283. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Helmut Schmidt, Chancellor, Federal Republic of Germany
  • Hans-Dietrich Genscher, Vice Chancellor and Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State
  • Joseph J. Sisco, Under Secretary for Political Affairs
[Typeset Page 876]

In the course of the conversation with the Secretary on February 16, Chancellor Schmidt said he wanted to bring to his attention a very disturbing matter on which he was writing a letter to President Ford.

He said that during a recent visit of Defense Minister Leber to the Pentagon, he was told some things which were dynamite and could cause the most serious problem for Schmidt and have a very adverse affect on USFRG relations. He spoke from a telegraphic report from Ambassador Von Staden who had been present at the following talk in the Pentagon.

He reported that General Elder, of Joint Plans and Strategy, had made some comments regarding U.S. plans in the event of a Middle Eastern war. Elder said that in the event of war that military supplies on German territory were a necessary part of our plans for intervention and part of the necessary supply of Israel. Elder went on to say that such supply from Europe raises military questions as to the effect on the central European theatre of sending necessary military equipment from Europe to Israel. Schmidt says Elder went on to say that in case of a Middle East war, in order to maintain the Israeli pipeline the U.S. would have to take weapons and supplies earmarked for central Europe, thus weakening its defense. Elder is reported also to have said that airports in the FRG would have to be used for refueling our transports because in-flight refueling is inadequate. Elder also said, according to Schmidt, that as in the past there would be need for Israeli ships to pick up supplies in FRG ports as in the ’73 war.

The Secretary responded strongly that this is not the policy of the U.S., neither the President’s nor his own.

Schmidt said the Defense Minister cannot do anything without his approval, and that he has made this clear to Leber and thereby undermined a close friendship of ten years. Schmidt said the above to Leber, when Leber had suggested to Schmidt that he might take such a decision on his own, and then Schmidt could reverse him. Schmidt said to the Secretary this whole matter is very serious, and it places good German/American friendship at risk. The Secretary said we cannot risk German involvement in any Middle Eastern war without your (Schmidt) approval. The Secretary said it is not our intention to intervene directly in a Middle Eastern war unless there is Soviet troop intervention. We have to consider the whole problem of supply of Israel in the event of a Middle Eastern war. The Secretary said he would have to discuss the matter with the President. Schmidt suggested the Secretary talk to Von Staden to get a first-hand impression of the Elder/Leber conversation. Schmidt concluded by saying he was writing a letter to the President on the whole matter.

  1. Summary: Schmidt and Kissinger discussed U.S.–FRG defense relations in the event of another war in the Middle East.

    Source: National Archives, RG 59, Records of Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Entry 5403, Box 10, NODIS Memcons Feb. 1975, Folder 3. Secret; Nodis. The meeting took place in Schmidt’s home. A memorandum of conversation on the rest of Kissinger’s and Schmidt’s February 16 talk is ibid., Records of the Office of the Counselor, Helmut C. Sonnenfeldt, 1955–1977, Entry 5339, Box 5, Germany 1975. Kissinger stopped in Bonn from February 15 to 16 after his February 10 to 15 trip to the Middle East. In a November 15, 1974 memorandum to Kissinger, Colby reported that Schmidt had recently told a U.S. official “that in the event of another Middle East War, he could not permit the use of Frankfurt airfield by the U.S. for resupply operations,” suggesting that the U.S. use a FRG airbase in Portgual should the Azores base become unavailable. (Central Intelligence Agency, Office of the Director of Central Intelligence, Job 80M01048A, Box 3, Germany)