762 0221/5–1352: Telegram

No. 145
The United States High Commissioner for Germany (McCloy) to the Department of State 1

secret priority

2803. A series of developments over past fortnight suggests to us Kremlin is embarking on a tough line toward West Ger. Among these incidents were stoppage of MP movement from Berlin,2 purge in GDR, heightened GDR militancy toward West, riot in Essen3 shrill Ulbricht statements yesterday.4

We have felt that such a turn was almost inevitable once it became evident that tactics of enticement had failed to produce practical political results in West. Time has now come if Kremlin is to achieve its objectives of detaching FedRep from West and bringing about collapse of EDF, to attempt to impress upon West Gers ominous alternative to accepting package offer contained in Sov notes. This does not of course exclude possibility that Kremlin may put forward further offers. But for time being it appears to be concentrating on driving home to West Gers peril of rejecting its offers.

This, however, is not an easy task for Moscow. Ger public has come over years to regard threats from GDR as cries of wolf wolf. Therefore, if this tactic of menace is to have desired effect on West Gers it must carry convincing tone of imminent and great danger. [Page 340] At same time, assuming Kremlin does not seek war, scope of its threats are limited by what it must regard as risk of explosive American reaction. Range between this floor and ceiling is not great and must pose vexing problems for Kremlin.

Berlin is of course most obvious point of exploitation. Kremlin has already hinted in Air France and MP incidents what it can do on perhaps our most vulnerable point, that of access, and in so doing has demonstrated to Gers its position of control. We are not now inclined to believe, however, that Kremlin will impose a full scale blockage. To do so might well provoke another airlift which probably would politically boomerang. It seems to us more likely that Kremlin will impose a creeping blockade, possibly even restricting it to outward movements from Berlin combined with an offer to absorb all Berlin production to East. Whatever Russians may do on this score our guess is that they will apply their harrassing tactics selectively trying to avoid cementing West Ger and Allies.

As contractuals and EDF progress toward implementation Kremlin may pari passu insist that we take our troubles to GDR and GDR may be increasingly thrust into front position against us. While such maneuver would obviously have many drawbacks for Kremlin tradition of operating thru others with itself bearing minimum responsibility and retaining thereby maximum flexibility.

Foregoing is of course not all that Kremlin can do by way of intimidation. And Moscow may well calculate, as we do, that these measures may not of themselves suffice to stop contractuals and EDF. What remains is creation of East Ger armed forces, border incidents and rumblings of Sov milit power. First two would not necessarily approach ceiling of American tolerance but third might. Because of this we in Bonn do not see what Sov armed forces can do beyond ostentatious display of force in East Ger.

What actual effect of Kremlin’s tough line will be on West Gers is impossible to predict. In FedReps present circumstances, crust of West Ger courage is understandably thin. It may be hardened if we keep our own nerves steady and show determination to counter Sov moves. On other hand it may break and West Gers become paralyzed if Kremlin can create atmosphere that we are undependable and that lining up with West will surely lead to civil war, invasion, devastation by American bombing and Tartar occupation. Next few weeks may be the test.5

  1. Repeated to London, Paris, Moscow, and Berlin.
  2. On May 8 Soviet authorities had refused to allow U.S. Military Police to continue their courtesy patrols along the autobahn from Berlin to Helmstedt. For texts of letters protesting this refusal and the attack on French aircraft on Apr. 29, referred to in the fourth paragraph of this telegram, see Department of State Bulletin, Sept. 1, 1952, pp. 311 ff.
  3. On May 11 West German police had quelled a riot by several thousand FDJ who had been in Essen to protest against the contractual agreements and the rearmament of Germany.
  4. At a press conference on May 12 Ulbricht had warned Bonn against signing the contractual agreements and had threatened retaliation against Berlin if they were signed. Berlin reported the substance of the press conference in telegram 1335, May 12. (662.001/5–1252)
  5. On May 14, in a telegram cleared with Riddleberger and Matthews, McCloy was informed that the Department of State believed the reasons and conclusions presented in this telegram were sound and he could “count on the full and steady Dept support in all efforts” which he would “undoubtedly have to make [to] demonstrate Western coolness, firmness and dependability.” (Telegram 3117 to Bonn, 762.00/5–1352)