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

1899. Paris pass USCINCEUR, USRO, SHAPE. From Bruce. On basis assessment contained Moscow 210 Feb 19 to Dept1 as to improbability German settlement being agreed by Soviets unless there were prospective withdrawal of FedRep from NATO, and other concessions to attainment reunification in freedom, I should like to make following observations.

I wonder if generally accepted theory that division of Germany constitutes immediate threat peace of world is sound. Partly because of belief in this theory, coupled with moral distaste for inhuman separation of kindred peoples, West has supported certain policies directed at achieving reunification.

But is this division really a primary source of dangerous tensions, or has it become mere symbol of underlying US-USSR power struggle, exploited by each side to influence public opinions? The conflict between free world and international communism is global; its manifestations in Germany are local expression of hostility between irreconcilable political philosophies.

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The West is not under dire pressure, except in Berlin, to give up its present posture in Central Europe and consent to German unity on basis other than free elections. The attack is rather directed against its defensive commitments, alleged by Communists to be dangerous and aggressive while cloaked in garb of being defensive. As regards Berlin, undoubted peril exists that rejection of Soviet proposals might create conditions suceptible engendering global war.

Perhaps Soviets have welcomed and wish perpetuate contention over German unity, for opportunities it gives them denounce war-mongering Western planners, and “revanchist” designs FedRep leaders. Hoping ultimately to yoke both Germanies to Communist chariot, they try to exploit Western insistence reunification issue by dangling prospect realization this goal in return for far-reaching concessions.

What are concessions most attractive to Soviets? Certainly, those calculated further to advance their ambition to subvert FedRep, diminish and finally eliminate its dependence upon and affiliation with Atlantic Bloc. To accomplish this, I would judge they consider dominance over East Germany consolidates a major center of European operations, with strategy determined by and commands issued from Kremlin. Moreover, East Germany is that Soviet asset most likely to disrupt Western solidarity if adroitly and temptingly utilized.

If, as argued in recent telegrams (Embtels 1779, 1780, 1795)2 Soviets, on balance, may be rather contented with actual control over Pankow, and unwilling relinquish existing position of strength and consequent capacity to confuse, frighten and embarrass West, except in return for detachment of FedRep from Western allegiance, concessions they would demand for any weakening their own position are likely to be greater than West, in its own interests, can afford to pay.

So long as Soviets may believe end our policy toward Germany is to bring about reunification, they will demand much and give little. People in East Zone, though unreconciled to Communist regime, have learned how to live with it, though unwillingly and under duress. Many of the most vigorous have fled (leaving a gap in resistance leadership), but the vast majority can not do so, and are progressively impelled to adjust themselves to their lot.

Soviets may wish to maintain truncated Germany for strategic, political, economic, security advantages. To allow unity two Germanies in freedom would strip them of such advantages, and increase whatever fears they entertain of German vitality. If they already apprehensive lest rearmed FedRep might, through military adventurism, draw them into [Page 404] world conflict, how much more might they fear potential of 17 million more Germans added to those already inimical?

For many reasons, would seem to me logical Soviets would prefer Germany divided, as permanently as possible, unless confederation on conditions dictated by them feasible. If so, one assumption heretofore made by some Western politicians and commentators requires reexamination, namely, that Soviets might be induced to make deal over future of Germany on terms sufficiently reasonable to satisfy West, because Soviets, to avoid continuing dangers German problems, would make sacrifices to have Germanies united rather than separated.

Unless Working Group preparing Western position reaches realistic estimate value to Soviets present control East Germany, I anticipate it may advocate dangerous compromises in illusory hope tempting Soviets some reunification plan.

It may be that negotiations with Soviets will bring out hard choice that may be confronting US; either retention FedRep in Atlantic complex, or German reunification on terms exposing FedRep to Communist domination by weakening Western security position. Unlikely Soviets would permit US shelter in half-way house. If such choice had to be made, I would unhesitatingly select former alternative, even though price paid for it might well be provisional renunciation of hope or expectation of a reunited Germany.

