274. Telegram 212618 From the Department of State to the Embassy in the Federal Republic of Germany1
Subject: Secretary’s Meeting with FRG Ambassador Von Staden, October 26.
1. FRG Ambassador Von Staden expressed his gratitude for being received by the Secretary, and after a brief exchange (all covered in septel) concerning FRG Foreign Minister Scheel’s forthcoming visit to Moscow, Soviet observers in Egypt, and the possibility of FRG transporting UN peacekeeping force personnel to the Middle East (the German Cabinet had agreed to do so), the discussion turned to the question of the FRG’s attitude toward the military resupply of Israel from US stocks in Germany.
2. The Secretary said that he was astonished at the position the FRG had taken on this matter. We have no interest in a pro-Israeli policy per se. Once the ceasefire has been fully established, we intend to promote a political settlement, and in the process we will take positions which will not be fully acceptable to the Israelis.
3. What has been at issue in the near East for the past two weeks, he said, is the possibility of a victory by those aided by the Soviets. If these forces had been allowed to win, there would have been a radicalization of the entire area and a setback for the West.
4. The Secretary said that, given the lack of understanding of this point which our Allies have shown, we are asking ourselves fundamental questions about our Allies. He noted that when he had spoken publicly of Europe having only a regional interest. He was attacked by his European colleagues. Now when something happens in an area of interest to Europe, Europeans disassociate themselves completely. All [Typeset Page 849] we asked for is understanding in the present situation, but we have been deliberately isolated. The Secretary said that he hoped the Ambassador would report that the Secretary is speaking on behalf of the President, who is prepared to address himself on this point directly to the Chancellor.
5. The Secretary emphasized that what was at issue was not the question of Israeli ships or individual arms shipments. We think our actions in the near East are in defense of Western interests generally. During the first week of the war, our objective was to insure that the Israelis were not defeated, our objective the second week was to prevent further Soviet intrusion in the area.
6. We recognize that the Europeans are more dependent upon Arab oil than we, but we disagree that your vulnerability is decreased by disassociating yourselves from us on a matter of this importance. Such disassociation will not help the Europeans in the Arab world. The Arabs know that only the US can provide the help to get a political settlement. Not only will European capitulation to the Arabs not result in their insuring their oil supply, but it can have disastrous consequences vis-à-vis the Soviet Union who, if allowed to succeed in the Near East, can be expected to mount ever more aggressive policies elsewhere. To degree Soviet influence can be reduced, we will gain a long term advantage even if we pay a short term price.
7. The Secretary said he wished to tell Ambassador Von Staden honestly that the US takes a dim view of what has happened, and he hoped that the Ambassador would convey his views confidentially to his authorities in Bonn. We had no wish of having this matter discussed further in the press.
8. Ambassador Von Staden expressed appreciation of the frankness with which the Secretary had spoken. He said the Secretary had done much to clarify the US position. Von Staden said he did not wish to repeat the arguments that had gone back and forth in Bonn between Ambassador Hillenbrand and FRG officials. He wished to recall, however, that following the first conversation between Ambassador Hillenbrand and Foreign Minister Scheel, the FRG had shown great understanding of the need to reestablish a military balance in the Middle East. The German Government had given this objective priority over all other questions. The FRG cooperated with US, and kept silent for many days. This resupply effort did not, however, go unnoticed. Arab pressure began almost immediately, and grew ever more intense. The FRG did not bow to such pressure, and made no move to interfere with the resupply effort. It was only after the ceasefire had been achieved that State Secretary Frank saw Ambassador Hillenbrand and asked that the operation end. A report of the Frank-Hillenbrand conversation was then passed to the Egyptians in Cairo. The next day the German Gov[Typeset Page 850]ernment learned through a North German newspaper that Israeli ships were involved in the resupply effort. This put the FRG in a difficult position. It was one thing if arms were transported by the US. Who could say to what destination US planes and ships were bound? There could, however, be only one interpretation if the vessels of one of the belligerents in the Middle East conflict were moving arms from FRG ports. What was at stake was the credibility of the FRG position and, in this situation, the FRG could not remain silent. Even then the FRG sought to prevent photographs of the arms resupply effort and sidestep the barrage of questions it was receiving. The FRG in the end issued no press statement, but merely directed its press spokesman to answer questions. This press play was regrettable, but clearly unavoidable.
