740.00119 Control (Germany)/6–2648: Telegram

The Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Douglas) to the Secretary of State

top secret   us urgent

2822. For the Secretary and Lovett eyes only from Douglas. Before seeing Bevin this morning, I met with Strang who covered a number of separate items bearing upon the situation in Berlin (Embtel 2813, June 26, repeated Berlin as 2351).

I. He showed me a copy of a letter which General Robertson was delivering to Sokolovsky at 11:30 this morning, for publication by 5 p. m. this afternoon. While not as strong as it might have been it was nevertheless a clear protest against the various Soviet acts undertaken to cut off the lines of communication between the western zones of Germany and the three sectors of Berlin occupied by the Western Powers. The last paragraph of this letter reads as follows:

“The interruption of essential freight cannot be held to be a measure necessary to protect the currency position in the Soviet Zone. I, therefore, request that arrangements be made by the Soviet Military Administration to restore the normal traffic communications to and from Berlin immediately. I wish to make it clear that, if they are not so restored and undue and avoidable suffering is thereby inflicted upon the German population it will be because I have been deprived by you of the means to sustain them.”2

[Page 922]

II. There appeared in Tagliche Rundschau, the Soviet-sponsored newspaper in Berlin, and Neues Deutschland, a press mouthpiece of the Socialist Unity Party, a story to the effect that official British sources in London indicated that the Attlee Government was not prepared to remain in Berlin, and was discussing with the other two Western Powers the abandonment of Berlin. To this story HMG is authorizing the publication of the following denial: “Attention has been called to a report in Tagliche Rundschau which presumes to define the attitude of HMG to recent events in Berlin. This report is completely untrue and is very far from representing HMG’s real attitude. The statement that we intend to stay in Berlin holds good. The opinion of the whole world will condemn the ruthless attempt by the Soviet Government to create a state of siege in Berlin, and so by starving the helpless civilian population, to seek political advantages at the expense of the other Allied Powers.”

III. M. Blum, who was here in England for several days, gave as his estimate of the effect of the Warsaw communiqué3 on the French, that (A) it will not embarrass the Communists who take any lines from Moscow; (B) it may tend to refute the view previously held by some Frenchmen that negotiations should be had with the Soviet; and (C) neither the French Government, nor De Gaulle, would consistently agree to negotiate with the Soviet on the basis of the Warsaw communiqué.

IV. Strang then told me that next Wednesday Bevin would have to make a speech in the House of Commons. It would not be long. He would refer to the many efforts which the Western Powers had made to reach with the Soviet a reasonably satisfactory settlement of the German question, and would recite, too, the record of the consistently unbroken failures. He would refer to the situation in Berlin and, while unable at the moment to indicate the language in which his references would be couched, about which he wanted to confer with me on Monday, his line would be one of complete firmness, mixed with a calm denunciation of the ruthless and inhuman activities of the Soviet and the responsibility, which is theirs and theirs alone, for the consequences of their behavior on some 2–2½ million German people.

V. Strang and later Bevin, then went on to discuss the five major points which Bevin, in a very tentative way, had reviewed at length with me last evening. On the first four Bevin’s mind is clear. As to part of the fifth, he has not yet reached a conclusion. They are as follow: [Page 923]

1. Because of the close association which has been established during the course of the last several months between HMG and the US in London as a result of the talks on Germany; because he feels, in the light of experience that decisions can be reached more promptly by maintaining this close association than by the circuitous method of communicating directly with the British Embassy in Washington which in turn communicates with US; and because he feels that from here on we will be confronted with a series of issues on which, as promptly as possible, decisions must be taken, he suggests that in London there be a complete exchange of relevant information on Germany from the military governors and from other sources, and that discussions with him, based upon this information, be held here in order that a close association with our government may be continued and decisions reached as promptly as circumstances and the nature of the issue discussed permit. It is not suggested that any US representative in London be authorized to make decisions for the US Government, but rather that London be at least one place in which discussions of the issues that may arise out of the Berlin and the general German situation may be held. This procedure should on the one hand, include keeping General Clay fully and completely informed, and, on the other hand, keeping the State Department and the Department of the Army in Washington equally informed and placing them in full possession of the exchange of information between Robertson and London; similarly, Robertson, would be kept fully informed from London. This arrangement would thus provide for complete current information in three places; that is to say, London, Washington and Berlin, and would accordingly, make feasible discussions in these three places on the basis of complete information.