We should ground US policy on refusal to admit any impairment of attachment of FedRep to NATO and other Western institutions, and permit no diminution of its equal rights and obligations in relation thereto. For better or worse, FedRep must be treated by US with full confidence; to discriminate against it and reduce it to second-rate and limited partnership would be to invite later infidelity.

Monolithic Adenauer will, I believe, until dying breath, demand continued incorporation of his Republic in Atlantic Community, no matter what cost in frustration elsewhere. But in his own party, and to greater extent in the opposition, are many who, fearful, uneasy, might barter away present FedRep independence, as an equal amongst equals in Atlantic Community, for what might prove to be only temporary accommodation with Soviets. This is particularly true under present circumstances when they are agitated over what may result from Berlin crisis.

If above analysis is even half correct, we must be armed against surprises, and ready to establish our own minimum conditions in any interchanges with Soviets. I, for one, would concede them nothing in the way of retreating from our existing, and not unfavorable or untenable, status in Europe. If they undertake to dislodge us from it at risk of general war, I should rather accept that risk now than later. It may be West Germans [Page 405] and other Allies will seek to undermine our determination, by advocating (though unlikely on part of FedRep while Adenauer lives) FedRep departure from NATO as a concession to Soviets on reunification.

As to European security proposals, we should be ready to debate them, but remain resolved to preserve at all costs FedRep’s full association with the West. The only permissible exception might be limitations in military field if, after profound examination, we decide that such measures are fully consistent with the maintenance of a security position in Europe at least as favorable to us as present one, and if similar limitations apply to certain other NATO and Warsaw Pact powers, so that FedRep is not singled out for discrimination.

However, important bear in mind possible political repercussions agreement between Soviets and ourselves involving limitations on, or changes in disposition of, Western troops, particularly American. Any such agreement likely be publicized by Soviets, as well as Western press, as promising first step on road relaxation of tensions, thus encouraging Western public assume and expect corresponding progress political field. Unless even limited measures military agreement reflect at least some degree substantial progress toward solution political issues, they may unleash prematurely unjustified optimism and harmful diminution of will resistance Western peoples.

It is, I imagine, likely that our position in Berlin is such that best we can hope for there (and then only in light determination if necessary, to resort to nuclear war) is to maintain status quo, with constant threat of having Soviets or GDR persevere in their harassment. Our present position is one we may only be able sustain by unilateral action. For though General de Gaulle, a man of fixed principles, seems unyielding in his attitude, forces he can devote to world conflict are deficient in modern armaments and, as consequence of their actual deployment, unlikely to contribute to our strength. As for British, their diplomatic and national habits, their pragmatic approach to international problems, persuade them to deal with facts, not hypotheses, and often to make plans only after the event. However, once die were cast, if war ensued, they would, as always, be most dependable of allies.

So, if we go it alone, in the direction of nuclear war, we can certainly not count on full support until after our own forces are about to be committed. In case of West Germans, even so stout a friend as the Chancellor has revealed decided hesitation over awful prospect of recourse to total war.

If Khrushchev rejects our proposal for Foreign Ministers’ conference, think we would find our Allies unwilling to avoid summit conference. In such case, would deem better to have such conference take form of meeting of Chiefs of State in New York, under auspices of Security Council, with opportunity afforded for private conversations between [Page 406] President Eisenhower and Khrushchev (UN tels to Dept circular 998, 999, 1000).3

If this does not take place, or fails to establish agreement, and there is no bluff on either side, Soviet or American, the issue may be joined, not inadvertently, but because both sides have gone too far to beat retreat. At this point, last chance would be to have President Eisenhower, either by personal message to Khrushchev, or in hastily arranged meeting with him, emphasize shattering effects of failure to solve Berlin problem.

But how can Berlin problem be solved in any forum without sacrificing freedom of West Berliners, or, even graver in long run, leading to detachment of FedRep from West? The abandonment by US of Berliners would destroy confidence in our engagements everywhere, even in those uncommitted countries that presently criticize our announced intention to maintain our rights and protect those who rely on us.

