740.00119 Control (Germany)/3–849

Paper Prepared by the Director of the Policy Planning Staff (Kennan)


The following is the situation as I see it with respect to German policy:

I am not sure that we as a Government have ever made a firm determination of our view on the long-term future of Germany. Germany has become a problem child in Europe only since it has begun to think in national terms, that is, since it has become a Reich; and it is my own conviction that it will continue to be a problem, and an insoluble one, as long as its affairs are approached on a nationalist basis. There is no solution of the German problem in terms of Germany; there is only a solution in terms of Europe. I think wise Germans have long recognized this. This is a question of the whole orientation of German thought and effort and hope for the future. This realization is not new. Many statements could be cited to bear out this point. I was struck with the following passage which I recently came across in a speech by Prince Max von Baden, then German Reichs Chancellor, given in October 1918.

“… If we cling inwardly to the basis of national egoism which until recently was the dominant power in the life of peoples, then, gentlemen, there will be no reconstruction and no renovation for us. There will remain then a feeling of bitterness which will paralyze us [Page 97] for generations. But if we once understand that the meaning of this terrible war lies above all in the victory of the idea of the rule of law* and if we yield ourselves unresistingly to this idea, not with inner reservations but of our own free will, then we will find in it a cure for the wounds of the present and a challenge for our strength in the future.…”

Germany is now again, as in 1918, at a parting of the ways. Although the Germans are by and large a sick people from whom no political impulses emerge in any clear and healthy form, there is already noticeable a distinct cleavage in Germany between those who are beginning to think of Germany’s future in terms of the old defiant nationalism and those who are dimly aware that there are no real answers along those lines and that Germans must come to regard themselves as Europeans, and not just Germans, if they are to achieve any stability of life on their own territory and if they are to continue a constructive development of their own culture and civilization.
As between these two groups, the former is probably already by far the more numerous, and if German opinion is forced to crystalize at this time, there can be little doubt that the crystalization will be along nationalist lines. Local elections, and many other manifestations, point in this direction.
For us to proceed with the Western German arrangements, as they are now envisaged, will undoubtedly bring about such a crystalization. OIR Report No. 4676 of August 16, 19481 contained the following statements on this point:

“… The organization of the western German state will probably aggravate the political conflicts among the German parties. It is unlikely that the western currency reform will be followed by an equalization of the war-damage burden which would satisfy the desires of the millions of bombed-out and refugee citizens. The resultant discontent, in turn, will accelerate the trend toward the polarization of German political life into an extremely nationalist and authoritarian Right and a numerically weaker democratic Left.…”

The force of logic supports this conclusion. A Western German Government bearing an electoral relationship to the populace will naturally serve as a magnet and channel of expression for nationalist sentiment. Such a Government will have to function against the background of a number of irritating restrictions and handicaps. Prominent among these will be the division of the country between East and West, the large area of power being retained by the Western Military Governors, the internationalization of the Ruhr, the dismantlings, [Page 98] and the restrictions and prohibitions on industry. The converse of this picture will be a wide-spread apathy toward Western political programs and efforts toward democratization and reform. In other words, there will be indifference to Western desiderata but an enthusiasm for German desiderata largely opposed to Western purposes.

Operating against this background, it is clear that the premiums of political success will lie in overcoming the handicaps placed on Germany by outside intervention. Just as in the early 30’s one of Hitler’s most effective boasts was that he alone could free Germany from the strictures of Versailles, so today, given the establishment of a Western German Government, the successful political figure will probably be he who can demonstrate with most plausibility that he has chances for overcoming the division of Germany and achieving the removal or relaxation of the new restrictions which have been placed on German national power.

This means that not only will a German Western Government become the spokesman of a resentful and defiant nationalism, but much of the edge of this resentment will inevitably be turned against the Western governments themselves, particularly in view of the large area of power which they are reserving to themselves under the contemplated arrangements. Worse than that, the dominant force in Germany will become one oriented not to the integration of Germany into Europe but to the re-emergence of that unilateral German strength which has proven so impossible for Western Europe to digest in the past. Finally, it will thrust the German politicians into a position where they are almost compelled to negotiate with the Russians behind our backs for the return of the Eastern provinces; and the Russians will not be slow to exploit the possibilities this offers. A Western German Government set up in present circumstances will thus be neither friendly nor frank nor trustworthy from the standpoint of the Western occupiers.