On Bevin’s side, he has one reason, in addition to those enumerated above, for suggesting this sort of an arrangement; namely, that it will give him a certain sense of personal and timely association through ability to discuss with a representative of the US Government.

2. Bevin believes that the Combined Chiefs of Staff in Washington should make a joint appreciation of the military situation in connection with the Berlin crisis. He has communicated with the British Chiefs of Staff in London to determine their thinking on this point.

While he believes that combined US–UK Chiefs of Staff should make the joint appreciation in the first instance, he is disposed to think that at some point the French should be brought in, particularly in the light of Section III of the London agreements on Germany stated in the Report on Security. In this connection Massigli, last evening, suggested that the procedure for three-power consultation under Section III of the Report on Security of the London Conference4 might be had most conveniently through French and British members of the Military Committee established under the five-power Brussels Pact. He recognized that for this purpose they might be joined by a US representative. Massigli was not, he made it clear, making a definite proposal, but merely a suggestion on which he would like the opinion of HMG.

3. Bevin believes that there should be made immediately by the Military Governors and by the Combined Chiefs of Staff, a joint survey [Page 924] of the logistic problem of feeding the civilian population of Berlin by air or otherwise. By way of amplification, he believes that all possible air transport should be promptly mobilized for the purpose of transporting as promptly as possible particularly for the women and children of the western sectors concentrated food stuffs, such as dried milk, dried eggs, and dried vegetables ‘as substitutes for similar natural foods formerly supplied by the Soviet and now, according to reports, cut off.

Bevin realizes that not enough food stuffs of this character can be carried by air to satisfy the requirements, but he believes strongly that it would be taken as a symbol of our determination, that it would provide some help, and that it could be used as a powerful instrument of propaganda. (Doubtless General Clay has already made a survey along these lines within the limits of the air facilities available to him.)

4. Bevin believes that the Combined Chiefs of Staff should examine the possibility of sending more heavy US bomber planes to Europe. He does not suggest this as an operation which, in a military sense, would be particularly effective. It would, however, be evidence which the Soviet would construe as meaning that we are in earnest. It would accordingly tend to refute the view held by the Soviet that we are not determined—a view which HMG believes, on the basis of such evidence as it has, is strongly held by the Soviet.

5. Bevin believes that we should exchange views as promptly as possible on our respective appreciations of the Warsaw communiqué to determine what, in our opinion, lies behind this statement of position. Bevin is inclined to believe that it may possibly be construed as a bid for a four-power conference on Germany, but has not reached any definite conclusion. (See Blum’s comments in Paragraph III above.)

If it does not reflect an effort on the part of the Soviet to obtain a CFM meeting, it may be an endeavor to invite bargaining on certain points.

Depending upon our appreciation of the Warsaw communiqué, the question of the wisdom of sending a note to Moscow will arise. There are three questions here involved:

Should any note at all be sent?
If one is sent, what should it contain?
If one is sent, when should it be sent?

On (a) and (b) Bevin is not clear. He wonders whether if a note is sent, it may lead to four-power negotiations and consequent delay in carrying out our program in western Germany which Bevin feels might very adversely affect our interests and general situation in western Germany.

On the question as to when a note should be sent, if it is decided to send one, I suggested that it should not be sent until our basic policy in regard to Berlin is determined; secondly, until the possible measures referred to above have been more clearly determined upon; and finally, until the meeting with the Ministers President, now tentatively scheduled for June 30,5 in regard to political organization has been [Page 925] held, thus assuring that course of action deemed essential by US is irrevocably commenced.