I had hoped Berlin problem need not be treated in isolation, but could be dealt with in connection with consideration of larger affairs, in which it could be softened and absorbed. This may no longer be possible if Khrushchev holds to his recent utterances. Therefore, at least for planning purposes, we must prepare for situation where fate of Berlin will depend on understanding between USSR and ourselves being reached.

If any understanding be possible, what considerations should govern our conduct of negotiations? First of all, honor. We are pledged not to abandon people of West Berlin. But even if actual unsatisfactory status quo were continued, prospects for future are dim, for whether it be Soviets or GDR who give turn of the screw, we will still be vulnerable. Our position is minimal, we have nothing to trade except out of our flesh and blood. To yield little is to yield everything. It is most unlikely that the Soviets or GDR would regard, as has sometimes been suggested, the closing down of RIAS, or the curtailment of our intelligence operations, as really significant. What they want is the whole hog. And, in the absence of our unshaken will to plunge, if required, into a nuclear conflict, they are in position at worst to subject Western occupants of Berlin to almost unbearable strains or, at best, to drive them from it, denuded of honor and prestige, and expose US particularly as paper tiger.

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How can we make successful sortie out of this beleaguered fortress? We must first consider psychology of West Berliners. They are almost blithely confident of our ability to protect and will to stand by them, and of faith in our guarantees to do so. No alternative solution would be satisfactory to them unless they felt it provided a degree of security equivalent to that represented by our present commitment, which implies our willingness to sacrifice perhaps tens of millions of American lives rather than give up Berlin.

Is there any such equivalent? Almost certainly not withdrawal of our garrison, and replacement of its functions and our guarantees by United Nations police force, and some vague supervision by UN of inviolability of the city. Nevertheless, study should be given to variants of UN presence and responsibility.

It would not be in interest of free world, as I have earlier argued, to give the quid of discarding FedRep as Western colleague for a doubtful quo which might not succeed in preserving actual status in Berlin. What then might be the basis for possible deal?

I repeat, we must be prepared and ready, if all else fails, to wage nuclear war against Soviets. But short of that, if they too would seek to avoid such catastrophe, is there common ground on which we could meet? Perhaps by removing Berlin entirely from the arena of political conflict, thus eliminating it as a prize, subject to conditions acceptable to its citizens and to German opinion. Of all schemes proposed, the Spaatz Plan,4 in this respect, appears to me the most appealing. Internationalize the area, preferably including also East Berlin, by making it seat of United Nations and converting it into United Nations territory. This may sound impracticable, but governments might do unexpected things, if alternative appeared to be destruction of most of human race.

If this were accomplished, West Berliners might feel secure. Presence of thousands of foreigners, derived from every country, might constitute an acceptable solution, if they were themselves convinced it provided a guarantee of their independence and freedom, at least equivalent to that represented by our present commitments. Indeed, to the skeptical, it might be more reassuring than dependence, year after year, decade after decade, on almost incredible resolution of their erstwhile Western enemies, whom they had so grievously wronged, to protect them indefinitely at such potential sacrifices.

Intelligence reports from Berlin seem indicate settled Soviet intention turn over their responsibilities to GDR. Since they can reverse their position overnight, it would be part of wisdom for us to anticipate this might happen at any time, even before the date of May 27.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/3–259. Secret; Priority; Noforn; Limited Distribution. Transmitted in three sections and repeated to Berlin, Heidelberg, Moscow, Paris, and London.
  2. Printed as telegram 1649, Document 180.
  3. Documents 173, 174, and 178.
  4. Circular telegrams 998, 999, and 1000 transmitted to Bonn, Paris, London, Berlin, and Moscow the texts of telegrams 711, 710, and 716, February 27, from USUN. (Circular telegrams; Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/2–2759) Telegram 711 is printed as Document 188. Telegram 710, February 26, reported that the idea of a summit meeting at the U.N. Security Council had great merit. (Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/2–2659) Telegram 716, February 26, transmitted Lodge’s ideas on the merits of taking the Berlin question to the Security Council before the Soviet Union transferred its functions to the East Germans. (Ibid.)
  5. Not further identified.