148. Telegram From the Office of the High Commissioner for Germany to the Department of State1

2980. Deptel 2753, Bonn’s 2973, Moscow’s 1775 to Dept.2

[Page 360]
As reported Bonn 2973, FedRep planning start IZT tax or fee program late this week. Intend no publicity this move, but we suggesting FedRep arrange leak to hasten impact on Treuhandstelle negotiations. We not too sanguine chances success fee program. It could react unfavorably on GDR brown coal for Berlin and encourage intra-German customs barriers. However, FedRep has decided to try it, and we feel it desirable to keep them in aggressive posture. May be useful in locating sensitive points of SovZone at this stage negotiations.
FedRep still unwilling halt shipments already documented, but we intend keep pushing this point.
In light Moscow reftel and our feeling situation not yet creeping blockade, we recommend intergovernmental note be delayed pending further Treuhandstelle discussions and further notes to Pushkin. We planning with Br and Fr to send second note to Pushkin probably April 13,3 in which we plan emphasize language in four-power communiqué of June 20, 19494 as basis for Sov obligations in this matter. We hope this note will coincide with growing realization and effect of FedRep countermeasures. If no satisfactory progress [by?] April 18, we envisage third note to Pushkin proposing Allied meeting to discuss road problem, and have in mind intergovernmental note in Moscow for following week if situation unchanged.
Continue feel that at this stage when FedRep trying resolve problem at Treuhandstelle level, it would be premature to send Allied military team to assess highway condition in East Zone. We suggesting to FedRep that they publicize actual cost of maintaining roads showing that old taxes more than adequate. Sending of Allied survey team now might very well direct attention cost rebuilding Elbe bridge with [which] GDR has surprisingly not mentioned but which approximately DM 7 million investment will mainly benefit FedRep–Berlin traffic.
While we agree that payment of present exorbitant toll odious, we favor pursuing negotiations for lowering toll along lines FedRep now employing. Meantime FedRep and Berlin should save toll charges by diverting some shipments to rail and water and will urge them to do so.
Unless we are now prepared create atmosphere of crisis, and we recommend against such policy, we do not feel it now advisable start using stockpile or begin commercial airlift. Using stockpile, which would have to be agreed by Allies and Germans, would not bring any pressure to bear on GDR and would instead primarily alarm West Berliners. In our view this measure should be reserved for extreme emergency. If it becomes clear that Treuhandstelle negotiations and Allied approaches to Soviets are not succeeding, Allies must then consider obligation to supply Berlin, and we currently believe that most effective way of doing this would be Allied military trucks.
In regard to public relations, we feel it is desirable this stage to let FedRep and Berlin take lead. Allied overt public relations activities should be presently limited to treating Sov obligations to maintain access to Berlin.
In connection with Suhr’s call on Conant today, we recognize both FedRep and Suhr are conscious of internal political implication of this problem.5 Several weeks ago, Mellies (SPD) predicted dire effects on Berlin would flow from ratification of Paris agreements.6 Suhr undoubtedly is under party pressure to make political capital of this and to use it against Adenauer’s ratification policy.
As basic policy we recommend using Treuhandstelle negotiations as starting point for increasing pressures on GDR and that we work out with Br, Fr, and FedRep constantly growing pressures until we begin get results.7 Believe it essential that Russians and East German Communists become increasingly aware of steady pressures but that at same time these pressures be exerted quietly and in such manner as to leave door open for GDR and Sov retreat without loss of face. Believe timing is of the essence this problem, and that no action should be taken now which might raise additional obstacle to a satisfactory negotiated solution. While we concur in Dept view that new tolls should be abolished soonest, we consider it altogether possible that in view difficulty determining precise road maintenance costs, a negotiated solution might result in some increase of tolls over those which existed prior April 1. Accordingly do not believe our position should freeze in opposition any reasonable increase tolls. If [Page 362] these viewed correct, then believe entire matter should be played down, with objective arousing minimum anxiety US, German and international public opinion.

This message includes Berlin comments Deptel.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 962A.7162B/4–1255. Confidential; Priority. Repeated to Berlin, Moscow, Heidelberg, and Paris.
  2. Telegram 2753 to Bonn, April 8, reported that an Allied show of firmness was required in the next few days. Telegram 2973 from Bonn, April 10, reported on a meeting with officials of the Federal Republic which showed that they would exert steady but recognizable economic pressure on the German Democratic Republic in the hope of getting the toll rescinded. Telegram 1775 from Moscow, April 10, noted that if the toll was the first step in a blockade of Berlin, then a note to the Soviet Government was in order to show the seriousness with which the Western powers viewed this action. (Ibid., 962A.7162B/4–755 and 962A.7162B/4–1055)
  3. For text of the second note to Pushkin, delivered on April 15, see Department of State Bulletin, May 2, 1955, p. 736.
  4. For text, see Foreign Relations,, 1949, vol. III, pp. 10621065.
  5. In his meeting with Suhr at 3:30 p.m. on April 12, Conant outlined the proposals made in this telegram, while the Mayor stressed the need for prompt and firm measures to make the Soviets live up to previous agreements on Berlin. (Telegram 2985 from Bonn, April 12; ibid., 962A.7162B/4–1255)
  6. For text of the Paris Agreements, signed at Paris, October 23, 1954, see Foreign Relations,, 1952–1954, vol. V, pp. 1532 ff.
  7. On April 15, Parkman reported that a 4-hour meeting the previous day between East and West German interzonal trade representatives had been completely negative with the East German officials refusing to discuss the subject of tolls. (Telegram 652 from Berlin; Department of State, Central Files, 962A.7162B/4–1555)