85. Memorandum From the Counselor (Sonnenfeldt) to Secretary of State Kissinger1


  • The German Broohaha Over Communists in Government and Your Letter to Brandt

As you may have noticed in the press, the pot is really boiling in Germany (and Europe) over the issue of coalitions with Communists. In the FRG the issue has as usual taken a special twist. The CDU has taxed the SPD with being soft on Communist coalitions. Schmidt (see Tab A) and Brandt have reacted with vigor. Brandt has now cited your letter as giving him what the Germans like to call a “Persilschein” because you excluded the SPD from any possible criticism and cited Brandt’s own accomplishments in behalf of Western unity, etc. Schmidt has also referred to it and the essence of the letter is now public, as we anticipated. The quote from you about Europe allegedly going Marxist in ten years is rattling around and presumably will become part of the landscape for the indefinite future. Above all, however, the effect of the whole sequence of events has been to bring the Communist issue to the fore and I think we have made some substantial headway as a result. I think it is now important for us to keep quiet, unless pressed, and to stick with the line I gave Funseth today, to wit: we have made known our concerns to all concerned as we were bound to do as a matter of our own crucial interest; but of course what happens in any particular European country is for the Europeans themselves to determine.

Although Schmidt takes a mild crack at you in the attachment, I see no point in starting a correspondence with him on this issue. I do sense, however, that as the election campaign progresses in Germany, Schmidt is going to disengage a bit. Moreover, there is no doubt that he has some serious worries about us and, like the French and British, is asking himself how best to protect German interests in present and foreseeable circumstances. Consequently, some of the things he is going to be saying privately and publicly, will again be rather painful.

  1. Summary: Sonnenfeldt discussed the West German controversy over Communists in governments and Kissinger’s January 14 letter to Brandt.

    Source: National Archives, RG 59, Records of the Office of the Counselor, Helmut Sonnenfeldt, 1955–1977, Entry 5339, Box 5, Germany 1976. Eyes Only. Attached but not published is Tab A, a transcript of a television interview of Schmidt. Kissinger initialed the memorandum. For Kissinger’s January 14 letter to Brandt see Document 82. In a January 12 memorandum to Kissinger, Sonnenfeldt noted that he had drafted Kissinger’s letter to Brandt such “that if it leaks it will present as coherent a statement of our position as can publicly make, including for the benefit of the Italians, French, Russians, Yugoslavs, etc.” (Ibid.)