As to the substance of the note, if it is decided to send one, Bevin is considering something along the lines of the note which we proposed during the early stages of the London Conference on Germany.6

VI. I have read carefully the Warsaw communiqué, and with but few exceptions, find it repetitious of the same old Soviet line expressed at Moscow and again at London. The five points which the communiqué lays out, significantly do not include any mention, implicitly or otherwise, of economic unity; i.e., free movement of people, free movement of goods, cessation of delivery of current production from the Soviet Zone in the form of reparations. In London, and as I understand it, at previous CFM meetings it was consistently held by the US and UK that economic unification of Germany should precede preparatory measures for a peace settlement and political organization. It was because the Soviet refused to accept economic unification in London and insisted on discussion of political organization and the terms of the peace treaty, or, in other words, that the Soviet insisted upon discussing the shadow and not the substance, that the CFM meeting adjourned. Of this the Soviet must be fully aware. In the light of this background, the omission of reference to economic unity among the five points enumerated in the Warsaw communiqué make it, in my opinion, doubtful whether the Soviet intend the communiqué to be a bid for a four-power meeting. It is more likely that they intend it as a prologue to the establishment of their own regime in the eastern zone, and as a restatement for propaganda purposes of their position.

VII Bevin believes that our policy in Berlin should be one of firmness, for he believes that the abandonment of Berlin would have serious, if not disastrous, consequences in western Germany and throughout western Europe. In the appraisal I concur.

VIII. I realize you recognize the importance of formulating our policy in regard to Berlin as soon as possible in terms as precise as possible. In this connection General Wedemeyer suggests the basic political policy be determined and submitted to the Joint Chiefs of Staff for their military strategic and tactical appraisal and to give them appropriate policy guidance in discussions with British opposite numbers.

IX. Meanwhile, in accordance with Deptel 2389, June 24,7 an intensive propaganda barrage should be laid down on the Berlin community and Germany; every means available should be used—the radio should be pumping out the propaganda every hour of the day, if not more frequently. By building up complete understanding among [Page 926] Germans, potential allies, and among our own people at home of the Soviet’s responsibility for the suffering and privation that will follow on their actions, we could fashion a powerful instrument to induce them to modify their tactics, if not to retract.

X. Under-Secretary Draper, General Wedemeyer, Frank Wisner, and Wilkinson from Berlin are here. We have discussed the situation at length and are unanimous in agreeing on the first four points suggested by Bevin in Paragraph V, and concur in the view contained in Paragraph IX.

XI. In expressing his views, Bevin asked me to make it clear that they were tentative, for they had not been cleared by the Cabinet which will meet on Monday. I, however, have little doubt that, in substance, they will be confirmed.8

XII. I understand that Under-Secretary Draper and General Wedemeyer are sending tomorrow a separate cable to the Army.

XIII. Request copy this message be made available to National Military Establishment. Copy is being handed Secretary Draper and General Wedemeyer.

Sent Department as 2822; repeated Berlin (for Murphy and Clay) as 238.

  1. Not printed; it reported that Ambassador Douglas had a long conversation with Bevin, a résumé of which was to follow (740.00119 Control (Germany) 6–2648).
  2. The full text of Robertson’s letter to Sokolovsky was transmitted in telegram 1501, June 27, from Berlin, not printed (740.00119 Control (Germany)/6–2748).
  3. The reference here is to the Declaration of June 24, 1948 by the Warsaw Conference of the Foreign Ministers of the Soviet Union, Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Poland, Romania, and Hungary on the decisions of the London Six-Power Conference on Germany. See the editorial note, p. 370.
  4. For the text of the document under reference here, dated May 26, see p. 291.
  5. Regarding the meeting of the Military Governors and the Ministers President at Frankfurt on July 1, see the editorial note, p. 380.
  6. See telegram 1423, April 22, to London, p. 896.
  7. Not printed.
  8. In telegram 2847, June 28, from London, not printed, Douglas reported that the Cabinet had approved Bevin’s views (740.00119 Control (Germany)/6–2848).