Nor is it proven that the Germans themselves really want this solution. Our intelligence analyses tells us that “German political and industrial leaders … are not eager for the establishment of a western German government by the Allies unless it be endowed with almost plenary powers”. The subsequent work of the Bonn Assembly cannot, I think, be taken to controvert this judgment.

If the question of Germany’s political future could be held open for a further period, the French—and at least some of the Germans—believe that there might be a possibility of a development of German [Page 99] feeling in the other direction. They point out that the present is a moment of extreme flux and uncertainty in German political thinking, and that many of the younger people whose indoctrination in Naziism was less intensive and less lasting than in the case of their elders are showing a certain receptivity to what might be called “the European idea” as an alternative to German nationalism. I am unable to judge the basis for this belief; but if there is anything in it, it is a factor which deserves most careful attention.
The present concept of the Western German arrangements has the further disadvantage that it leaves to the three allied governments reserve powers so complicated and extensive that they are not apt to be able to agree on how they should be exercised. The mere attempt to come to an advance understanding on this point has already proved too heavy a strain for the normal negotiating levels and discussions on a higher governmental level will presumably soon have to be held to get us over this stage. But this is only the beginning. Whatever agreements may be reached at this time cannot be expected to alleviate further strain in the future, under the arrangements now in contemplation. The three governments have different positions and interests with respect to Germany, and whatever they may be brought to agree to today in the way of verbiage, these divergent interests are going to continue to come to the fore and make themselves felt in a hundred ways as long as the three governments try to exercise these reserve powers in common. Government by coalition is scarcely less impossible a task among friends than among enemies, unless all but one of the coalition are willing to take a back seat and participate only pro forma. This might go for the British; but I do not think we can expect it to go for the French, whose security is too intimately bound up with the problem of Germany to admit of any unquestioning reliance on the wisdom of the United States in German affairs. And our difficulties in this respect will probably only be the greater, in the future, if we now apply ulterior pressures to force the French to agree to some arrangements in principle which they dislike and distrust.
The third disadvantage of the arrangements now in contemplation is that the establishment of a German government will reduce greatly the area of flexibility which we will enjoy in our efforts to solve the Berlin situation. The possibility of a deal on currency holds no promise of a solution which would protect the Western Berliners from Soviet control. At best it could represent for us a relatively fuzzy and easy way of abandoning Western Berlin to the Russians. But actually, I doubt that it even holds this much promise. Stalin’s omission of this point from his recent propaganda move was significant;2 and I doubt [Page 100] whether this is today a matter of major interest for the Russians. I would hazard the guess that even if we were to show a readiness to accept the neutral plan,3 we would find the Russians raising many last minute demands and obstacles.

This being the case, the only possibility for getting the blockade broken, aside from a Soviet capitulation so spectacular and humiliating as to be almost unthinkable, would seem to lie in the retention of our freedom of action about Western Germany. Yet once the Western German Government has been established, this freedom of action, as Ambassador Douglas has pointed out, will be gone.

In the light of the above, it would seem, at first glance, that either of two opposing alternative courses would seem to be preferable to the middle ground we are now treading. Either we could postpone the implementation of the Western German arrangements, thus gaining the advantages suggested above, and giving no power at all to a Western German Government as such; or we could decide to give a considerably greater area of power to the Germans than is envisaged in the present occupation statute, thus narrowing the area of potential difficulty and friction between the Western allies and the Germans, and also reducing materially the area in which the Western allies themselves will have to agree currently among themselves.

