740.00119 Control (Germany)/5–2749)

Memorandum by Mr. Robert D. Murphy of the United States Delegation at the Council of Foreign Ministers

top secret

Comments on JCS Analysis 1

The fact that the United States has both rights and obligations in Berlin seems to be overlooked in the JCS analysis of the question of access to Berlin. There is evident an easy assumption that the USSR is prepared to use military force merely because in 1948 the SMA announced a series of restrictions and controls on traffic. Fearful then of a supposed danger of war, the US did not accompany its statement of its rights and obligations by an indication of an intention to enforce its rights if resort to negotiation failed. This has always seemed to me an error and weakness. It is, in a way, equivalent to a plaintiff with a good case failing to prosecute his rights because the defendant might attack him. Instead we resorted to the expedient of the airlift in the hope of arriving at a peaceful arrangement. The USSR, comprehending that it ran no risk of forceful reaction on our part to this invasion of our rights and interference with the performance of our obligations, felt itself at liberty with impunity to impose its restrictions on surface movement of goods and persons between Berlin and Western Germany.

Fear can be useful as an element of policy. In the Berlin case it was used by the USSR and it affected the Western powers. The latter, on the other hand, never gave the slightest indication to the USSR that it had any cause to fear an eventual violent reaction to this flagrant violation of Western rights. Had the Soviet Union believed that the West would go to war to protect these rights, it would not have dared, in my opinion, to indulge in its recent manifestations of arrogance.

It would seem that a similar situation would prevail in case of reimposition of traffic restrictions by the Soviet authorities. A test should, in that case, be made to determine whether the USSR will resort to force in furtherance of its policy. If so, its position in public opinion will be worsened. If not, we will have succeeded in enforcing our right to a surface route to Berlin, and we would effect at least an important economy in the air lift.

If an unfortunate incident should occur, there would be no good reason to regard it as more than local and not a casus belli. In Berlin [Page 826] there have been many cases of the shooting of Soviet and American soldiers without grave complications.

At an appropriate moment, if restrictions are reimposed, the Soviet authorities should be notified a reasonable time in advance of the arrival of an armed convoy composed of US/UK/French elements at the Soviet check point at Helmstedt and that the Western powers intend to exercise our right of passage over the highway. The convoy would be supported by such technical personnel and equipment as might be necessary if obstruction to passage—such as damage to the Elbe river bridge—had to be removed or repaired.

This would imply that the Western powers take over the patrol and maintenance of the highway as a corridor which they control and respect.

  1. The JCS Analysis under reference here is printed as Appendix A to NSC 24/2, supra.