96. Action Memorandum From Winston Lord of the Policy Planning Staff to Secretary of State Kissinger, Washington, March 4, 1975.1 2


  • The Secretary


  • S/P - Winston Lord [WL initialed]
  • C - Helmut Sonnenfeldt
  • EUR - Arthur Hartman


  • S/P
  • EUR
  • S/S-S
  • TMB
  • RF-WS


  • Your Visit to Berlin
[Page 1]




Your upcoming visit to Berlin requires careful planning. What you do or say in Berlin could affect not only relations with the FRG, but also with the USSR. An important question is whether to give a public speech in Berlin and if so, on what subject and before whom.


Visits by important American officials to Berlin have traditionally been the occasion for forceful demonstrations of our support for the freedom of the city. Such visits have become stylized and Berliners, still confused by the complicated political situation which has emerged from the Quadripartite Agreement, will be sensitive to elimination of any of the traditional elements of a Berlin visit, such as a stop at the Wall. They will analyze your every word for hints of changes in the American posture. Given events of the past year, they will pay special attention to your comments on ties between West Berlin and the FRG and to your treatment of the relationship between difficulties in Berlin and progress in other areas of East-West relations.

[Page 2]

You will be in Berlin during a critical period for the FRG domestic political situation. Nerves will still be on edge in the aftermath of the Lorenz kidnapping, and you will arrive in the middle of a series of Landtag elections in which the performance of the coalition parties, and especially Genscher’s FDP, is likely to be poor. Genscher has personally adopted the Berlin issue as an example of his firmness in dealings with the East. Schmidt is therefore obliged to adopt a similar stance. The two will probably wish to be seen with you in public during your stay in Berlin and will expect your support for a firm line on Berlin issues while you are there. Statements or actions which seem to waver from such a line will be used by the CDU/CSU as evidence that Schmidt and Genscher do not enjoy full US support in Berlin. Conversely, too open public identification with Schmidt and Genscher could lead to opposition charges of mixing in German domestic politics.

The issues on which Berliners and West Germans will be expecting a firm position from you are, of course, of major importance to the USSR and the GDR. Soviet and East German leaders may interpret some of your public efforts to meet Berlin sensitivities as being against the spirit of detente. In light of traditional Soviet sensitivity on the matter of FRG-West Berlin ties, the East may even object to Schmidt’s and Genscher’s presence in Berlin during your stay. Finally, there may be pressure, both from the East Germans and from Ambassador Cooper, for a visit to East Berlin. Given continued hostility between the GDR and West Berlin and sensitivities in West Berlin about East Berlin’s development as a de facto capital of the GDR, such a visit would negate the positive political and psychological impact of your activities in West Berlin. It would also represent much too high a level of contact with the East Germans at this early stage in our bilateral relations.


You cannot satisfy everyone in the visit. The least controversy will result if you restrict your [Page 3] activities to the usual round of visits and ceremonial occasions which constitute a normal show of friendship and support for West Berlin and for West German efforts to maintain the viability of the city. This would allow for a modest amount of “drum beating” which could be justified if the Soviets were to complain.

A visit along these lines could include:

  • — a ceremonial visit to the Rathaus and signature of the Golden Book;
  • — a stop at a Berlin institution; industrial, cultural or governmental;
  • — an act taking cognizance of the division of the city, such as a visit to the Wall;
  • — some contact with Allied forces such as a visit to American Headquarters or one of the main barracks complexes.

Controversial aspects of the visit can be minimized by choice of institutions to be visited and the manner in which the events are handled. [Page 4] It would probably be unwise to visit the Reichstag or Checkpoint Charlie, for example. And the obligatory visit to the Wall can be made least dramatic by approaching the sectoral boundary at the Brandenburg Gate rather than from one of the more emotion-laden observation points such as Bernauerstrasse or Potsdamer Platz.


During the visit, you will have to make some public remarks. It will be difficult to limit these to a few words, especially in light of traditional use by American leaders of Berlin as a platform for major speeches. A further argument in favor of a longer and more formal speech is the attention it would focus — both East and west — on the continued American commitment to Western Europe, a point useful to underscore in the midst of considerable US-Soviet diplomatic activity.

It would probably be wise to avoid the demonstrative public forum used by both Presidents Kennedy and Nixon during their visits to the city. A less public forum would be more controllable and less provocative to the Soviets.

The Berlin House of Representatives would provide a dignified occasion for a speech in a setting which demonstrates West Berlin’s dedication to democratic government. Appearing before an official body would allow you to deliver a ceremonial address and would remove pressure for statements of a policy nature. Using the House of Representatives as a forum would also allow you to refuse speaking invitations from private groups, which are now beginning to come in, without offending anyone.


1. That once a tentative date for your visit has been determined, EUR be authorized to present our views to FRG and Berlin authorities along the lines outlined above and to explore the possibility of your addressing a special session of the Berlin House of Representatives while you are in the city.

Agree [HAK initialed]



2. That EUR and S/P be instructed to begin preparation of a speech for your appearance before the House of Representatives, with emphasis placed on a ceremonial reaffirmation of our support of Berlin and our determination to continue the policy of detente.

Agree [HAK initialed]



  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Policy Planning Staff, Director’s Files (Winston Lord) 1969-1977, Entry 5027, Box 351, Mar. 1-15, 1975. Confidential. A handwritten notation on the top of the first page of the memorandum that reads, “Secretary approved both recommendations with note that he wished EUR and SIP begin speech preparation “immediately” RW 3/9/75.” Kissinger initialed his approval of both recommendations on March 8, by the second recommendation he wrote “Immediately” in the margin. Kissinger visited West Berlin and addressed its House of Representatives on May 21. (See “Address Before the Berlin House of Representatives,” Department of State Bulletin 77 (June 16, 1975), pp. 812-14)
  2. Lord asked Kissinger to approve the Department to make arrangements for Kissinger’s visit to West Berlin. Kissinger approved the recommendations.