79. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Brandt Visit: Morning Meeting
  • FRG Negotiations with the USSR and Poland


  • German
    • Helmut Schmidt, Minister of Defense
    • Rolf Pauls, Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany
    • Egon Bahr, State Secretary (Office of the Chancellor)
    • Georg Duckwitz, State Secretary (Foreign Office)
    • Conrad Ahlers, State Secretary (Press and Information Office)
    • Hans Schwarzmann, Chief of Protocol
    • Horst Krafft Robert, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Foreign Office
    • Lothar Lahn, Foreign Office
    • Wolf Dietrich Schilling, Personal Aide to Chancellor
    • Hans Noebel, Minister, German Embassy
    • Helmut Middelmann, Minister, German Embassy
    • Rear Admiral Herbert Trebesch, Defense Attaché, German Embassy
    • Carl Lahusen, German Embassy
    • Joseph J. Thomas, German Embassy
  • American
    • William P. Rogers, Secretary of State
    • Elliot L. Richardson, Under Secretary of State
    • Paul A. Volcker, Under Secretary of the Treasury
    • Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
    • Emil Mosbacher, Jr., Chief of Protocol
    • Kenneth Rush, Ambassador to the Federal Republic of Germany
    • Martin J. Hillenbrand, Assistant Secretary for European Affairs
    • G. Warren Nutter, Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs
    • Gerard Smith, Director, Arms Control and Disarmament Agency
    • Ray S. Cline, Director, Bureau of Intelligence and Research
    • James S. Sutterlin, Director, Office of German Affairs
    • James C. Nelson, Office of German Affairs

After brief welcoming remarks, the Secretary invited the German side to open the meeting with the discussion of recent FRG negotiations with the Soviet Union and Poland.

State Secretary Bahr stated that the main point to be kept in mind about current negotiations with the East is that conversations with the Soviets, conversations with the Poles, discussions between Chancellor Brandt and Premier Stoph and the current Berlin talks are all linked together. Bahr said that if the FRG’s purpose is to try, without illusions, to reduce tensions in the center of Europe, no single point can remain as an island of the Cold War. For example, if the FRG should succeed in negotiating an agreement for the Soviet Union but the Berlin talks do not succeed, the whole process would be stopped.

Bahr stated that he wanted to make clear at the outset that the FRG seeks no agreement which will touch upon the rights of the Four Powers for Berlin and Germany as a whole, and that everything being sought in current negotiations is in this context.

Bahr then turned to what he called unanswered points or problems that have not been resolved in connection with his talks with the Soviets. First, Bahr expressed uncertainty as to how Brandt’s reception by the people in Erfurt might affect the position of the East Germans. It is certain that the East Germans consider enthusiasm and applause for the Chancellor as deplorable. This might so frighten the East Germans as to cause them to attempt to torpedo all conversations, including those in Moscow.

A further unanswered point was the Soviet position. Bahr had the impression that the Soviets had made no final decisions about what their attitude and policy should be. At the next meeting the Soviets may have evolved a definite position. If it was negative, the talks would fail.

According to Bahr, there were three main points on which, up to now, the FRG and the Soviet Union have been unable to agree. (1) The FRG wants to make sure that there will be no arrangement under which the principal self-determination of the German people would be infringed. Self-determination of the German people is not negotiable. Though Gromyko expressed agreement in principle on this point, he indicated that this concept could not be part of a written agreement. (2) Gromyko asked the FRG to accept the principle of noninterference in the internal affairs of the GDR. Bahr commented that the FRG cannot accept this demand since the GDR is not a foreign state. (3) Gromyko [Page 217] demanded that the FRG bring down all barriers which now obstruct relations between the GDR and third countries. Bahr commented that the FRG also cannot accept this demand as long as the GDR maintains barriers preventing the FRG from establishing normal relations with East European countries and interfering with communications between the two parts of Germany.

The Secretary asked for Bahr’s assessment of Soviet motivations in the talks. Bahr said that in his opinion the Soviets would like to have a quiet situation on their Western front because they are uncertain over how to handle relations with China. According to Communist rules there should be excellent relations with all socialist countries, but the Soviets see, for example, that their relations with the United States are better than they are with China.

The Secretary asked how much time Bahr had spent in conversations with the Soviets and specifically with Gromyko. Bahr replied that he had spent a total of 30 hours in these conversations and that Gromyko was present for the entire time. Bahr added that Gromyko had done almost all of the talking for the Soviet side and that he was well informed and well prepared for his discussions.

