740.00119 Control (Germany)/3–348: Airgram

The United States Political Adviser for Germany (Murphy) to the Secretary of State


A–182. Reflection on the course of events at the Allied Kommandatura1 during first two months of 1948 seems to lead to the conclusion that Soviet tactics have again changed. Reference to the numerous airgrams from this Mission reporting Kommandatura meetings will show that following the breakdown of the London Conference there was a relatively harmonious period in which the atmosphere was comparatively friendly and agreement could be reached without too much difficulty on matters of second-rate importance. The friendly atmosphere continued through the first three weeks of January but the ability to reach agreement steadily decreased. Beginning roughly with the meeting of the Commandants on January 21 the atmosphere has steadily deteriorated and the Commandants have been brought to a point at which it appears that agreement is impossible on even the most routine questions.

The Soviet delegation now seizes upon every question on the agenda and every statement by any other delegation no matter how simple, how friendly or how innocent, to launch violent propaganda attacks on the other three delegations. It may be said that the attacks are directed against the U.S., British and French delegations in that order. Recently the French have received their full share of insults. It is impossible to discuss any question objectively or concisely. The last five sessions have lasted for from nine to eleven and a half hours.

We know that Soviet tactics frequently serve only a temporary aim and they may well be reversed tomorrow. Their present tactics, however, seem designed to irritate, confuse and tire the other three delegations with the possible aim of trapping them into unwise decisions out of sheer exhaustion and impatience, or to goad them into some precipitant reaction upon which the Soviets could seize as a pretext for breaking up the Kommandatura in a manner favorable to their propaganda.

It is perhaps not without significance that Soviet diatribes return again and again to one of three points. First, they continually charge the Western delegations with violation of multipartite agreements, frequently mentioning specific accords such as the Potsdam Agreement. Second, they continually charge the American and British delegations [Page 879] with the intention to disrupt quadripartite harmony and the quadripartite administration of Berlin. This was the burden of their charges on March 2 (see my airgram no. 181, March 32). Third, they allege that it is the intention of the other Allies to use Berlin as a means of interfering in the affairs of the Soviet Zone.

It has been demonstrated in the past that the Soviet Government (like the Nazi Government) charges the other person with those things which it itself intends to do. It is therefore pertinent to ask whether the constant reiteration of the above-mentioned three charges in sessions during the past five weeks presages a Soviet intention to break up the quadripartite administration of Berlin. It must be emphasized that there has been no explicit evidence at any level of such an intention. It may only be suspected as an implicit result of Soviet tactics.3

  1. The Kommandatura was the chief inter-Allied governmental organ for Berlin. It was composed of the four Allied Commandants for Berlin (Colonel Frank Howley—United States; Major General E. O. Herbert—United Kingdom; Brigadier General Jean Ganeval—France; Major General A. G. Kotikov—Soviet Union) and their advisers and assistants.
  2. Not printed; it reported on the 5th Meeting of Allied Commandants for Berlin, March 2 (740.00119 Control (Germany)/3–348).
  3. In a message of March 5 to Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Chamberlin, Director of Intelligence, Army General Staff (Forrestal Diaries , p. 387), General Clay warned that subtle changes in Soviet attitude suggested the possibility of a sudden outbreak of war in the near future.