87. Intelligence Information Cable1

TDCS DB–315/02864–70


  • West Germany


  • [less than 1 line of text not declassified] June 1970


  • Informal Suggestions of Chancellery State Secretary Bahr for the Four-Power Talks on Berlin


  • [1 line not declassified]


  • [1 paragraph (41/2 lines) not declassified]

(Summary: Chancellery State Secretary Egon Bahr presented some ideas for the Four-Power talks on Berlin, after explaining that Chancellor Willy Brandt has approved his passing them on, but that Brandt and Bahr did not want these ideas ascribed to them and it would be most embarrassing to them if the fact of this action should become known. Bahr’s suggested tactic for Berlin negotiations is to start by getting the Soviets to accept the thesis that the Western powers are sovereign in West Berlin. Bahr suggested ways of showing that this sovereignty can be used to Soviet disadvantage if no agreement is reached, while offering an agreement in effect limiting Western sovereignty by defining actual practices in West Berlin. Bahr thought that outstanding Berlin issues should be discussed only after such an agreement was reached. Bahr also described particular concessions and arrangements which he thought could be acceptable, including a Soviet trade mission in West Berlin. A Senat identity card for West Berliners to enter East Berlin, inclusion of GDR authorities in access arrangements, and political representation of West Berlin in international organizations by the Three Powers, rather than by the FRG. End of summary.)

