273. Briefing Memorandum From the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for European and Canadian Affairs (Springsteen) to Secretary of State Kissinger 1


Numerous means exist to register our displeasure of recent FRG statements and actions connected with the current Near East crisis. Possible pressure points are divided in the listing that follows by category, with an explanation given of (a) the likely impact, (b) the advantages and disadvantages, and (c) the means of implementing each measure.

It should be recalled, however, that the Germans generally have better leverage in most areas than the US. In many instances we are in the position of demandeur. Acts on our part in many fields would likely bring on highly effective German retaliation and result in a net disadvantage for us.

Thus, prospects for a satisfactory new offset agreement with the FRG—already none too bright—would be greatly diminished, as would our chances of achieving a burdensharing arrangement in NATO. In the international monetary field, the German Bundesbank holds vast amounts of US dollars. It could precipitate a major dollar crisis overnight by embarking on dollar-dumping operations.

In trade and investment we have been anxious to expand our markets in Germany and, at the same time, to attract more German investment to the US. A German boycott of US goods would severely injure American private firms as well as our balance of payments position.


Cancel Schlesinger Visit to FRG

The Secretary of Defense plans to visit German Defense Minister Leber in Bonn November 7–8 while on a trip to Europe to attend a meeting of the Nuclear Planning Group. Cancellation of the visit would be a quick, sharp demonstration of our unhappiness with the FRG, the effect of which can be overcome later if we wish. It would have the disadvantage of cancelling a useful working meeting. Moreover, this act would appear to be directed against Leber, who has been one of the [Typeset Page 843] strongest supporters of our position within the German Government. Means of implementation—Call in German Ambassador in Washington, tell him the visit is cancelled, and explain why.

Cancel Visit of Admiral Zimmerman to US

Admiral Zimmerman, Chief of Staff of the German Federal Armed Forces, wants to visit the United States December 9–15 as the guest of Admiral Moorer. Cancellation would be a quick, sharp demonstration of our unhappiness with the FRG. Means of implementation—Have Admiral Moorer inform Zimmerman that his visit would not be convenient at the present time.

Cancel Sale of Four Destroyers

We are in the process of selling four destroyers to the FRG which are currently on loan to the German Navy. Cancellation would be a quick demonstration of our dissatisfaction with the German position on the Middle East. The act would create some ill will toward us by the German military, who would be less disposed to rely on us for future military equipment deliveries. It would also mean loss of a good sale. Means of implementationDOD instruct MAAG, Germany to inform Germans that sale has been cancelled.

Withdraw Troops from the FRG

We are maintaining our current troop levels in the FRG at considerable economic and political cost, both domestically and internationally. The FRG strongly desires that we maintain present troop levels. If we told the FRG that we were withdrawing troops so that we could have more flexibility in their use, we would make a deep impression on the German government and public. This act, however, would be risky in that it would bring to the fore German fears about the reliability of our commitment to defend Europe, would run directly counter to a Presidential commitment to maintain and improve our troops in Europe, and would weaken alliance defense. We would implement the withdrawal by US means, and inform the FRG and NATO in Bonn and Brussels.


Withdraw US Government Participation in the Following German Trade Fairs

a) Systems 73—This is a computer fair to be held in November 1973 in Munich. Withdrawal of US Government support at this late date presumably would make it impossible for American firms to be represented. The political-psychological impact would be considerable. The obvious disadvantage lies in the damage US companies would suffer in a very important market.

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b) Berlin Industries Fair—This annual fair will be held in Berlin from November 2–11, 1973. Again, withdrawal of US participation for the first time since this fair was started would clearly signal US displeasure with FRG actions. There would be no commercial disadvantages; however, to the extent that our participation served to underline US solidarity with Berlin, withdrawal would damage our Berlin posture to some degree.

c) Berlin Green Week—This annual agricultural fair will be held in late January. Continued participation would have been difficult in any event in view of US Department of Agriculture opposition. Our withdrawal would, however, be a highly visible move, especially when combined with simultaneous withdrawal from the Industries Fair. However, damage to our Berlin position and policy would be aggravated by the combined moves.

A general disadvantage from the above moves arises from the probability of German retaliation. Thus, we have been most anxious for FRG participation in the Spokane 1974 Industrial Exposition. Implementation of the above-suggested moves would kill any chance that the FRG would agree to participate.

Halt Negotiations of US–FRG Agreement on Environmental Protection

We have been engaged in negotiations concerning this treaty, which the FRG desires. Informing the Germans that we are suspending negotiations would have the advantage of signalling our displeasure with no disadvantages to ourselves. While under different circumstances we might have been favorably inclined toward concluding such an agreement, we are more interested in an international agreement in this field than in a growing number of bilateral treaties.

Reimpose Controls on US Agricultural Exports

The Germans have been particularly hard hit by export controls we found necessary to impose last summer on such commodities as soybeans. However, it is doubtful whether we could maintain such restrictions vis-à-vis Germany, once we had lifted the restrictions world-wide. If it could be done, the impact would be considerable; so, however, would be the German ability to hit back by boycotting US goods.

