173. Telegram From the Embassy in Germany to the Department of State 0

1779. Paris pass USCINEUR, SHAPE. From Bruce.

Back here, after five days in Berlin,1 have certain definite impressions. I think we must recognize Secretary’s illness, if it results in any long inactivity, will have distinct impact FedRep foreign policy. Adenauer has felt that Dulles’ thinking closely parallels his own. Importance he has attached to personal interchanges Secretary must not be underestimated. There have been occasional et tu Brute episodes, but all short-lived. If Secretary does not attend conferences, we must expect more hesitations than in past, but fundamental loyalties will remain, especially if President Eisenhower and Secretary from time to time send Chancellor reassuring personal messages.

Seems to me, United States policies regarding Berlin, and Germany generally, must be based on decision between two sharply conflicting schools of thought. One asserts Soviets are off balance because of: fears uprisings, and other preoccupations relative to East Zone. Other believes Soviets, uninfluenced by humanitarian, moral or spiritual considerations, are determined to preserve present domination East Zone, and corollary advantages, strategical, political and economic. I subscribe to latter interpretation. Psychological handicap having vast majority East German population opposed to an undisputed though brutal foreign rule probably does not profoundly disconcert Soviets. Nor, I guess, are they deeply afraid of possible riots, revolution or other potential manifestations unrest. If outbreak occurs, they have physical means at their command to suppress it, as they did Hungary. They are likely be more apprehensive armament Bundeswehr with atomic weapons, [3 lines of source text not declassified].

Moreover, do Soviets need be overly solicitous pretentions East Zone political leaders to assert national sovereignty? Ulbricht, notably despised as he is by own compatriots, is faithful purveyor Kremlin doctrine. Better him, subservient to orders, than more independent nationalists capable creating schism and popular following. To increase his prestige by transferring controls would seem tactically acceptable, but to sacrifice him for larger purposes would not, I believe, offend Soviet conscience. They can regurgitate dogma without lasting indigestion.

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Therefore, our real adversary remains Soviet Union. If one adopts thesis its rulers in relationship to two Germanies, hold master cards as compared with our own, one must critically examine allegations West has failed diplomatically to achieve tolerable co-existence because of its own intransigence.

The Soviets have in East Germany a rich prize. Standard of living there is now probably higher than in Russia, and certainly superior to that in any other satellite country except maybe Czechoslovakia. Moreover, economic improvement East Germany can well continue to develop. Strategically, a portion of Europe, where troops by a mere about-turn can be poised to counter and subdue any adventure by reckless Poles or other satellites, must be considered a prime Soviet asset. Politically, if Soviets entertain genuine fears of a united Germany, its continued division must be welcomed by them, and I would surmise they would prefer for many reasons to have it permanent.

Various interpretations of Khrushchev’s possible motivations are current. But fact remains it is almost incredible, unless there is something more unstable in his character and authority than it would be safe to rely upon, that he would lightly abandon advantages derived from complete control East Germany unless promised concessions the West could only make to own evident disadvantage. Truth is, we now enjoy almost minimal position of strength in Berlin in contrast Soviet posture.

Existence of island of West Berlin, surrounded by hostile territory, results from political determination many years ago more remarkable for naivete than long range judgement. There is no use wringing hands futilely over consequences, but let us not compound past error by repeating it through a hasty retreat from our remaining essential bastions. Exodus from West Berlin and concomitant chaos, if American garrison withdrawn, would under present conditions, dwarf any other historical migration.

Flexibility as an end in itself appears to me singularly dangerous; it is not a policy; it can be an escape, above all when one has little to surrender except at the expense of one’s own security.

Is it really wise to jeopardize our national security through lacking the patience and wisdom to maintain our principles in foreign policy? In negotiating with the Soviets, can one expect quickly to arrive at formulae which will reconcile the most seemingly irreconcilable conflict of political philosophies the world has ever known? What losses have we suffered during the last decade in Western and Central Europe? It is customary to concede that we have been defeated in the propaganda field. What is the objective of propaganda? Is it not to create conditions where one gains a national or international advantage over opposing forces? Do transient polls, reflecting the natural desire in democracies for speedy and definitive resolutions of almost hopelessly complex questions, [Page 362] accurately reflect the ultimate national interest of the United States? I venture to doubt it.


