Speaking Civilly Face-to-Face
in the First Half of 1970:
Meetings in Moscow, Erfurt,
Berlin, and Kassel
The winter of 1969–70 was a bitter one in northern Europe. The month of December, the coldest in Berlin since 1893, had forced the Politburo to make various unplanned allotments of energy to insure there would be enough heat. In the GDR, frigid conditions lasted well into March, when heavy snow closed streets and forced trains to stop running. 1 Even worse, the cheap grade of brown coal commonly used in the GDR contained a good deal of water. When temperatures remained below freezing for a long period of time, the coal would freeze into the transport trucks and could be removed only with heavy machinery, which was in short supply.
The frigid climatic conditions contrasted with the beginnings of a thaw in international relations at this time. Building on the initial contacts of late 1969, a variety of odd couples arranged to meet face-to-face in the irst half of 1970. In January, Egon Bahr headed to Moscow to begin negotiations with Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko. Bahr thereby began his personal participation in bilateral West German-Soviet relations, one-half of Brezhnev's “double-game.”
The game's other half comprised Soviet-GDR bilateral relations. These were