

In the light of these fundamentally different viewpoints, it is unlikely that any basic agreement can be reached with the Soviets. Indeed, the prospect of even minor improvement is limited. In that light we should do nothing to generate expectations of success.

Notwithstanding the very limited prospect, we have no real alternative but to begin talks with the Soviets. We have urged them to agree to these talks for some time, and now they have accepted. We have also made clear that the easing of tensions in Berlin would be a concrete step the Soviets could take which would improve the prospects for an eventual European Security Conference.

Acting Secretary Richardson has sent you a memorandum (Tab A)2 recommending that you agree in principle that we should proceed with preparations for the talks. The Acting Secretary states that preparations must clearly get underway and the first step should be the presentation of our full negotiating position for your approval as soon as possible. We need our own clear game plan before we begin to develop the full Western position in consultations with the FRG, the UK and the French. It is also important that you review the Allied position prior to the actual commencement of the Four Power talks. I have asked the Acting Secretary to proceed along these lines (Tab B).3 The Three Powers will be informing the Soviets that we are pleased that they have agreed to have talks, and that we will suggest a specific date after our own consultations have been completed.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 690, Country Files, Europe, Germany (Berlin), Vol. II. Secret. Sent for information. According to another copy, Downey drafted the memorandum on February 16. (Ibid.) In accordance with Haig’s instructions, Sonnenfeldt then redrafted the memorandum on February 18. (Memorandum from Sonnenfeldt to Kissinger, February 18; ibid.) For further background information, see Document 54. The President wrote “OK” on the memorandum, indicating his agreement with Kissinger’s initiative.
  2. Attached but not printed. For a summary of the February 13 memorandum, see Document 54.
  3. Attached but not printed. For the text of the February 18 memorandum, see Document 54.