231. Report by the Operations Coordinating Board1

PROGRESS REPORT ON UNITED STATES POLICY TOWARD EAST GERMANY (Supplement to NSC 160/1)2

(Policy Approved by the President September 12, 1956)

(Period Covered: May 18, 1956 through December 5, 1956)

(Including Actions Under NSC 1743 from May 18, 1956 to September 12, 1956)

A. Summary of Operating Progress in Relation to Major NSC Objectives4

1.
OCB Recommendation Regarding Policy Review. U.S. policy toward East Germany as set forth in the Supplement to NSC 160/1 has been reviewed from the standpoint of operating considerations and in light of operating experience to date and of anticipated future developments. No review of policy is recommended.
2.
Summary Evaluation. The intransigence of the Soviet Union has prevented significant progress in the achievement of the basic objective of the reunification in freedom of Germany. However, progress has been made on interim objectives and major courses of action as follows:
a.

Placing the Soviets on the defensive by measures in support of reunification. The United States Government together with the British and French Governments has supported a West German initiative on German reunification. (The Federal German Government in a memorandum delivered to the Soviet Government on September 7, 1956,5 after setting [Page 568] forth its position on reunification along the lines advanced by the Western Powers at Geneva, suggested an exchange of views to facilitate progress on reunification.) The purpose of this démarche is to highlight the Soviet Union’s refusal to discuss Western proposals for reunification and European security.

The Secretary of State in June 1956 agreed with German Chancellor Adenauer 6 that renewed efforts should be made to keep the subject of German reunification in the forefront of world opinion and to stimulate pressures designed to influence the Soviet Government to modify its present negative and intransigent position toward the German problem. Subsequently, United States Missions abroad were instructed to promote support for German reunification through a more intensive use of normal diplomatic and other contacts.

b.
Undermining Soviet control over East Germany through exploiting the Western position in the Federal Republic and Berlin. Although the Soviets have relaxed some part of their overt control and have permitted certain East European satellites the assumption of some attributes of national independence, the Kremlin has not relaxed its grip on the German Democratic Republic. The Soviet representatives in East Berlin continue to rule the country through their German agents with the backing of the 400,000-man occupation army. Against this overwhelming armed might the East German populace is disinclined to oppose the regime openly. Steadily improving conditions in West Germany and West Berlin continue to give contrast to the differences between East and West Germany. RIAS (Radio Station in the American Sector Berlin) broadcasts and other U.S. programs for keeping in touch with the East German population have served to point out these contrasts. The continued flow of refugees from East Germany indicates the attractive force of the West to elements in the East German population. Berlin has been maintained as a show window of Western accomplishments and the city has continued as the base for most programs designed to maintain contact with the East Germans by means of radio (RIAS), visits and various forms of aid. (See paragraphs 2–e and 2–f–(3) below.)
c.
Diminishing the reliability of the East German armed forces., RIAS and other U.S. programs constantly reminded members of the East German armed and paramilitary forces that these forces are mere instruments of the Kremlin designed to further the maintenance of Soviet control over East Germany. Continued disaffection in the East German military establishment is reflected by the continued and steady defection to the West (over 200 a month) of members and former members of the East German armed forces. The East German defense establishment has not overcome its inherent weaknesses of [Page 569] poor morale and low political reliability. These forces, totalling 118,000 men, cannot be counted on either to engage in military action in behalf of the Kremlin or to maintain internal order without substantial direct Soviet control. Reliable armed forces which would be large enough to maintain internal order alone can probably not be formed in the foreseeable future. The Soviet experience with the Hungarian army, which prior to the Budapest uprising was regarded as sufficiently dependable to maintain internal order, probably has compelled the Kremlin to approach the problem of reliability of the East German armed forces with even greater caution than heretofore.
d.
Minimizing the East German contribution to Soviet power. East Germany’s economy continues to be of great value to the Soviet Union. The economic advantages accruing to the Soviet Union include the normal gains from trade as well as discriminatory pricing to the advantage of the USSR. In addition, the Soviet Union receives payment for its alleged investment in its former corporations in East Germany, support for its troops, and probably subsidies to the jointly-owned uranium mining company. (East Germany supplies the USSR an estimated 45 percent of uranium available to the Soviet atomic energy program.) In order to emphasize this exploitation, RIAS and other United States programs have been designed to nourish the spirit of East German resistance to Communism and to hamper Soviet exploitation of East Germany by maximum publication, both in East Germany and in the free world, of the facts of such exploitation. RIAS and other East-West contact programs have exploited the Stalin denigration campaign and publicized developments in Hungary, thereby adding to the confusion and uncertainty in the lower echelons of the Socialist Unity Party. The possibilities of weakening East Germany through a limited program of defection of scientists and technicians are currently under study.
e.
Conserving and strengthening the assets within East Germany which may contribute to U.S. interests. The East German public has become noticeably disillusioned because of the failure of the West and the United Nations to act in support of the Hungarians against the Soviet Union’s ruthless suppression of the revolt in Hungary. In addition, resentment and bitterness against the USSR is mounting and, according to some observers, is evident to an even greater extent than after the riots of June 17, 1953. Against this background of disillusionment the East Germans remain an essentially pro-Western people who are basically anti-Communist and who will continue to oppose, at least passively, the Soviet-supported dictatorship in their country. U.S. programs and broadcasts designed to keep in touch with the East German population have made an important contribution in maintaining the moral and psychological assets of the West in East Germany.
f.
Additional actions. Additional actions taken by the United States Government in fulfillment of these objectives and in line with specific courses of action are:
(1)
In connection with German reunification. A public affairs program has been undertaken to focus world opinion on the dangers and injustices of a forcibly divided Germany;
(2)
Against recognition of East Germany. The United States Government successfully continued its efforts to prevent the East German regime from improving its international standing in international organizations.
(3)
Soviet Zone projects. The United States has continued its support of special programs designed to maintain Western contact with the people of the Soviet Zone and to keep alive resistance to the Communist regime. There is evidence of the general effectiveness of this type of program as a whole. For example, the participation of nearly 50,000 Soviet Zone residents at Catholic and Protestant lay conventions was made possible under this program. These meetings provided one of the most effective means of reaching and fortifying anti-Communists in East Germany. Support continues for church activities in the East Zone, for welfare programs which supply food, clothing and medicines, for visits of youth to the Federal Republic, and sending of books. The Embassy at Bonn is studying the impact of the individual Soviet Zone projects making up the overall program.
3.
Progress in Meeting Program Schedules. The local currency proceeds of dollar aid to West Germany needed for support of the special East German programs were obligated and spent as scheduled.

