740.00119 Control (Germany)/6–549: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Acting Secretary of State

top secret

Actel 41. For Webb Eyes Only. With further reference my Actel 31 of June 2,1 I think following considerations ought be kept in mind in JCS consideration of policy to be followed in case of Soviet reimposition of blockade.2

The most likely Soviet move is reimposition of the blockade by the same creeping tactics used before. They would begin by alleging technical difficulties, repair of bridges, et cetera, and then perhaps cause further difficulty with documentation. This kind of Soviet maneuver is hard to meet through use of armed convoys. Much depends upon way in which it develops.

The other and less likely possibility is that Soviets would make some announcement or take other clear overt act reimposing blockade.

When blockade was first imposed, situation was confused in public mind by disputes over currency and Soviet allegations of justification. No slightest justification would exist at this time for reimposition and I think this would be perfectly clear to public opinion everywhere. In such an eventuality, I think we should take position that Soviet action was very close to act of war against US and that we should immediately [Page 827] inform Soviet Government that we considered it hostile act. In such a serious situation, we would be squarely faced with issue whether we would break the blockade even at risk of war. This is an issue JCS should consider now.

Difficulty is that, if the Soviets have already acted, it would hardly be consonant with their character to back down and lift blockade immediately in face of statement we considered it hostile act. On other hand, if they knew in advance how we would regard such an act and if we made it sufficiently clear and definite, it might very well act as deterrent. I should, therefore, welcome your thought and that of NSC regarding desirability my making some statement either in CFM or privately to Vishinsky to effect we would consider reimposition blockade very close to act of war and definitely hostile act and that we reserve our right to take whatever steps seem to us necessary to preserve our rights and interests. I would not contemplate making such declaration unless situation in CFM and situation regarding lifting blockade under NY agreement3 seemed to indicate that it was appropriate and necessary.

If Soviet moves in direction of reimposition blockade were not sufficiently definite to make clear issue but if they did definitely restrict our right of surface access to Berlin, I still can see considerable advantage in testing Soviet intentions by presenting an armed convoy on highway. I have never had in mind that such a convoy should shoot it out with Russians and force its way through to Berlin even if opposed by substantial armed forces. What I have had in mind is possibility that such an armed convoy on being stopped by Soviet guards at road block would push ahead unless and until met by substantial force or actually fired upon. I recognize, however, that there are numerous ways in which Soviets could block such a convoy and make us appear foolish. I do think JOS should study this matter further in light of above comments.

I do not disagree in the slightest with JCS estimate of seriousness of situation which would be created by reimposition blockade and certainly have no thought of proposing action which they consider would be provocative of war or which would cause us to lose prestige. I am fully in agreement with idea of continuing policy of keeping airlift in condition to resume full operations at least until we are assured of more stable situation in Berlin.

  1. Not printed; in it Secretary Acheson stated that he would send some general views on the policy to be followed in case of the reimposition of the Berlin blockade and that he would make every effort to secure from the Soviet Union an agreement clearly defining and reaffirming the right of the United States of access to Berlin. (740.00119 Control (Germany)/6–249)
  2. Under reference here is the JCS study on the possible courses of action by the United States in the event of the reimposition of the Berlin blockade, p. 821.
  3. For the text of the communiqué of May 5, see p. 751.