75. Memorandum From Helmut Sonnenfeldt of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • Your Lunch with Egon Bahr, April 8, 1970

Bahr’s negotiations in Moscow and Ostpolitik in general will presumably take up much of your conversations. While we have a fairly good idea of the outlines of these negotiations, there are disturbing reports that indicate we may have not been informed on some aspects. In listening to Bahr’s explanations you might want to keep in mind some of the points below.


The three negotiations with Moscow, Warsaw and the GDR are linked and overlap to a great extent:

  • —the Soviets are making demands in their talks that would clearly determine the outcome of the other talks;
  • —how does the Brandt government expect to play all three? Will the Soviet negotiations be the governing factor?
  • —why not concentrate on the Polish talks where the issue is less complicated?

The Soviet Talks

The Germans, including Bahr, have been vague in their explanation of Soviet motives in reaching any agreement with Bonn at this time, especially if Soviet concessions are involved.

  • Bahr keeps hinting at some split in the politburo on Germany; while there may be serious trouble, we have no evidence that the German policy is at issue;
  • Bahr presumably will cite the China problem; but this has been a factor for several years and would not in itself be a sufficient motive for a major change in Moscow’s German policy.

If the talks are protracted as Bahr fears, will the pressure grow on Bonn to make further concessions to achieve a success; would the Soviets count on something like this? How will increasing internal pressures from the CDU affect the negotiation?

Reports2 [less than 1 line not declassified] indicate that the negotiations may have gone further than admitted by Bonn officially to the US. For example, Bahr claims credit for getting Gromyko to force Stoph to meet with Brandt in March but no report of this was made to us. It also is reported that there has been an exchange of “non-papers”; a preamble and the text of an agreement on renunciation of force agreement plus a third document on Soviet-West German relations. If this is so, the negotiations have gone into more detail than we have realized.

Bahr will probably list these major areas of disagreement:

The formula for renouncing any change in borders; the Soviets are demanding specific mention of the Oder-Neisse and the GDR border:
  • —How does Bonn propose to get around this? And what concession would the Soviets require for dropping their conditions?
The Inner German Relationship:
  • —A pledge of noninterference or something similar is likely to be a sticking point with the Soviets to head off any hint that they have acknowledged the right to unification;
  • —Indeed, the underlying Soviet scheme seems to be to build a record of points that confirm the juridical division of Germany;
  • —How does Bonn propose to deal with this basic approach?
  • —Though Bahr has claimed that he shut off discussion of this issue, there are some reports [less than 1 line not declassified] that raise doubts.

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    It is entirely possible that Bahr has continued to talk about Berlin with Gromyko in an effort to reach at least a tacit understanding. Thus, one report claims that Brandt, to Bahr’s amazement, wanted him to press for inclusion of Berlin in a renunciation of force agreement.

  • —The main point to explore may be how Bahr conceives the four-power Berlin talks will fit into his Moscow negotiations and the Brandt– Stoph talks;
  • —At this point it is difficult to understand how they do, unless the Germans expect their concessions on activities in Berlin will facilitate their own negotiations in Moscow.

European Security and Balanced Force Reductions

Both of these issues have been discussed with Gromyko but the reporting to us is very sketchy. Bahr has claimed that the Soviets have shown a great interest in regional arms limitations, but this may be self-serving since Bonn has now adopted the idea of balanced force reductions as the chief means to “reduce tensions” (Viz. your conversation with Schmidt).3 The Germans have assumed that we favor balanced force reductions, and they also see it as a means to delay any unilateral force reductions. Moreover, to move ahead on European security would placate the Soviets and ease Bahr’s chances of gaining some agreement. The Germans now fear we are lukewarm, and cause them significant problems; the Germans will believe we are indirectly undermining the policy.

  • —You might want to explore this from the standpoint of whether this is a vicious circle: the German-Soviet negotiations should progress before moving toward multilateral negotiations, but the Germans believe the Moscow talks will be stalled until there is movement toward the Soviet position on a security conference;
  • —The net effect is to increase pressures on the Germans all along the line. (Note: Schmidt, however, denied that MBFR should be seen in the context of a Security Conference.)

The CDU Opposition and Our Role

Bahr does not know, of course, of Barzel’s lengthy conversations with Ambassador Rush and his indirect request for our intervention to put the brakes on Brandt’s policy.4 He probably is generally aware, however, that the CDU is trying to enlist our support. The Germans are also becoming sensitive to French reservations about Ostpolitik. Thus, Bahr will be looking for any nuances that support his position.

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Moreover, Bonn probably has perceived some shades of difference between State, on the one hand, and the White House on the other. State does in fact want to be more forthcoming in endorsing Brandt’s Ostpolitik.

You may wish to emphasize the following points:

  • —We can give general support to the normalization of the FRG’s relations with the East, as the President did in his foreign policy report to the Congress;5
  • —We cannot be expected to be associated with all the specific elements, or the precise timing.

(Note: If you wish to apply a polite needle, you might point out that we have been informed on most of the details, but we have not been asked to consult in the true sense of the word nor given the texts exchanged in the Polish talks or the Moscow conversations.)

(At Tab A is a copy of an earlier memo rounding up the various negotiations.)6

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 683, Country Files, Europe, Germany, Vol. IV. Secret; Nodis. Sent for information. Copies were sent to Haig and Lord. A stamped notation indicates that Kissinger saw the memorandum.
  2. Not further identified.
  3. Kissinger met Schmidt for lunch at the German Embassy on April 7. Sonnenfeldt prepared a memorandum of conversation on April 9. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 683, Country Files, Europe, Germany, Vol. IV)
  4. See Documents 69 and 72.
  5. Reference is to the “First Annual Report to the Congress on United States Foreign Policy for the 1970’s,” delivered on February 18, 1970. See Public Papers: Nixon, 1970, pp. 114–190.
  6. Document 63.