The Secretary then asked if Bahr and Gromyko had reached agreement on any points. Bahr replied that though he had confined his earlier remarks to the points of disagreement, there had been certain points on which the FRG and Soviets had agreeed: (1) they agreed that relations between the FRG and USSR should be based upon the principles of the United Nations, especially upon Article 2 of the UN Charter. Bahr commented that from the Soviet point of view, until now relations had been based more upon Articles 53 and 127; (2) the FRG and USSR have agreed that, while the FRG cannot “recognize” the borders of Germany, it can agree to “respect” the present borders. It is the FRG’s intention to respect the present borders now and in the future; (3) the FRG and USSR have agreed that existing treaties will remain untouched by current Soviet/FRG negotiations. Bahr specified agreements governing the Four-Power rights and also agreements between the FRG and the Three Powers.

The Secretary asked if commercial activities had been discussed at any point within his conversations with the Soviets. Bahr replied that commercial matters had not been discussed at all.

Bahr indicated that in their first conversations, Gromyko had brought up the subject of Berlin and asked Bahr to explain the FRG position. Bahr had replied that the FRG cannot negotiate about Berlin because it is a Four-Power responsibility. However, the FRG could explain what it has in mind when it talks about Berlin; thus, when the FRG speaks of reducing tensions, it follows that there must also be détente for Berlin. Bahr had told Gromyko that (1) Berlin must have a [Page 218] guarantee of free civilian access; (2) West Berliners must be permitted to utilize FRG passports; (3) despite Four-Power rights, the USSR must recognize that the FRG represents West Berlin to the outside world and that it has close economic commercial and cultural ties to the city.

Bahr said that Gromyko was entirely calm about these points and did not take issue with any of them. Gromyko had stressed that one point about Berlin was especially valid for their discussions and that is, if the FRG and USSR talk about borders, they must also talk about the border which surrounds West Berlin. FRG respect for this border must also be part of any discussion of renunciation of force. Bahr indicated that this remark gave the FRG no problem as long as the border was respected by both countries.

Bahr stated that at their second meeting Gromyko reversed his position. He refused to talk at all about Berlin or to mention the word. The second meeting, Bahr pointed out, had taken place after the Four Powers had agreed to begin Berlin talks.

The Secretary asked if Bahr believed the Russians have other motives for talks with the FRG apart from relieving tensions. The Secretary specifically asked if Bahr thought there might be some commercial motivation behind the Soviet desire to talk. Bahr replied that he did not believe this to be the case.

The Secretary asked if Gromyko had brought up the subject of China in their discussions. Bahr replied that China had not been mentioned at all in the official talks. However, in a private discussion with another member of the Soviet delegation Bahr had commented that he did not understand the cause of tensions between the Soviet Union and China, since both countries were big and powerful and don’t seem to need any additional territory. Bahr said that at this suggestion his counterpart exploded and referred to China’s moves into India and Tibet, stating that China wishes to change borders with the Soviet Union in a similar way.

The Secretary asked if Gromyko had linked the Brandt–Stoph talks in his own discussions with Bahr. Bahr replied that Gromyko tries to speak for all of East Europe and assumes the role of the master. The FRG does not take account of this except occasionally with reference to the GDR. East Berlin would like to block development of East-West cooperation. The FRG, however, attempts to get the Soviets to exert pressure on the East Germans. To some extent this has been successful. The Russians have helped to improve the atmosphere and speed up discussions of technical subjects between the FRG and GDR.

Minister Schmidt then called upon State Secretary Duckwitz to review FRG negotiations with Poland. Duckwitz began by stating that in approaching these discussions both sides have attempted to create a good and businesslike atmosphere. Personal contact between the delegations has been very good.

[Page 219]

At the first meeting both sides outlined views on bilateral questions. As expected, the main Polish concern was to discuss the frontier. The Germans stressed renunciation of force and sought to keep the border issue within this framework.

Also at the first meeting the Poles indicated that it was too early to think about spectacular progress in bilateral relations, such as establishing diplomatic relations. They seemed willing, however, to work toward a pragmatic step-by-step improvement in relations—for example, in the cultural or trade areas. The Poles had also indicated the importance they attached to synchronizing their policy with other Warsaw Pact countries.

According to Duckwitz, in the first meeting, the Poles had not rejected the idea of discussing humanitarian problems. Many Germans have close relatives residing in Poland whom they are able to visit only once every three or five years and then only after going through complicated application procedure involving much red tape. Also, though many German nationals residing in Poland have moved to the FRG in recent years, there are still some 275,000 who have applied for resettlement in the FRG. The FRG believes it is important to discuss these issues and to seek improvements.

Duckwitz then turned to his second negotiating session with the Poles. He said this session was devoted almost exclusively to the border question. Duckwitz commented that it was apparent that the respective points of view of the two countries are exceedingly difficult to reconcile. The two delegations had exchanged working papers as a basis for discussions. The Poles suggested a separate agreement on the border question, while the FRG proposed a renunciation of force agreement.

The Poles went into great detail with regard to the Potsdam Agreement, maintaining that that Agreement had determined the German-Polish border. According to the Poles all that remains to be done now is for the FRG to recognize it.

