Following the receipt of telegram 299, supra, Knapp in coordination with Gifford and Lefort drew up the text of a draft tripartite counterproposal based on the four-point United States outline. This draft was submitted to the three Western Governments, amended, and returned to their experts in Geneva for presentation to the Technical Committee. The text of the draft counterproposal and related documentation are in file 740.00119 Control (Germany)/1–2749 through 2–549. For the text of the tripartite statement submitted to the Technical Committee on February 4, see telegram 130, page 669.
On January 27 Kingsbury Smith, European General Manager of the International News Service, submitted four questions to Premier Stalin concerning the problem of world peace. The third question dealt with Berlin and read:
“If the Governments of the United States of America, the United Kingdom and France agreed to postpone establishment of a separate Western German state pending a meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers to consider the German problem as a whole, would the Government of the U.S.S.R. be prepared to remove the restrictions which Soviet authorities have imposed on communications between Berlin and the Western zones of Germany?”
Stalin replied on January 30, and with respect to question three stated:
“Provided the United States of America, Great Britain and France observe the conditions set forth in the third question, the Soviet Government sees no obstacles to lifting the transport restrictions on the understanding, however, that transport and trade restrictions introduced by the three powers should be lifted simultaneously.”
On the following day Secretary Acheson discussed Stalin’s answers with President Truman at a meeting at the White House at 12:30. The President approved the idea that the White House would say it had received no message from Stalin and refer questions to the Department of State, that Secretary Acheson would deal with the matter at his press conference on February 2 along the lines of a draft which he read to the President, and that at his press conference on February 3, President Truman would state, in answer to any question, that the Secretary of State had dealt with the matter and he had no further comment.[Page 667]
In his discussion of the third question on February 2, Secretary Acheson traced the history of the blockade and the progress toward the establishment of a West German Government and concluded:
“There are many ways in which a serious proposal by the Soviet Government to restore normal interzonal communications and communications with and within Berlin could be made. All channels are open for any suggestions to that end. The United States, together with the other Western occupying powers, would, of course, consider carefully any proposal made to solve the Berlin problem consistent with their rights, their duties, their obligations as occupying powers.”
For the complete text of Acheson’s remarks including Kingsbury Smith’s questions and Stalin’s replies, see Department of State Bulletin, February 13, 1949, pages 192–194. For two other accounts of the Stalin–Kingsbury Smith incident and its aftermath, see Acheson, Present at the Creation, pages 267–270 and Harry S. Truman, Memoirs, Volume II, Years of Trial and Hope (Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, 1956), pages 130–131. A memorandum of the conversation at the White House and a copy of the draft statement which Acheson read to the President are in file 740.00119 Control (Germany)/1–3149.
For further documentation on this exchange, see volumes IV and V.