740.00119 Control (Germany)/8–1748: Telegram

The Ambassador in the Soviet Union (Smith) to the Secretary of State

top secret   us urgent

1663. Eyes Only for the Secretary. Have just held post-mortem with British colleagues on last night’s conversation with Molotov and review, of course, of discussions to date. We found ourselves in general agreement that Kremlin has throughout had eye on two major objectives, maximum being suspension of London decisions under conditions holding promise of re-entry of Soviet Government into over-all German picture, and minimum being achievement of sole Soviet control [Page 1048] in Berlin with west powers occupation apparatus reduced to ineffective appendage in immediate future and eventually removed entirely. We believe that they realized during early stages of discussion first objective was out of reach for time being and we conclude that any further interest they display in this subject will be only for purposes of confusing issues, bargaining or propaganda values to be derived therefrom. On second objective, they must surely have weighed possibilities of advancing toward Berlin control via present talks and some resulting agreement against possibilities of winning control by continuing direct application of physical pressures.

In our last two meetings Molotov has been carrying on a probing operation directed mainly toward clarifying further the possibilities of securing the second objective, i.e., Berlin control, through agreement. We share the impression that Molotov has probably decided that in this connection, too, there is little prospect of concessions on our part substantial enough to warrant abandoning the tactics of physical pressure.

However, since this pressure is presently continuing without interruption and since its ultimate success is still uncertain, he is quite prepared to go on talking here or to have talks initiated and continued almost indefinitely in Berlin. The Soviets have nothing to lose by this. On the contrary, such procedure holds several advantages for them. They avoid responsibility for breaking off the discussions; they always have some hope of wearing us down or of maneuvering us into an ill-considered agreement; and they prevent us from adopting an alternative course of action.

On the other hand, we recognize that from the Kremlin viewpoint the tactic of physical pressure on Berlin involves some disadvantages and even dangers. Economic factors, adverse public opinion and even the actual danger of open conflict are consideration which would impel the Politbureau toward peaceful agreement. Therefore we do not yet exclude possibility that there is still a chance of agreement here, though we now estimate this chance as slight unless the western powers are prepared to make some real concession on Berlin.

In these circumstances it seems to us that the stage has been reached where our government must decide: (1) If we are prepared to deal indefinitely with situation now existing in Berlin in event of breakdown of present conversations; (2) If our ability to cope indefinitely with Berlin situation is doubtful, what concessions would we be willing to make to relieve the situation. These concessions might have to be substantial and would be either surrender of participation in control of currency in Berlin, or suspension of decisions of the London Conference.

While we see these as the basic alternatives facing the three west governments, we nevertheless believe that the remote possibility of [Page 1049] reaching agreement, without major concessions of principle, in a final interview with Stalin must be exploited to the fullest, and I am suggesting in my next following telegrams the approach which we believe would give us the optimum chance of success.

Our thought is essentially that it would be necessary for us to present to Stalin a final simplified, essentially unchangeable draft which, while incorporating the basic safeguards contained in our various instructions, would still follow as closely as possible the formula given us by Stalin in our initial interview.

The above estimate has been drafted independently. Roberts and Harrison have also prepared a very able estimate along similar lines which British Embassy Washington will transmit to Department. Embassy London please furnish copy of this message at once to Foreign Office so that in Washington and London our estimates can be reviewed together.

Department repeat London 146 eyes only for Douglas, Berlin 313 eyes only for Murphy and Clay, Paris 256 eyes only for Caffery.