During last ten years; what has actually occurred in Western and Central Europe? The firm stand taken by the democracies has at least arrested, without territorial losses, the threat of Soviet take-over of these sympathetic and valuable populations. In Norway, France and Italy, for example, the power of indigenous Communist Parties has sensibly diminished; the prestige, authority, efficiency and popularity of governments openly opposed to communism have increased. Does that not signify significant progress, more persuasive than criticism of the inefficiency of Western propaganda?

Let us admit that public opinion—always [an] undefinable, vague bogey—demands more flexibility in U.S. foreign policy in Europe. Must it be placated, at the expense of our fundemental interests, by yielding to demagogic appeals, and by embracing plans, often devised by amateur diplomatic architects, eager to build on ground they have not surveyed?

If we had much we could safely yield, our choices would be simpler. But in Germany, and above all in Berlin, we are on the defensive. It is not we who can probe, embarrass, irritate. Our position in Berlin represents the minimum we would desire. To give an inch might lead to surrendering all; Munich stares us in the face.

How can we resolutely cling to our principles, and yet not betray them by an appearance, at least, of flexibility?

Perhaps there is a method. We have often said that deeds and not words are the measure of good faith. In the past, we have sought agreement with Soviets on reasonable agenda for conferences. We have rejected their insatiable and dangerous demands for accords at the expense of our survival. We have countered their suggestions by careful exposure of their fallacious reasoning and demands. But still we suffer and strain over the accusation of being inflexible.

Can we emerge from this trap into which we are said to have fallen without leaving not only our tail feathers but some of our vital organs behind? Must we sacrifice our principles—to appease the unenlightened reproach that we have not shown ourselves ready to capitalize upon assumed Soviet weakness?

The manner of negotiating may be, in public reflection, almost as important as the substance. Can we not advocate, indeed invite, debates without fixed agenda, battles royal with the Soviets, at every level, amongst Foreign Ministers, deputies, technicians (excluding only summit meetings unless so prepared as to make their success almost certain) which will, if the Soviets match our stamina, continue for months, even years? No longer should we reply in detail to Soviet notes, and bind ourselves through written counterproposals. Instead we should expose [Page 363] ourselves to the hazards of debate, ready to discuss any offers made by the other side, no matter how unreasonable.

At least by this process we might penetrate the mystery of Soviet political intentions, especially as they bear upon the fundamental decision “between two sharply conflicting schools of thought” referred to in paragraph 2. There is no other way, except the one more likely to be productive, namely bilateral conversations between our official representatives and those of the USSR.


Being power conscious, the Soviets have long made it manifest they would like to treat bilaterally with us. Faithful to our alliances, we have refused to do so. Prime Minister Macmillan has not been so scrupulous. Might we not, at some point, consider practicing the same technique? A trip, if practicable, by Secretary at an appropriate time to Moscow might yield interesting results.

If not, there still remains what I have already advocated; conferences without end, from which concord might finally evolve. If not, we would have lost little. The preparation of position papers has always absorbed more energy and talent than the shorter courses of international debate. And we could, if the presentation is adroit, lift ourselves out of the slough of inflexibility, and again struggle onto the high and defensible ground of principle.

Elaboration of some of the views expressed in this telegram, as well as additional comments to be read in conjunction with it, are contained in immediately following telegram2 prepared by EmbOff.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/2–1659. Secret; Limited Distribution; Noforn. Transmitted in two sections and also sent to USAREUR Heidelberg and repeated to London, Paris, Moscow, and Berlin.
  2. A record of Bruce’s 5 days in Berlin is ibid., Bruce Diaries: Lot 64 D 327.
  3. Document 174.