740.00119 Control (Germany)/3–646: Telegram

The Chargé in the Soviet Union (Kennan) to the Secretary of State


672. Re Deptel 339, February 27.57 Following are my comments on Murphy’s 602, February 24.

1. Before examining Soviet motives in question of central German agencies, I would like to review basic Soviet postwar program for Germany as seen from Moscow.

First step in this program was creation of Oder-Neisse border. By this measure, which has already been realized, Moscow accomplished following: (1) fixed Soviet strategic border along shortest line between Carpathians and Baltic; (2) made unthinkable for foreseeable future any independent collaboration between Polish and German peoples; (3) placed Poland in position of total military dependence on Russia, and (4) complicated (if indeed it did not make completely [Page 517] impossible) continued separate existence of remainder of Germany as a national unit except in close political and economic dependence on some stronger neighboring state.

Second part of Soviet program is creation in remainder of Germany of “anti-Fascist Republic” as a road-paver for Soviet Socialist state which is to follow. For this final purpose it is not of vital importance from Soviet standpoint just where Germany’s western frontiers lie, particularly if they are to be flanked by a France extensively under Soviet influence. Thus Moscow is at liberty to play with this question as a pawn for tactical advantage.

I would by no means accept it as foregone conclusion that Russians have really been eager, up to this time, to see central German administrative agencies established. As far as we can judge from here, they were happy to have several months in which to exercise a completely free hand in their own zone; to take stock of situation, to overcome effects of their own initial entry, to quiet fears of certain section of population, and to establish firm foundations for Communist political control. During this period they had no desire to permit Allies to see what was going on in their zone or to subject conduct of affairs there even in minor degree to authority of any central administrative agencies. However, they see in central agencies a possibly indispensable device for entering at an appropriate moment into other three zones and facilitating there accomplishment of Soviet political program. For this reason they have not wished to take onus of opposing in principle establishment of such agencies. It has therefore been a perfect solution, from Soviet standpoint, that French should run interference for them here and should take upon themselves for a time the burden of opposing establishment of such agencies. It is of key significance here that French Communists have not, as far as I am aware made any serious effort to alter stand of French Govt in this matter. On contrary, as Murphy points out, Thorez himself, on one occasion at least, supported French Govt openly in its opposition to establishment of central agencies, thus taking up a position diametrically opposed to that of German Communists. I think we need have no doubts as to whether Thorez was acting here as Moscow stooge. Moscow-approved Communist parties in neighboring European countries do not generally take up diametrically opposed position in a given question unless it is agreeable to Moscow that this should be done.

3. As for future Russian stand on this question this will depend, in my opinion, mainly on degree to which Russians consider that central administrative agencies could contribute, at any given moment, to realization of final Soviet program for Germany. Judged from this standpoint, central administrative agencies are plainly two-edged [Page 518] sword, which could cut in either direction, depending on realities of underlying political control. Russians, however, are backing the sole authoritarian party in a country used to authoritarian methods and ill-prepared for democracy. For this reason they doubtless feel that in the end they cannot lose, that realities of underlying political control will sooner or later be favorable, from their standpoint, to establishment of central agencies. When it is considered in Moscow that political preparation is far enough advanced to proceed to creation of central agencies, we will probably see signs of this first in behavior of French Communists, as reflected in attitude of French Govt., which may then agree to some compromise solution.

4. I think we should guard against undue optimism about central agencies serving to break down exclusive Soviet control in Soviet zone. I do not think Soviets will really encourage establishment of such agencies, as we envisage them, until such time that they are fairly sure that within this new framework they can contrive not only to preserve in effect their exclusive control in their own zone but also to advance materially their possibilities for influencing course of events elsewhere in Germany. In other words, when time is ripe for establishment of agencies I think Russians will seek a formula which will give persons subject to their political influence maximum powers to reside, travel and act in other zones and will tend to exclude persons not included in this category whether German or Allied from travelling, residing and acting in Soviet zone.

5. But it would be a mistake to ignore close connection of question of central agencies with questions of Germany’s western frontier. Here Moscow has been gingerly carrying water on both shoulders, avoiding any clear commitment on the official level, trying to let French Communists earn kudos as patriotic Frenchman by pressing for international administration (albeit by “many nations”) in Ruhr and supporting govt’s demands for independent Rhineland, and at same time trying to let German Communists get kudos for taking lead in bid for united Germany up to old western frontier. By playing in this way with opposites, Moscow is only employing an old and favored device of Soviet diplomacy. If asked what Moscow really wants with respect to German frontiers, I think answer is Moscow does not yet know; it depends on further course of events. It depends on which of the two Communist parties, French or German, turns out to need most and/or to have most to offer. It also depends partly on us. If we continue to shape our policy toward a united Germany and remain relatively passive and neutral toward German internal politics, Russians will see clear sailing for German Communist Party and will be inclined to press for central agencies [Page 519] and for United Germany, including Ruhr and Rhineland. If, on other hand, we and British should show signs of lessened enthusiasm for prospect of United Germany and should set about to build up our zones on relatively independent basis with constructive programs looking toward integration of these zones into general economic and political pattern of western Europe rather than into a new Germany and establishment of a barrier to further advance of Communism from East to West, then I think we would soon see Russians tapping insistently at the back door by supporting French claims for internationalized Ruhr and independent Rhineland.

6. I agree entirely with Murphy that as things are now working out [Russians and German] Communists are in fair way to establish reputation as champions of a united Germany. But I wonder how effective establishment of German central administrative agencies would be at this time in averting final Communization of Germany. Our representatives in Berlin are, of course, alone competent to give us authoritative answer to this question. But it looks from Moscow as though possibility of a united and sovereign Germany, fitted constructively into pattern of western European life as an independent, self-respecting unit, bound by ties of mutual confidence and common ideals to countries of Atlantic community, was effectively disposed of the day we and British assented to Oder-Neisse Line as future boundary of Germany in east. This amputation of Germany[’s] eastern territories must surely have left a country seriously crippled and unbalanced economically, and psychologically extensively dependent in first instance on the great land power to the east which controls or holds great food producing areas so necessary to German economy. It seems to me unlikely that such a country once unified under a single administration and left politically to itself and to the Russians would ever adjust itself to its western environment successfully enough to play a positive and useful role in world society as we conceive it. If this is true then we have and have had ever since our acceptance of Oder-Neisse Line only two alternatives: (1) to leave remainder of Germany nominally united but extensively vulnerable to Soviet political penetration and influence or (2) to carry to its logical conclusion the process of partition which was begun in the east and to endeavor to rescue western zones of Germany by walling them off against eastern penetration and integrating them into international pattern of western Europe rather than into a united Germany. I am sure Russians themselves are confident that if rump Germany west of Oder-Neisse were to be united under single administration, there would be no other single political force therein which could stand up against Left Wing bloc with Russian backing.

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7. In summary, therefore, I wish to say following with respect to thoughts set forth in Murphy’s message: (a) I think we need not doubt that Russians will eventually have strong desire to see central agencies established and that when this time comes French will be found to be more amenable on this point, but (b) I think we should be careful in assuming that by establishment of such agencies we could accomplish as much as we hope to break exclusive Russian control in their own zone or to impede advance of Soviet political influence to other zones of Germany.

Sent Dept 762, repeated London 121, Berlin 47, Paris 46.

  1. Not printed; it requested comments on telegram 602, February 24, from Berlin, p. 505.