86. Telegram From the Embassy in Germany to the Department of State1

6244 Subj: CDU Efforts to Unseat Brandt Government and Block Eastern Policy.

Summary: CDU leaders are considering an effort to bring down the Brandt government in the Bundestag session June 4 in connection with the debate on the Chancellor’s budget. While aware this effort may not succeed, CDU Fraktion leader Barzel believes he has at least for the time being blocked forward movement on the German-Soviet renunciation of force agreement. We agree with this conclusion. End summary.
In talk with EmbOff June 2, CDU General Secretary Heck (protect) stated he was engaged in active efforts to bring the Brandt coalition government down during the Bundestag debate on the Chancellor’s budget on June 4. Although the precise tactic had not been selected, his effort would be to utilize the dissatisfaction of certain FDP deputies with the draft FRG-Soviet renunciation of force agreement worked out by Bahr in Moscow as a lever to break off these deputies from the coalition.
Heck said he was engaged in active discussion with FDP Bundestag deputies Zoglmann, Mende, Starke, and Achenbach. In addition he was in contact with figures in the North Rhine-Westphalian FDP organization who did not support the Eastern policy of the FRG Government, including the Deputy Chairman of the FDP Landtag Fraktion. Heck [Page 239] was unsure whether his tactic would succeed but he said he believed the CDU had a moral obligation at this time in view of its opposition to the coalition’s Eastern policy to try to unseat it. Heck said he would try again to unseat the government after the North Rhine-Westphalian Landtag election if the election results were negative for the SPD and FDP in that Land. He believed it possible the SPD might lose enough votes to the reestablished German Communist Party in the industrialized Ruhr area of North Rhine-Westphalia to make the outcome questionable.
In a separate conversation with EmbOff later June 2, CDU Fraktion leader Barzel said he believed that CDU opposition had prevented the FRG from taking a planned decision in its May 27 meeting to sign the text of the German-Soviet agreement on renunciation of force worked out by Bahr. Barzel dwelled at some length on USG statements of support for Brandt’s Eastern policy. He said he could understand the desire of the USG to work with any freely elected Federal German Government. But the frequency and comprehensive phrasing of USG’s statements of support on the Eastern policy were making CDU leaders most unhappy.
Barzel said he had warned Brandt May 26 that any information Brandt chose to give Barzel as opposition leader on the pending renunciation of force treaty would be used by Barzel in public debate against the government so that Brandt could not accuse Barzel of bad faith in using this information.
Barzel indicated he would countenance efforts to work on FDP Bundestag deputies in order to bring the Brandt government down at this time. He indicated at the same time that he did not have much confidence these efforts would succeed and hence was not giving them his all-out backing. He hinted, however, that he might in the next several days try a sneak resolution in the Bundestag to the effect that no agreements should be concluded with the USSR or East Germany which would place in question the right of the German people to self-determination. Such a resolution would cause confusion in the SPD. The SPD might finally vote for it. In that case, their hands would be tied to some extent with regard to the negotiations with the USSR and GDR.
With regard to the future position of the FDP on Eastern policy, Barzel said that this would depend largely on the results of the June 14 Landtag elections. If the FDP survived in these elections, then Scheel and Genscher probably would say that Brandt’s Eastern policy was a good thing and should be continued. If the FDP failed to reach the 5 percent limit in one or the other Landtag elections—especially in North Rhine-Westphalia, Scheel and Genscher would then refer to their present statements of doubt about the advisability of the Bahr draft, and claim that, as they had said before the elections, the government should slow down on its Eastern policy.
Barzel said that if the coalition government should proceed to sign the treaty with the USSR in its present form as he understood it, [Page 240] the CDU would bring in a vote of nonconfidence in the government with some possibility of cracking off the wavering FDP deputies. Barzel said his version of CDU Eastern policy could be simply formulated. The party was ready to take all necessary measures for practical improvement of its relations with the East but not ready to sign final agreements. This was his own view of the matter, but he had great difficulty in bringing other CDU leaders along this balanced approach. Most preferred like Kiesinger to inveigh about negative aspects of SPDFDP policy without bringing out the readiness of the CDU to make practical progress where possible.
Barzel noted that he had the day before received a visit by a Polish delegation which had made an urgent effort to invite him to visit Poland prior to the June 14 elections. Barzel replied he could not contemplate such a thing at this time nor accept a letter of invitation now. Furthermore, he had said, the Polish press had recently compared him with Hitler, a comparison he could not be expected to enjoy. The Polish delegation then asked Barzel not to block the Oder-Neisse negotiations starting in Bonn on June 8. Barzel made no comment in reply.
Comment: We doubt that Heck and others working with him will be successful in splitting the government coalition on June 4 and bring down the Brandt government. On the other hand, it does seem possible that Barzel has succeeded not only in blocking a possible Cabinet decision on May 27 to sign the agreement worked out by Bahr, but in fact may have succeeded in blocking the signature of the agreement even after the June 14 elections. Unless the Landtag election returns are unexpectedly favorable for the coalition parties, they may not dare to risk a showdown with conservative FDP members while the Bundestag is still in session. It also seems possible that they may seek further clarification from the Soviets on points raised by both opposition and coalition leaders.
We note that Barzel’s version of the Bahr agreement (septel)2 does not fully square with the information given us by FRG FonOff. But it is close enough to be politically effective. In general, we believe that Brandt, faced by the negative results of the Kassel talks and the pending Landtag elections, jumped the gun in his effort to use the Bahr results for political purposes before members of his own Cabinet had had time intellectually to digest the results. If the pace had been less forced, the outcome in the FDP might well have been different.3
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 12 GER W. Secret; Priority; Exdis.
  2. Not further identified.
  3. On June 5 the Embassy reported that “predicted CDU efforts to unseat the Brandt government did not succeed in yesterday’s vote on the budget for the Federal Chancellor’s Office but came close enough to encourage the CDU to try again.” (Telegram 6403 from Bonn, June 5; National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 12 GER W)