9. Von Staden said what he was trying to explain was that the FRG showed as much solidarity as it could. It had displayed this solidarity in NATO as well. It had spoken out only when it’s credibility in the Arab world was at stake. Von Staden recalled that it took the FRG some 7 years after 1965 to reestablish relations with the Arab world. Von Staden reiterated that Bonn had always assumed the resupply effort would end with the ceasefire.
10. The FRG does not want this matter to become an Alliance issue, but hoped it can be kept in the framework of the present Near East crisis. Von Staden said that, speaking on a personal basis, he very much regretted the remarks today by Defense Secretary Schlesinger and Ambassador McCloskey, precisely because they had linked the Near East issue to broader Alliance questions. It was Von Staden’s wish that these matters be kept separate.
11. The Secretary said he was not aware of what Schlesinger had said, but after glancing over notes of McCloskey’s remarks, indicated that they did in fact reflect US views. It was true that each issue that had arisen with the FRG or our other European Allies is not an Alliance issue in itself. It is the overall position of our Allies that raises the most serious questions. Time and time again we have offered to consult and work out common positions. What we receive is the conspicuous disassociation of our Allies. We think we are engaged in an exercise to defend our common interests. What we have in the present instance is two weeks of intense crisis in which we sought to discourage Soviet adventurism. These are the facts however one views the merits of Israeli policy now and over the past six years. Once the war started, it was in no one’s interests to see the Israelis defeated. We moved consciously to end the war at a time when the Israelis were winning, thus increasing the likelihood of moving later to some form of acceptable political settlement.
12. The Secretary repeated that the ships were themselves not an Alliance issue, but the general attitude our European Allies have [Typeset Page 851] adopted is an issue. It is one that profoundly concerns us. It has happened with too much consistency, too many times. The Secretary said the Ambassador might deem him arrogant, but he asked that Von Staden understand the background from which he spoke, as one who has long favored European integration.
13. Ambassador Von Staden said he appreciated the frankness with which the Secretary spoke. He noted that McCloskey had specifically mentioned Germany and since the Secretary’s schedule was public information, the possibility existed that he would perhaps be asked questions on his way out or later as to the content of his meeting with the Secretary. It would be useful therefore to agree on what we both might say.
14. The Secretary suggested that Von Staden say merely that the Ambassador had requested this meeting some time ago for a general review of international issues. The review today had also dealt, at some length, with the general Alliance relationship. He also said the Ambassador could add that it had been a useful and friendly talk.
15. Von Staden expressed appreciation, and said he would adhere to this line with the press.
16. The Secretary said he anticipated no questions on our side, but did wish to make certain that the FRG Ambassador understood that there were two separate things in question. We did not like what had happened with respect to the shipments. We would not however have called in the German Ambassador to discuss this issue alone, and indeed had not done so. Nonetheless this question may escalate to the President who may wish to communicate directly with the Chancellor.
17. What we really are concerned about is the total pattern of European behavior, which in the long term has disastrous potential consequences for the Alliance.
18. The German Ambassador said that there was a serious problem of communication which had developed in the last 14 days.
19. The Secretary said he recognized this aspect of the problem. He had given instructions that as negotiations for a solution in the Middle East develop, a means should be found to inform our European Allies more swiftly and completely. There was a problem here, however. It was difficult for the Allies to insist on a right to private briefings when their fundamental attitude was either slightly or openly hostile.
20. The German Ambassador insisted that if information were provided more promptly the policy adopted by the European Allies was less likely to be divergent. The Secretary said this was perhaps so, unless our underlying philosophies were divergent.