B. Major Operating Problems or Difficulties Facing the United States

4.
The Division of Germany. The division of Germany continues to operate cumulatively to weaken the resistance of the East German population to the alien regime imposed upon it. The USSR is pursuing its efforts to build up the regime at home and abroad. We are still faced with the difficulty of maintaining the basic hope of the East German population that reunification will somehow eventually be accomplished—a hope which remains as the main psychological barrier to acceptance of the East German regime by a majority of East Germans. The maintenance of contacts with the East German population is an important element in surmounting this difficulty.
5.
Recognition of East Germany. Prevention of the recognition of the East German regime by “uncommitted” countries is a continuing problem. An example of one of the numerous recent trends in this direction is the conclusion of a cultural agreement between the East German regime and Syrian Government, and the opening of a GDR commercial office in Damascus.
[Page 571]

C. Listing of Other Major Developments During the Period

6.
Impact of Developments in Hungary and Poland. The uneasiness and confusion created within the ranks of the GDR regime by the de-Stalinization program in other areas of the Communist bloc were heavily aggravated by the far-reaching developments in Hungary and Poland. These gave rise to considerable unrest on the part of the East German population, particularly among the students, and to demands on the regime for improvements in working and living conditions. The presence of massive numbers of Soviet troops, the memory of the experiences of June 17, 1953, and heavily increased security measures taken by the GDR regime, however, combined to deter any open revolt in East Germany.
7.
Soviet Economic Assistance to GDR Regime. In a move calculated to contribute to the strength and viability of the GDR regime, the Soviet Government on July 17 announced arrangements for increased economic assistance to East Germany, in a total amount of 7.5 billion rubles (at official exchange rate $1.88 billion) over a 4-year period. Of this amount, however, about four-fifths is to be in the form of reduced financial support for Soviet troops. A three-way agreement was concluded among the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia and the GDR for the construction of an aluminum plant in Yugoslavia which will be financed by credits extended by the Soviet Union and East Germany and which will upon its completion supply some of its products to East Germany.
8.
Military Situation in East Germany. With considerable propaganda fanfare the Soviet Government announced its intention of withdrawing some 53,000 Soviet troops from East Germany, and certain limited withdrawals appear actually to have been made. These reductions have principally involved Soviet ground-attack air units with obsolescent planes and equipment, however, and overall Soviet military capabilities in East Germany do not appear diminished appreciably, if at all. A large-scale reorganization of the East German military forces is reportedly underway involving increased mechanization and modernization along Soviet lines. Despite announced plans to reduce the authorized strength of GDR forces, the present strength of these forces is estimated at around 100,000.
  1. Source: Department of State, OCB Files: Lot 62 D 430, Germany. Top Secret. Regarding the preparation of this report, see footnote 1, Document 84. A financial annex is not printed.
  2. Supra .
  3. For text, see Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, vol. VIII, pp. 110128.
  4. Latest NIE on East Germany is contained in NIE 12–56, dtd. 1/10/56. [Footnote in the source text. For text of NIE 12–56, see vol. xxv, pp. 115118.]
  5. For text, see Department of State Bulletin, September 24, 1956, pp. 485–493. Copies were transmitted to the three Western Powers on September 2.
  6. Regarding Adenauer’s visit to Washington, June 9–14, see Documents 54ff.