Impose Barriers to German Exports to the US

Despite sharp price increases due to currency realignments, German exports to the United States, especially in the automotive field, have continued to rise. A series of measures to impede, delay, and harass shipments on Volkswagen, BMW and other popular German makes would hurt the German automobile industry severely, but the effect would be extended over a considerable time period, thus losing visibility and impact in the political-psychological area. There would [Typeset Page 845] be distinct advantages to our balance of trade/payments (except for the specter of predictable German retaliation), and our domestic automobile industry would benefit in terms of increased American small-car sales. On the negative side, such measures would fly in the face of our stated policy of tariff reductions and removal of non-tariff barriers.

Berlin Measures

Oppose Establishment of the FRG Environmental Protection Agency or Some Other FRG Proposed Office in Berlin

Our opposition could be announced in a closed meeting of the quadripartite Bonn Group, or reflected in some public statement. Such a stance on our part, which would doubtless parallel the Soviet position, would almost certainly prevent the establishment of the given office. Our action would signal a change in our attitude toward an issue crucial to the FRG, namely the maintenance of FRG-Berlin ties.

Withdraw our Support of FRG Efforts to Represent Berlin in Eastern Europe in all Consular Areas

This could be stated publicly or told the Soviets or Eastern Europeans quietly. The effect would be to frustrate a main plank of FRG policy, the achievement of which has thus far prevented normalization of FRG relations with Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Bulgaria.

Refuse to Attend Quadripartite Bonn Group Meetings

These are weekly meetings in Bonn to coordinate policy on Berlin matters. Our failure to attend meetings would disrupt a variety of FRG plans and programs. We could plead the press of other business in explaining our absence.

Refuse to Provide Air Transportation to Berlin for the FRG President and Chancellor Brandt

These courtesy flights by USAFE have been mounted for years, based on the inability of the Germans to fly themselves through the GDR to Berlin. Cancellation of these flights would mean that the FRG leaders could not travel quickly or conveniently to Berlin.

Stop Carrying German Mail on our Berlin Trains

This would annoy the FRG bureaucracy, which uses our “secure” trains to ship all material to FRG offices in West Berlin.

Move Troops or Equipment out of Berlin

This would be an extreme move which would frighten Berliners and the German government, who would assume we were abandoning or scaling down our commitments to the city.

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Political Measures

Arrange with Soviets for Cancellation of Scheel’s Late October Moscow Visit

This would be a painful slap at the German government, which is anxious to have the visit succeed in solving many key issues in Soviet-German relations. The major risk is that the USSR will reject our suggestion, and later use it against us with the FRG. We might implement this measure through a careful approach to the Soviets in Washington.

Cancel German/American Information Talks (November, 1973)

This is an easily implementable measure, which could be coordinated with USIA, followed by instruction to our Embassy in Bonn or notification to the Germans here.

Discourage High Level FRG Visits

As several Cabinet-level visits are pending and some twenty facilitative grants for lesser officials have already been processed, this step would be felt immediately by the German government coalition. Distinguishing between coalition and opposition party members would further emphasize this move. Our action could lead to possible retaliatory measures through German withdrawal of financial participation of Fulbright exchanges and other programs which provide study and travel grants to US scholars. Implementation would require coordination with USIA followed by instructions to Embassy Bonn.

Curtail FRG Privileges at Page Terminal, Dulles International Airport

Such a step would be felt by German officialdom, military and civilian (including dependents) immediately. Media reaction will undoubtedly follow closely and could be leaked by us. It would be a clear signal to the German government and official family of strong American irritation at FRG attitudes. This could lead, however, to retaliation by the FRG against our personnel in Germany.

Recall Ambassador Hillenbrand

This is a customary slap at a government and is immediately interpreted by media as a sign of displeasure. It can be accomplished on short notice and can later be explained away if circumstances warrant. It would, however, remove from Bonn the US government representative with the best access to and effective personal relations with German leaders.

Restrict FRG Embassy Official Calls and Social Contacts to Office Level

This will be very clear to German officialdom but unless leaked to media by us or the Germans will not be automatically evident to the public. This would be a clear signal to the German government of our [Typeset Page 847] unhappiness with their position in the Middle East war. Also, it could be expanded to include the FRG Military Mission/DOD contacts. This step has the potential disadvantage of souring Department/Embassy working relations for an indeterminate period. An intra-departmental communication could implement this measure.

Actions Toward East Germany

Invite Ambassador Florin, GDR Permanent Representative to the UN, to Washington to Discuss the Next Move in the Establishment of US–GDR Diplomatic Relations

This would significantly escalate and accelerate the contact between the GDR and the US and in the present atmosphere would be a clear indication to the FRG that high level German contact with the US is no longer the private preserve of the West Germans. It would have the disadvantage of encouraging the GDR, a country which is firmly anchored in the Soviet camp and which opposes us on all basic issues, including the Near East conflict.

Tell the FRG we Intend to Exchange Ambassadors with the GDR Immediately After the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations, Irrespective of Whether the FRG’s Permanent Representative is in Place

This move would not have any public impact, but it would be highly irritating to the Brandt government which on numerous occasions has asked the French, the UK and the US not to exchange Ambassadors with the GDR until the FRG is fully represented in East Berlin. Implementation—We could instruct our Ambassador in Bonn to inform the FRG of our decision on this matter.

  1. Summary: Springsteen discussed possible pressure points on West Germany in light of its policies during the October 1973 Middle East war.

    Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–1973, POL GER W–US. Secret. Springsteen did not initial the memorandum.