153. Telegram From the Berlin Element, HICOG, to the Department of State1

694. Bonn for Dowling. From Conant for Lyon. During Minister Economics Erhard’s dinner last night for Secretary Weeks, heard of Pushkin’s note2 and talked briefly British High Commissioner on phone. Talked with Vice Chancellor Bluecher and Erhard. In view public opinion situation in FedRep and the fact that I am today in Berlin with Secretary of Commerce and will be tomorrow, I decided it was necessary to make some statement to the press to avoid getting entangled in complicated argument with press or German officials and businessmen we will be seeing in the next 24 hours. Dowling, British and French High Commissioners’ representatives meeting today in Bonn have been told of my intention to issue brief statement at 4 p.m. today Berlin time. Gave the following to the press:

“Statement issued by the US High Commissioner for Germany, released to press at 4 p.m., May 1:

“In answer to a question from the press, the US High Commissioner made the following statement in regard to the note which was sent to him by the Soviet High Commissioner dated April 30th:

“‘I read the Soviet High Commissioner’s note for the first time when I arrived in Berlin this morning. I have not had a chance to consult with my British and French colleagues. It seems clear to me, however, that the position taken by the Soviet High Commissioner is completely untenable. The question of tariffs on the roads leading from the Federal Republic of Germany to Berlin must be regarded as being within the competence of the Soviet Government. The responsibility for free access to Berlin agreed to in 1949 cannot be transferred.’ ”

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Understand a proposed note to Pushkin not inconsistent with this statement is being prepared in Bonn and will be sent here for my comments.

Have discussed matter with Parkman and Honnen who are not in disagreement with point of view presented in my statement, but responsibility for issuing it is my own.

I am still of the opinion that to bring this matter to a satisfactory solution will require some representations Moscow although not necessarily in public. I believe we cannot expect the FedRep to continue to pay blackmail much longer. We must force Soviets to recognize their responsibility 1949 agreement for the access to Berlin. Our previous notes to Pushkin3 have attacked the broader issue, namely, normal traffic within the Soviet Zone. I believe we should now concentrate on the three roads to Berlin and not let Soviets evade their responsibility according to 1949 agreement. If at High Commissioner’s level or in Moscow we can get this issue faced, seems to me agreement could be made by which a lump sum payment annually for use of these three roads would be agreed to by four powers concerned. Thus establishing correct principle, we could retreat from our earlier position of demanding reduction exorbitant tariff on other roads in East Zone. Do not believe it will be necessary to come to a showdown, but if it is, repeat my recommendation of employing military trucks.

In my conversations last evening with Bluecher and Erhard pointed out that if we forced this issue of Soviet responsibility for free access Berlin, we might have to contemplate drastic action and in that case would expect full cooperation from the FedRep in regard to countermeasures whatever harm it might do their trade. Erhard and Bluecher seemed to agree to this proposition. They were strongly of the opinion that we could not let position taken by Pushkin in his most recent note stand unchallenged.

I endorse views expressed in Berlin telegram to Bonn 751, repeated Department 689, April 30.4

Secretary Weeks and I leaving Berlin by train tomorrow night.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762.0221/5–155. Secret; Niact. Repeated to Bonn.
  2. See the editorial note, supra.
  3. For texts of the first and second notes to Pushkin, see Department of State Bulletin, April 18, 1955, p. 648 and May 2, 1955, p. 736.
  4. Telegram 751 from Berlin to Bonn reported that the discussion of East and West German negotiations on the Autobahn tolls had become lost in the question of recognition of the German Democratic Republic. This had diverted attention away from German public opinion, from the question of Soviet responsibility, and from problems of tactics in handling the incident. (Department of State, Central Files, 762.0221/4–3055)