Duckwitz then outlined the FRG position. Under the Potsdam Agreement, the border question was specifically reserved to be dealt with in a final peace settlement. Since no Polish or German Government took part in the Potsdam arrangement the border provisions specified in the Agreement are largely provisional. The FRG would not agree that the Potsdam Agreement constituted a peace settlement. Duckwitz stated that the FRG reaffirmed its determination to normalize relations, but that it had to take into account the rights and responsibilities of the Four Powers concerning responsibility for Berlin and Germany as a whole.

Duckwitz indicated that he is hopeful that extensive legal discussions such as engaged in during his second session with the Poles can be excluded from future talks. He expects, however, that the Poles will [Page 220] continue to play down the Potsdam Agreement reservations and Four-Power responsibilities. Duckwitz suggested that it is not unlikely that the Poles will attempt to elicit statements from the United States and other Allies on the border question and he indicated that the FRG would be grateful if the U.S. would keep it informed of any such Polish attempts.

Duckwitz repeated his belief that it will be difficult to reconcile the Polish and FRG positions on the border issue and indicated that he is hopeful that the FRG will be able to make greater allowance for the Polish viewpoint in future negotiations.

Duckwitz expressed his personal impression that the Poles are interested in bringing the talks to a successful conclusion. He recognized, on the other hand, that there are powerful elements in Poland which are basically opposed to an improvement in relations with the FRG. He added that the Russians and East Germans must also view the possibility of healthier FRG-Polish relations with mixed feelings. Duckwitz concluded his presentation by stating that the FRG is prepared for lengthy negotiations and is convinced that they will be successful only if both sides find it possible to make substantial concessions. Duckwitz emphasized that no concessions would be made which would interfere with Four-Power rights, but that the FRG desires to make the best of this opportunity to guide German-Polish relations out of many years of stagnation.

The Secretary asked if Duckwitz felt the Poles might have some flexibility on humanitarian issues. Duckwitz replied that at least Poland had not refused to discuss these matters.

The Secretary asked if the Poles had linked the issues discussed with the possibility of a loan from the FRG. Duckwitz replied that there was absolutely no discussion of economic matters during his conversations with the Poles.

Mr. Hillenbrand then asked if nevertheless it were not possible that a political agreement and some sort of credit arrangement with the FRG were linked together in the Polish mind. Duckwitz repeated that the subject had not come up in his own conversations, but asked Mr. Robert to comment further on this question.

Mr. Robert indicated that he had discussed economic issues with the Polish Government several months ago. At that time only trade relations were discussed. Credits were not discussed in detail. Rumors have appeared in the press suggesting very high Polish requests. Robert indicated that the FRG had made clear that such “fantastic” figures could not serve as the basis for any discussion. While the FRG and Poland had reached agreement in principle on trade matters, the details still needed to be worked out. In this connection, Robert indicated that any liberalization of trade with Poland would first have to be [Page 221] discussed in GATT and in other international organizations to which the FRG has obligations. Robert also pointed out that it would not be possible to treat East European countries too differently from one another. Duckwitz concluded by conceding that it would probably be fair to say that in the Polish heart there is a certain link between political agreement and FRG credits.

Mr. Hillenbrand asked if Duckwitz felt the Soviets were holding the Poles back in their negotiations. Duckwitz replied that the Soviets were restraining the Poles less than he expected. The GDR actually seems to be the most interested East European observor of the negotiations. The GDR ambassador in Warsaw went to see the Polish participants immediately after each meeting.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 7 GER W. Secret. Drafted by Nelson and approved in S on April 21. The meeting was held in the Cabinet Room at the White House. The memorandum is part I of VI. Parts II, III, IV, V, and VI, memoranda of conversation on the SALT Talks, MBFR and Conference on European Security, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and FRG/Soviet Air Negotiations, are ibid. For a German record of the entire conversation, see Akten zur Auswärtigen Politik der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, 1970, Vol. 1, pp. 584–588. Many of the participants met Brandt for a discussion of additional issues at Blair House that afternoon. Memoranda of conversation on Technological Cooperation, US Economic Relations with the EC, Spanish Link to NATO, and Development Aid are in the National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 7 GER W. According to the President’s Daily Diary, Nixon also met Brandt privately from 10:27 a.m. to 12:17 p.m. (Ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Central Files) Although no U.S. record has been found, Brandt prepared a memorandum of this private discussion; see Akten zur Auswärtigen Politik der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, 1970, Vol. 1, pp. 591–595. See also Brandt, People and Politics, pp. 284–288, and My Life in Politics, p. 176, in which he writes: “In our conversation of 10 April 1970 Richard Nixon said pointblank that he had confidence in our policy, and knew we had no intention of risking tried and true friendships.”