The disadvantages of these two courses are of course as clear as the advantages. The first would leave the Bonn Assembly up in the air and would give, to some extent, an impression of vacillation and indecision on the part of the Western powers. The second would be giving German nationalism its head, although directing it rather to the east than to the west. It might well mean the final ruin of the chances for a constructive integration of the Germans into the life of Western Europe. It would still leave us with a bitter problem in Berlin, and it would increase the tendency on the part of the Germans to deal over our heads with the Russians about the recovery of the Eastern zone.

It has occurred to some of us in the Planning Staff, however, that we might conceivably be able to combine these two seemingly opposed courses into a single course which would be more advantageous than either of them or than the course we are now pursuing. This would be by changing the concept of a Western German Government for the time being to that of a provisional Western German administration, while retaining for the occupying powers full sovereign power in theory in Western Germany, along the lines of the arrangement now existing with respect to Austria. This would mean that the German [Page 101] administration would actually run a considerably wider area of German affairs than that envisaged for the Western German Government under the present arrangements, but that final and unlimited power would continue to lie with the Military Governors. The latter would be able to exert that power in positive actions requiring unanimity among the three. Where they did not exert it, the Germans would be free to act. This would mean that the Germans would be able, in almost all matters except those involving military security and the Ruhr controls, to do anything they were not told not to do by the three powers acting in unanimous agreement.§

One of the first objections which will probably be raised to this plan will be that it would be impossible for the United States Government to control German economic life and to assure full and effective utilization of ECA and GARIOA funds. The answer to this objection is that the present suggestion would place this responsibility squarely on the Germans themselves, and not on us, and that the discipline intrinsic in the ERP arrangements would have to be brought to bear on the provisional German administration just as it is brought to bear on the other ERP countries. If, in other words, the Germans failed to make headway with the administration of their own economy, ERP funds would have to be reduced accordingly and the provisional German administration left to account to the German population for the resulting deficiency.

This arrangement, it should be noted, would satisfy the strong desire of the ECA for someone with whom it can deal in German matters other than people across the street from its own headquarters in Washington.

Hand in hand with this arrangement should go a complete relaxation of United States pressure toward centralization in Germany. We would let the Germans struggle with this problem themselves, leaving it to the discipline of the ERP arrangements to assure that they do not decentralize to the point of economic chaos and ineffectiveness. If this were done, we would thereby have removed ourselves from the line of fire on the centralization issue, and the package should be considerably easier to sell to the French.
This is, of course, only a very rough suggestion of a direction which might be followed, and it would demand the most careful and detailed study before it could be made the basis of a United States position in the forthcoming talks. A preliminary paper spelling out the suggestion in greater detail, and listing certain of its apparent [Page 102] advantages, is attached;4 but a much more careful analysis would of course be in order before we could work it into a position paper.

I believe, however, that the idea might be worth examination in the Steering Group of the NSC during my absence.5 It might provide at least a useful tactical alternative, in discussion with the French and British, to acceptance of our present program.

  1. “Rechtsidee” in the original. By this, Baden indicated that he meant international association with other powers within a framework of law. [Footnote in the source text.]
  2. Not printed.
  3. “In general, Germans are apathetic toward political programs favored by the western powers and western-power efforts to democratize the populace and liberalize the old educational system.…” Political Trends in Western Germany, CIA, July 22, 1948. [Footnote in the source text.]
  4. Political Trends in Western Germany, CIA, July 22, 1948. [Footnote in the source text.]
  5. Regarding Stalin’s reply to questions submitted by Kingsbury Smith, January 30, 1949, see editorial note, p. 666.
  6. For the text of the United Nations Technical Committee Preliminary Report on Berlin Currency and Trade, December 22, 1948, see Department of State Documents and State Papers, May 1949, pp. 763–771 or Germany 1947–1949, pp. 245–256.
  7. This was the principle underlying Program A, which was drawn up on the theory that only the action, not the inaction, of the Allied Control Powers should be permitted to inhibit the process of government. [Footnote in the source text. Program A (A Program for Germany), November 12, 1948, is printed in Foreign Relations, 1948, vol. ii, p. 1325.]
  8. Not found in Department of State files.
  9. Kennan was leaving for Germany on March 10.