In a private conversation on [less than 1 line not declassified] June 1970, Chancellery State Secretary Egon Bahr took up the subject of the Four-Power talks on Berlin, which he had mentioned briefly in another [Page 242]recent conversation. ([less than 1 line not declassified] comment: [less than 1 line not declassified] TDCSDB– 315/02753–70, paragraph 15.)2 Bahr said that he had been talking about this question with Chancellor Willy Brandt, who had approved Bahr’s suggestion that he should pass on these thoughts, since they might be useful to senior American officials concerned. However, Bahr emphasized that his comments did not represent a message to the US Government and in fact suggested that the ideas should not be ascribed to Brandt or to him. Bahr asked that these ideas should definitely not be discussed with either of the other Western Powers or with anybody in Berlin, as no one in Berlin has been consulted. Bahr then presented a written statement, reiterating that it would be most embarrassing if this came to light, as the Germans most emphatically do not want to be in the position of giving the Americans advice. ([less than 1 line not declassifed]comment: It may be noted, however, that as reported in Embassy Bonn 6254, Limdis, 3 June 1970,3 the German Foreign Office was thinking of recommending to Brandt that he send another letter to the three Western powers about Berlin. We cannot judge whether Bahr’s action is coincidental. It will be noted some of the ideas reported below have been presented previously by German spokesmen, including Bahr’s information. The present account is noteworthy for its description of concessions the West Germans might make.)
Bahr’s paper reads as follows:
For a Four-Power agreement about West Berlin, three possibilities appear to be offered from the Soviet view:
  • —The transformation of West Berlin into an independent political unit.
  • —Partial agreements while maintaining different views of the legal situation.
  • —Readiness to sit down to solve problems from case to case as they develop.
In the Western view, the first alternative is not acceptable. The third alternative would be a final fallback position. Negotiations should take place in the framework of the second alternative. It is important for this that the Western powers should have a firm concept and that they make clear their determination not to back away from this concept.
A Western negotiating position can be sketched out as follows:
The Four Powers agree that—regardless of their differing views of the legal situation—they are competent for handling Berlin questions and can make agreements about them.
Since the existing differences of views about legal questions can obviously not be eliminated at the present time, the question now is to reach agreement between the Four Powers about certain principles and about the resolution of some practical issues.
Among these principles is the assertion that the Three Powers exercise ultimate authority in West Berlin. The following points are therefore subject to the decision of the Three Powers and might be settled as follows:
  • —The ties between West Berlin and the Federal Republic which have been developed under the supervision and responsibility of the Three Powers must be respected by all countries.
  • —West Berlin will not be governed by the Federal Republic.
  • —The Articles of the Basic Law and the Berlin Charter which read to the contrary will remain suspended.
  • —On the basis of their ultimate responsibility, the Three Powers maintain control over each acceptance of a Federal law by the House of Representatives of West Berlin.
  • —The Three Western Powers will particularly, as in the past, permit no takeover of laws which have been passed within the framework of FRG membership in NATO or the FRG emergency regulations.
  • —To this extent the voting right of Berlin Deputies in the Bundestag continues to be restricted.
The pressing questions which require practical resolution include:
  • —Traffic within the city of Berlin.
  • —Access between West Berlin and the Federal Republic.
  • —The economic and consular representation of West Berlin
  • —The presence of the Federal Government in Berlin.
The Three Powers can establish a negotiating position for themselves only if they make clear to the USSR that the maintenance of the principles listed under paragraph III C above is by no means to be taken for granted. As of now, nothing stops the Three Powers from extending and changing these arrangements, for instance, by establishing closer ties between West Berlin and the Federal Republic. This situation will not change until there is an agreement with the USSR. It [Page 244]should be understandable that the Three Powers can express their willingness to accept these positions only if the USSR for its part is willing to agree to satisfactory practical arrangements on the subjects listed under paragraph III D above. It could serve the purposes of the negotiation if the Three Powers could explain to the USSR what extension of the competencies of the Federal Government in Berlin they might consider. They might choose examples which would make a clear analogy with the present activities of the GDR Government in East Berlin.
On the other side, for an improvement of the practical arrangements, the Three Powers may have to be prepared to be conciliatory on some specific matters which will permit the USSR to save face. Following are examples of such concessions which are possible:
  • —Access of West Berliners to East Berlin should certainly not be made more difficult than for citizens of the Federal Republic, but they might be subject to special formalities, such as by showing an identity card issued by the West Berlin Senat.
  • GDR authorities could be included in access arrangements between West Berlin and the Federal Republic according to the principle of ‘identification but not control.’
  • —Political representation of Berlin abroad could be undertaken by the Three Powers for multilateral organizations and matters, such as the United Nations and worldwide treaties.
  • —The presence of the Federal Republic in Berlin will be limited insofar as FRG constitutional bodies will no longer undertake formal official acts in Berlin which devolve on them from the Basic Law.”
Bahr commented orally as follows: The main starting point is that there is no value in arguing about legal positions, and they should therefore be excluded from the discussion. The West wants no change in the status quo of the legal situation. Therefore, the guarantee of Western sovereignty in West Berlin is primary. The Soviet Foreign Minister, A.A. Gromyko, indicated to Bahr in Moscow that he would be willing to accept this Western sovereignty in West Berlin. By implication, Gromyko accepted the idea that there was no need for the Soviets to participate in the responsibility for West Berlin. However, Bahr feels, unless the question of legal rights is excluded from discussion, the Soviets will try to establish their right to have a say in West Berlin. In this connection Bahr mentioned parenthetically that Brandt and he see no objection to Soviet establishment of a trade mission in West Berlin as long as it is made absolutely clear, and the West sticks to it, that this mission has absolutely no consular rights and cannot, for instance, have anything to do with visa applications.
Bahr noted that the positions listed under his paragraph III can be either expanded or contracted at the will of the Three Powers, since the Three Powers have the sovereignty, and Bahr thought that this point should be made very clear to the Soviets. After agreement has been reached by both sides to accept the conditions set under this paragraph, [Page 245]on the basis of full Western sovereignty in West Berlin, negotiations could then begin on the four aspects listed under paragraph III D.
Concerning the concessions listed in his final paragraph, Bahr explained tht the Senat identity card would be a special card used solely for crossing into East Berlin. It would be best if all West Berliners could have these cards and they could be used at least once a month. However, after the principle has been agreed on within the Four-Power talks, details would have to be negotiated between the Senat and the GDR. The Senat might have to agree to withhold the cards from some categories of West Berliners or might have to agree that they could only be used on specified dates.
Bahr’s point on concessions regarding Berlin access is that Dulles’ theory4 might be accepted, letting the GDR authorities act as agents of the Soviets. ([less than 1 line not declassified] comment: Presumably Bahr meant that this would apply to Allied traffic. The East Germans already control German traffic to and from Berlin.) Regarding political representation of West Berlin in international bodies, an agreement would have to be worked out between the Three Powers and the FRG on how the coordination would be handled. Concerning FRG presence in West Berlin Bahr’s wording is intended to mean that the Chancellor, Cabinet, President, and Bundestag could only go to West Berlin as visitors and would not be able to conduct any business there that would be legally binding.
[11/2 lines not declassified]
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, EUR/CE Files: Lot 91 D 341, POL 39.1, 1970 Four Power Talks, June Preparations for Meetings. Secret; No Foreign Dissem; Controlled Dissem; No Dissem Abroad; Background Use Only; Routine. Prepared in the CIA.
  2. Dated June 1. Paragraph 15 of the cable reads: “After stating that Brandt obviously does not want to tell the Allies how to handle the Four-Power talks on Berlin or what pace to follow in them, Bahr said that Brandt and he agree that the Allies should accept Ambassador Abrasimov’s offer to reach a concrete partial agreement on aspects of the situation in West Berlin. No one can benefit by a discussion of principles, which was Abrasimov’s alternate suggestion, and the Allies should stick to the principles that now exist. A concrete agreement, however, would represent a definitive confirmation of the Soviet position and would serve to secure the situation in Berlin. Furthermore, no one can know if or when the Soviets will ever again be prepared to discuss a definitive agreement about Berlin, and there is a good chance that if the present opportunity passes, the Soviets will say in the future that an agreement about Berlin can only be discussed with the GDR. ([less than 1 line not declassified]comment: Bahr’s comments on this question were obviously designed for effect. He has much at stake in the Berlin talks.)” (Ibid.)
  3. Not printed. (Ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 28 GER B)
  4. Reference is to the “agency theory” advanced by Secretary of State John Foster Dulles in November 1958 in response to Soviet Premier Nikita Khruschev’s ultimatum on Berlin. See Foreign Relations, 1958–1960, vol. VIII, Berlin Crisis, 1958–1959 . See also Hillenbrand, Fragments of Our Time, p. 122.