253. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Summary of President Carter’s Telephone Conversation with Helmut Schmidt (C)


  • President Jimmy Carter
  • Helmut Schmidt, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany

President: How are you this afternoon?

Schmidt: Fine. How is spring in Washington?

President: It is absolutely beautiful. The whole White House grounds are covered with wonderful flowers, and I am sure it is the same where you live.

Schmidt: Ja, it is the same in Bonn, not as yet in Hamburg. Bonn is a benevolent place for the eyes and for the human soul.

President: Well, this is too. It’s one of the bright spots about my life these days.

Schmidt: Are the cherry blossoms already on?

President: They have already come and almost gone. But now we have the flowering crab apples which in my opinion are even more beautiful; and the dogwoods are just coming on, and the tulips are in blossom; the azaleas are on the way. It is really a lovely time.

Schmidt: Jimmy, I guess this is my call, or is it yours?

President: It’s yours I think.

Schmidt: Let me please, in the first instance reiterate a point which I would like to deal with so that you can interrupt me or say that you have some other points as well and then get back to them one by one.

President: O.K.

Schmidt: Number one, I would say a few words about our actual communications; the next point would be oncoming decisions, which I will take next week as regards Iran, as regards the Olympic Games. I would like also to have an exchange on Afghanistan and on medium-range weaponry. This is about the number of subjects I would like to touch upon shortly, if you have the time for that.

President: Yes, I have the time, go ahead.

[Page 684]

Schmidt: Number One. I would like to thank you for your talk with Berlin Mayor Stobbe.2 I have seen his report; I have not seen him in person so far and would also especially thank you for the very clear statements about the United States and its support for Berlin. I would connect this with my repeated expressions of thanks for our ongoing talks a month ago at your place in Washington.3 I have not seen your television talk with the European editors, but there has been some confusion in the West European press about a deadline or a specific date.4 I am not aware of any such deadline and it makes me ask you what is it you mean by that?

President: Well there was no deadline to Allies. I did ask you all to help us with action either two weeks after the Majles is convened or the middle part of May, and we would hope that all of our concerted efforts would have success by then.

Schmidt: Well, I fully understand it. This was my belief that this was what you had in mind.

President: Yes, that is exactly what I had in mind.

Schmidt: It was my speculation. Let me please say that some people of course, in the French, British, German press, I don’t know what the other Europeans have said, are speculating whether the Heads of State or Heads of Governments in Europe and in America are communicating over the media with the other leaders. This is certainly not the case and I think we shall take the opportunity within the next couple of days to make it clear that we are in necessary and close personal contact. I just talked to Valery, and he told me that you had been in contact with him, a couple of days ago.5

President: Yes, that’s true. And that’s the only reference I made, and it was completely distorted in some of the European press as an ultimatum or a demand for action and so forth. What I said in the interview was that there was an expectation of success and that we did have a target date, but what I was referring to is the one I have just described to you.

Schmidt: Let me tell you that on Sunday, the day before yesterday, I had a couple of hours with the leading members of the Cabinet, [Page 685] including the parliamentary and political leaders, Brandt, Wehner and others, so we were nine or ten people altogether talking about Iran, and all the other subjects I have mentioned; and I am glad to tell you that we were very united in the opinion which we at the end articulated and I would just like to mention them now to you one after the other. I have also the opportunity tonight, within the next quarter of an hour, to go over to Parliament to talk to the Foreign Relations Committee in a private session to tell them what is in the making.

First, Iran. As you know from early January, we are still not really convinced that extending economic sanctions will help to liberate the hostages, but we will certainly follow through. We are determined to take that decision next week in our Cabinet.

President: Yes, I am not sure either. There is no way to be sure.

Schmidt: I think it opens up two dangerous possibilities: one danger is that they fall back on the Soviet Union which they will not like, but they may feel they may be forced to and secondly, if sanctions don’t work, then in a couple of weeks, we have to come to the point where we have to ask for other measures.

President: Yes.

Schmidt: Anyway, we will participate. Valery will participate. I guess we’ll get a consensus with the EC Foreign Secretaries on Monday or Tuesday next week.6 They are sitting together Monday or Tuesday; we will try to form a so-called European umbrella for the Nine governments to act on a national basis. Possibly, we might also act by a joint decision. The Rome Treaty has some clause, the famous article 113 which may be useful as an end.7 Anyway, I guess you will see in the course of next week some European Cabinets, at least, anyway my Cabinet to publicly decide that we take economic sanctions. They would be declared next Wednesday, but probably becoming effective a fortnight after the election of the Parliament, if within that fortnight the hostages are not freed. This would mean about the date which you mentioned five minutes ago.

President: Well, you know, we have indications that it is very doubtful that the Parliament is going to be elected at all. And the date that I mentioned was really either mid-May or two weeks after the Majles . . .

[Page 686]

Schmidt: Good. I will make sure that we say either a fortnight after the election or mid-May.

President: That sounds good.

Schmidt: I will tell Valery as well.

President: Good.

Schmidt: Second point is that I would like once again to tell you privately that I am deeply worried about many rumors which one hears here about military measures being in preparation. I understand that one has to prepare oneself for any contingency, but I hear from the Iraqis, from the United Emirates, from the Saudis that they are rather afraid of the possible outcome of all this, and I would very much like you to be careful and think about it a second time before you take any such decision. The Soviets are only waiting for a pretext under which they could intervene.

President: I understand what you’re saying.

[Omitted here is material on the Olympics, Afghanistan, and the Soviet Union.]

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 38, Memcons Pres 3/80. Secret. In the upper right corner of the memorandum, Carter wrote: “ok. J.”
  2. See footnote 2, Document 251.
  3. Schmidt visited Washington March 4–6.
  4. During the April 12 interview, Carter told four European journalists that the deadline in question was in his March 25 message to Ohira, Giscard, Thatcher, Schmidt, Cossiga, and Trudeau (see Document 223), in which he asked European nations to make clear to Iranian authorities that they would break relations with Iran if the U.S. steps did not lead to the release of the hostages by mid-May. For the full text of the wide-ranging interview, see Public Papers: Carter, 1980–81, Book I, pp. 668–682.
  5. See Document 247.
  6. April 22 and 23. In an April 22 meeting in Luxembourg, the EC–9 Foreign Ministers voted to impose sanctions on Iran on May 17 unless “decisive progress” was made on freeing the hostages. (R.W. Apple, Jr., “Allies Set To Impose Economic Sanctions on Teheran May 17,” New York Times, April 23, 1980, p. A1)
  7. Under Article 113 of the 1957 Rome Treaty, the European Community took the responsibility for negotiating common commercial policies with the rest of the world.