54. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Dr. Brzezinski’s Meeting with Chancellor Helmut Schmidt


  • Helmut Schmidt, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany
  • Juergen Ruhfus, Assistant Secretary for Political Affairs
  • Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Walter Stoessel, US Ambassador to the FRG
  • Gregory F. Treverton, NSC Staff Member

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to RFE/RL.]

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

The Chancellor raised one final issue, saying it did not need to be discussed then. He said emphatically that he was not satisfied with the operations of RFE and RL, nor with his dealings with the radios. “If you want to broadcast propaganda, fine, but do it from your own soil.” Dr. Brzezinski said he was compelled to respond. The radios are [Page 182] part of a larger US presence in the FRG. Their purpose is not propaganda, but the promotion of better East-West relations. One of the reasons that Gierek is able to steer the course he has is that the population behind him receives Western ideas.

The Chancellor repeated that his did not like the radios operating from his soil. German law is not applied to them, and he said he did not know what they did. They are covered by no US-German treaty; instead they are a relic of occupation. He said he was greatly suspicious of them and felt they often had dealings with the German secret service. He said that within two to three years, either the radios’ operation should be governed by some formal agreement or should cease. He mentioned that he had talked to the President about the radios; the US response since then showed that “you don’t understand my situation.” The radios cooperate with the opposition parties. There are so many negative aspects: foreign policy, internal security, domestic politics.

[3 lines not declassified] They are supported by Congressional appropriations and supervised by a Board for International Broadcasting. The Chancellor asked if technically the broadcasts do not originate from Spain and Portugal. Dr. Brzezinski said that was true, that they came from there as well as other locales including Germany. He noted the radios’ strong support in Congress. New arrangements might be possible over several years, but if the FRG took a rash action that would touch off a major debate.

The Chancellor said he had told Henry Kissinger two years before that the radio operations from Germany had to cease. At that point there was less Congressional interest. He reiterated that the radios are outside the law, their operations unknown to him. Dr. Brzezinski asked if the US armed forces network posed a similar problem. The Chancellor responded that it too was not controlled by German law but was less of a problem since it broadcast in English. It might be regarded as covered, in a general way, by the Status of Forces Agreement. But he could not accept forever a situation in which RFE/RL work closely with his political opponents. When Dr. Brzezinski asked how, the Chancellor responded that the radios shared analyses—more or less good—with his political opponents. Dr. Brzezinski said that should not happen; the radios should not be linked to domestic politics.

Dr. Brzezinski said that if history could be replayed, perhaps the radios should be elsewhere. But they are useful as a joint effort, to compensate for the absence of more normal means of communicating with the peoples of the East. The Chancellor replied that the radios had played a subversive role in the 1968 Czechoslovakia crisis, but Dr. Brzezinski said he was not sure; only in 1956 was he certain their role had been as the Chancellor described. The Chancellor asked Dr. [Page 183] Brzezinski to look at the records of his meeting with Kissinger and the agreement to phase out the radios in three years. That would indicate how seriously he takes the issue.

The Chancellor said he had even thought of taking his intelligence service out of Munich—at a cost of billions of dollars—to break the contact with the radios. Dr. Brzezinski said there should not be such contact; the radios are supposed to be very controlled. The Chancellor responded that it is hard to control such contacts because they are covert. He said the US would never accept, say, a French station broadcasting from the US into Quebec. Not, Dr. Brzezinski agreed, unless the US also wanted to liberate Quebec. He felt the radios’ content was no longer as hard line as it had been. However, the Chancellor said he had read some ugly reports. More generally, many of the refugees who came a quarter of a century ago are not good. They are very much Cold Warriors and sometimes attack, or even murder, newer immigrants. Dr. Brzezinski noted that we have comparable problems with Yugoslav immigrants, now perhaps with Cubans.

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to RFE/RL.]

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Europe, USSR, and East/West, Hunter/Rentschler Trips/Visits File, Box 22, 9/25–28/77 Brzezinski Trip to Europe: 2–10/77. Secret; Sensitive. The meeting took place in the Chancellor’s office. For the West German version, see Akten zur Auswärtigen Politik der Bundesrepublik Deutschland (AAPD), 1977, Band II, 1. Juli bis 31. Dezember, Document 261. pp. 1267–1270. A note on the memorandum indicates that for the first seventy minutes, Brzezinski and Schmidt met alone.