21. The German Ambassador said that although the traditional German spirit had a strong philosophical element, the present FRG [Typeset Page 852] Government sought to be pragmatic. He wished again to note that there had been no problem with the resupply effort at the start. The only difficulty occurred after the ceasefire. Moreover, the first public statement by the FRG came after the press had obtained knowledge on its own of the presence of Israel ships in FRG waters. The real problem the FRG Ambassador insisted, was the serious lack of coordination and consultation between members of the Alliance.
22. The Secretary then raised the question of the EC/US Declaration. He said that he has begun to be bored by this project and was not sure it was worth further consultations. In its present shape it could not survive five let alone fifty years. It was ironic that the Europeans refused to accept words such as “partnership” and “consultations.” He too could be pragmatic and was aware that it did not matter what word we used in drafting a declaration, but the quarrel was symptomatic of what was going on. He wished to recall that the project for a declaration had begun on our initiative. We stand to get nothing from the effort but the possibility of closer cooperation.
23. The FRG Ambassador said that he was torn between two loyalties in replying. He did not know whether to speak in the singular or in the plural when discussing Europeans. He only wished to say again that he personally is with us on these issues and that his government would continue to do its best. Sometimes the results would be embarrassing to us; sometimes too it was embarrassing and difficult for the FRG. The objective to which he continued to be dedicated was the desire to build a united Europe.
24. The Secretary said that we too strongly favor this course. We wished to help promote European unity. It would be ironic now if the fathers of European unity in the US could see the united Europe they supported refusing to use the word “partnership”, or see that unity developing in opposition to the US, or that unity making cooperation with US more rather than less difficult. This too was one of the facts that may have a profound effect on our long-term relationship. As a historian, the Secretary said he simply did not know how the West could make it. It was claiming victories where there were no battles. We are bleeding ourselves slowly and unspectacularly. He said he was often struck by a profound sadness. In some of this, he thought FRG Foreign Minister Scheel shared his assessment.
25. The German Ambassador noted that it had taken years for the UK to join Europe and that much of the dialogue now present between the US and the Europeans is reminiscent of the discussions that took place in earlier days with the UK. Perhaps the problem would be solved if one only has patience.
26. The Secretary said the difficulty is that when the Europeans overcome their difficulties we may no longer be in a position to re[Typeset Page 853]spond. If one looks at the future of the US Government, one is impressed with the fact that this is the last administration which has an emotional commitment to Europe. Future administrations may have some intellectual commitment, but this may not be good enough. The Secretary said he was unable to point to anything positive in the Alliance relationship in the last few years. What of a positive nature could one show? The emotional aspect of policy is now in interest in trips to Peking and Moscow. This is all we can point to. This can kill us in the end.
27. The German Ambassador said that there was still a chance for substantial progress in the US/EC Declaration during the next meeting in November.
28. The Secretary concluded the meeting by saying he had spoken with profound sincerity. He said many things could be faked. We could get by with a declaration with little content and be assured it got good treatment in the press. But we do not want a fake partnership and cooperation. We want the real thing.
Summary: The Department reported an October 26 discussion between Kissinger and Von Staden on the military resupply of Israel from U.S. stocks in Germany.
Source: National Archives, RG 59, Records of Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Entry 5403, Box 1, NODIS Memcons, Sept–Dec 1973. Secret; Immediate; Nodis. Sent immediate for information to RUEHCR NATO and RUEHCR Mission to the EC in Brussels. Drafted by Nelson Ledsky in EUR/CE; cleared by Springsteen, Gammon, and Eagleburger; and approved by Eagleburger. On October 26, Schlesinger, McCloskey, and Nixon all publicly criticized the lack of West European support for the United States during the Middle East crisis; both Schlesinger and McCloskey made specific reference to the independent stance adopted by West Germany. On October 30, Frank proposed the convening of a secret U.S.–FRG working group on the resupply issue, which “would consider the whole problem with a view to arriving at agreed solutions.” (Telegram 15715 from Bonn, October 30; ibid., Central Foreign Policy Files, 1973, [no film number]) On November 2, the Department authorized Hillenbrand to agree to the working group, whose “terms of reference should be restricted to present Near East situation.” (Telegram 216217 to Bonn, November 2; ibid.)↩