740.00119 Control (Germany)/4–2948: Airgram

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


A–363. The following comments arising out of the 17th Meeting Allied Deputy Commandants of Berlin on April 29, may be helpful to Department in evaluating present trends. (See mytel 1010, April 29, and A–852, same date1). The Soviets have developed a new tactic to irritate and confuse. They now can be counted on to change without warning or adequate reason long-established Kommandatura procedure. [Page 901] Thus at 9th Meeting of Commandants, they suddenly revised existing practice of interpretation and forced each Commandant’s interpreters to put his remarks into the foreign languages where hitherto it had been practice for each Commandant’s interpreters to translate the foreign languages into his language. This occasioned lengthy but futile wrangle at 17th Meeting of Deputies. They likewise refused to agree to put on agenda items requested by other Commandants or Deputies. This courtesy has hitherto invariably been extended by each Deputy to others. This occasioned debate of one hour at 17th Meeting over item which Soviets contended was not on agenda. They then refused to agree that the discussion on this point of procedure should be recorded in the minutes. Furthermore, they now refuse to follow existing procedure in matter of approving schedule of Deputies and Commandants meetings month in advance. They insist they will now be able to approve meetings only one meeting in advance which naturally makes for confusion and uncertainty.

It would appear from these tactics and others referred to in our reports that the Soviets seek to create a situation which is so confused that eventually an opportunity will be created for the break-up of the Kommandatura in circumstances so obscure that the break-up cannot be laid to them. Our impression is that they have not been altogether happy over the results of their walk-out from the Control Council and they are seeking to avoid repeating that action at the Kommandatura in any manner which would so clearly show them as the initiators of the action.

Other sidelights are of some interest and significance when taken as a whole. Thus, until about a month ago, it was the invariable custom for the Commandants or Deputy Commandants to shake hands with each other in friendly and ceremonious fashion at the end of each session. This custom is rapidly falling into disuse. The insulting and provocative nature of Soviet statements is such that the other three Commandants frequently turn away without shaking the hand of the Russian representative. On the other hand, when the Soviet representative feels or pretends to feel insulted, he takes the initiative in cold-shouldering his colleagues. Thus, at the 17th Meeting, he appeared to be feeling particularly bitter against Colonel Babcock, the U.S. Deputy; he therefore ostentatiously shook hands with the British and French Deputies and ignored Colonel Babcock’s out-stretched hand.

Formerly, the Soviet Deputy listened attentively to statements of his colleagues and took extensive notes on which to base his replies. It has been noticed that now he takes few notes but covers pages with “doodles.” It seems clear that the Soviets have given up all intention of listening to or discussing points raised by their colleagues, but have rather come with prepared statements and rigidly fixed lines of argument from which they do not deviate.

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The Soviet representatives are beginning to exhibit another characteristic which may be indicative of depth of personal feeling or recklessness or lack of any substantial arguments. They are beginning to resort to personal attacks against their colleagues which are not only, of course, entirely out of place, but entirely ineffectual. Thus, at the meeting under reference, Colonel Yelizarov became very agitated by Colonel Babcock’s remark that reactionary forces are in control in the Soviet Union and in territories under its control, and that he sympathized with the peoples of the Soviet Union who are being mentally enslaved by these reactionary forces. Colonel Yelizarov alleged that Colonel Babcock’s nervous system was going to pieces but that he should try to control himself in spite of this and keep his remarks in proportion and within bounds. This statement, coming on top of ten hours of constant Soviet insults against the US, brought a burst of laughter from the Western delegations, and particularly from Colonel Babcock, whose nervous system at this point seems destined to outlast Colonel Yelizarov’s.

It is repeated that these observations are in many instances of minor importance, but their sum total will contribute to giving a better picture of the completely farcical character of Kommandatura proceedings at the present time. Those proceedings can only be understood if it is clearly realized that Kommandatura no longer has the least significance as a governing body for Berlin, but is merely one segment of a much broader battlefield on which a war of nerves and a propaganda war is being waged. All statements at the Kommandatura are made now with an eye to the German newspapers of the next day.

  1. Neither printed; they reported on the 17th Meeting of the Deputy Commandants for Berlin (Col. william Babcock—United States; Brigadier Benson—United Kingdom; Colonel Jean Le Bideau—France; Colonel A. I. Yelisarov—Soviet Union). The meeting was described as “stormy” and given over entirely to exchanges of protests and insults. (740.00119 Control (Germany)/4–2948)