740.00119 Control (Germany)/6–2648: Telegram

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


1497. Personal for the Secretary. Mytel 1495, June 26,1 summarizes Soviet restrictive traffic measures and their effect on Berlin population and economy with indication of the danger inherent in a continuation of the existing pressure.

Mytel 1496, June 26,1 recapitulates current transport situation and analyzes original 1945 agreement regarding access to Berlin.

Moscow’s 1139, June 20 [19],1 analyzes Soviet attitude to Berlin situation and forecasts that USSR will create a condition of affairs which would leave western powers alternatives of withdrawal from Berlin or remaining with humiliation and loss of prestige exceeding that which would be involved in withdrawal now.

My assumption is that when western powers accepted Berlin arrangement they did so with knowledge of the possibility of Soviet pressure. The unfavorable logistical situation has been obvious from the start. It results from a defective agreement negotiated by Mr. Winant and others in 1944 in an outburst of faith and good will designed to induce the USSR to work in Germany with the US/UK in some form of organization however faulty. The Berlin question was discussed last December at London by your delegation to CFM. It was my understanding that your policy was determined then to stay in Berlin with the risk such policy entailed. Otherwise that would have been a favorable moment to stage a voluntary withdrawal because of Soviet failure to cooperate.

In the interval, presence in Berlin of Western occupants became a symbol of resistance to eastern expansionism. It is unquestionably an index of our prestige in central and eastern Europe. As far as Germany is concerned, it is a test of US ability in Europe. If we docilely withdraw now, Germans and other Europeans would conclude that our retreat from western Germany is just a question of time. US position [Page 920] in Europe would be gravely weakened, and like a cat on a sloping tin roof.

I concurred in Clay’s recommendation to Draper June 21 that US Government protest Soviet restrictions on movement of persons and goods between Berlin and the west. Draper has informed Clay that State and Army doubt whether it is opportune to send note to Soviets now, particularly because of previous British and French lack of support. Draper replied that unilateral action on our part might invite easy and obvious answer from Soviets and reveal lack of unity. He advised that Berlin situation was being closely studied by State and Army in connection with analysis of over-all Soviet policy.2

I recommend if action not already taken that French and UK Governments be contacted immediately for the purpose of ascertaining whether in light of Soviet prohibition on rail and road traffic cutting off Berlin from west, those governments would not now be willing to join US in protest over this violation of the right of western powers to occupy western sectors of Berlin and their obligations as stated by Marshal Zhukov in 1945 (mytel 130, July 7, 19453) to supply the western sectors with food and fuel. That protest should be coupled with the indication and the determination that the western powers intend to take such measures as may be necessary to insure the right of passage through the agreed corridor of the necessary passenger and freight traffic.

My reasons for this recommendation are:

The protection of US legal rights and obligations as an occupying power arising from the relevant agreements.
The political, economic and financial conditions which involve our European policy.
The protection of those Berlin elements who oppose and indeed manifest courage in preventing Soviet domination of the largest municipal area in Germany.
The encouragement of German resistance to Communist domination of the 18 millions residing in the Soviet zone outside Berlin.
Our retreat from Berlin would be tantamount to an acknowledgment of lack of courage to resist Soviet pressure short of war and would amount to a public confession of weakness under pressure. It would be the Munich of 1948.
Withdrawal from Berlin would have political repercussions far beyond the political battle for Berlin itself. It would imply that we would likewise withdraw from Vienna and from western Germany.
Withdrawal would raise justifiable doubts in the minds of Europeans as to the firmness of our European policy and of our ability to resist the spread of Communism, particularly in central Europe.

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As unfavorable as our logistical situation in Berlin may be, the Soviets will be faced with the dilemma either of permitting supplies to come through from the west or of feeding the Berlin population. Mass starvation of this population would not seem to harmonize with present Soviet political aims in Germany. I believe that Soviet tactic is to frighten the German population into believing that they may starve, thus inciting them against the western occupants. Unrest, strikes and rioting might result but we could ride out the storm as long as we are physically in possession of the western sectors of Berlin. I believe the USSR will bargain in the end.

These are the conditions which face us. If we are determined, both in our minds and in our dealings with the UK and France, Soviet pressure tactics, no matter how skillful should not force us out of Berlin.

Sent Department 1497, repeated Moscow 251, London 287, Paris 283, Vienna 44, Rome 63.

  1. Not printed.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Not printed.
  4. For the texts of the messages between Clay and Draper under reference herey see telegram 711, June 23, to Moscow, p. 916.
  5. Foreign Relations, The Conference of Berlin (The Potsdam Conference), 1945 vol. i, pp. 630633.