31. Circular Telegram From the Department of State to Certain Diplomatic Missions0

622. Khrushchev stated November 10 that USSR “will hand over to sovereign GDR those functions in Berlin which are still reserved for Soviet organs” and will consider an “attack on the GDR as an attack on the Soviet Union.” This intimation of Soviet withdrawal from Berlin is accompanied by sharp and extensive attacks on West German “militarization” and aggressive intentions in Khrushchev and Gomulka speeches and Soviet-Polish communiqué and Grotewohl press conference November 12,1 at which lengthy memorandum and White Book distributed. These pronouncements and publications may presage broad Soviet diplomatic and propaganda offensive on German problem but hint of Soviet action is cautiously advanced and Soviet intentions are not yet clear.

USSR may be pursuing one or more of following objectives:

Testing resolve and unity of will of US, UK and France to maintain their position in Berlin;
Forcing Western Powers into de facto recognition of East German regime through creation of situations on Allied access routes to Berlin calculated compel Western Powers deal with GDR officials;
Inhibiting emergence of West Germany as nuclear-capable power with strong influence in NATO;
Bringing about withdrawal of Western troops from Western Germany;
Bringing pressure for Four-Power talks on German peace treaty and talks between “two German states” on reunification;
In line with Communist pattern of behavior re Korea, Taiwan, and Vietnam, representing Western occupation of Berlin, special regime of Western Powers’ access to Berlin, and influence exerted by Berlin on GDR as unjustified interference with internal German affairs;
Generating intensive and continuous pressures throughout world in order divide Western Powers.

Following furnished for information and as background for replying questions about Khrushchev’s statements.

In discussing subject addressees should not convey impression excitement or undue anxiety. Should point out Communist threats against [Page 58] Berlin frequently made but not often implemented and whether and how latest threat will be implemented will depend greatly on firmness of Western reaction.

Khrushchev’s basic argumentation re Berlin is not new and is essentially repetition line Soviets took as early as 1948. Most significant aspect is more explicit statement by highest Soviet official of threat Soviets have occasionally made by implication earlier, namely to relinquish and thus in effect cede to GDR remaining responsibilities re Berlin which Soviets continue exercise on basis quadripartite agreements and arrangements.

No doubt Soviets desire withdrawal of Western Powers from Berlin and incorporation of all Berlin into Communist-controlled area. However they have been deterred from attempting accomplish this objective forcibly by experience of 1948–49 blockade, by realization world opinion would be adverse, and by explicit guarantee of Western Powers to maintain Berlin’s status and security at all costs. Though we do not discount threat implicit in Khrushchev speech and are fully prepared take all necessary action counter implementation of this threat, we regard speech at least in part as probing attempt in war of nerves and as propaganda statement. Following considerations may help explain why Khrushchev made this threat at this time.

Soviets continue thwart any progress towards German reunification and establishment peace and security in Europe. Majority of world opinion undoubtedly blames them for lack of solutions. German problem too pressing for Soviets to ignore it and they are therefore seeking becloud real issues and disguise own intransigence with distortions, threats, and invective. Misrepresentation of situations in Federal Republic and West Berlin are no doubt part of attempt to divert attention from Soviet responsibility re German problem and from situation in Soviet Zone as well as attempt find pretexts for further repression in Zone and excuses for shortcomings of Soviet Zone regime.

Statements by Khrushchev and East German Communists probably also occasioned in part by so-called “Volkskammer elections” to take place in Soviet Zone November 16. On this day unwilling and hostile population will be disciplined and humiliated by being obliged, with over 99 per cent majority, cast ballots in support of regime in parody of democratic process. Objective is to demonstrate to population it must riot only accept regime but must willy-nilly approve it. Such occasion naturally calls for vigorous beating of propaganda drums. One is inevitably reminded of Nazi election tactics.

West Berlin elections scheduled December 7 may also have been taken into consideration in Communist statements. Communists are participating in these genuinely democratic elections. At time last elections in 1954 Communists subjected Berlin population to many psychological [Page 59] pressures to increase Communist vote but obtained only little over 2 per cent of vote cast. Similar pressures may be expected in connection this year’s election, but repudiation of Communism by electorate also expected to be similarly emphatic.

Commentaries on Khrushchev’s remarks indicate it would be appropriate clarify basis of Allied presence in Berlin. Western Powers’ right remain in Berlin and have free access to Berlin do not derive from Potsdam Protocol. Western Powers are in Berlin as military occupiers, with right of occupation based on defeat of Nazi Germany. Areas of occupation were fixed by Protocol of European Advisory Commission concluded London 1944.2 Status of Berlin as area under joint occupation and separate from other occupation zones was formally reiterated in statement issued by Four Governments June 5, 1945.3 Right of access derives from right of occupation and is confirmed by numerous quadripartite agreements and arrangements. Rights of Western Powers were challenged by Soviets in 1948, but Soviets were forced to back down after failure of blockade. Rights of Western Powers confirmed not only by New York agreement of May 4, 1949 and Paris communiqué of June 20, 19494 which restored status quo ante blockade but also by continuous practice since.

Postwar history of Germany replete with charges and countercharges about violation of Potsdam agreements, but it is clear that accomplishment of essential purpose of occupation, creation of united democratic Germany, has been frustrated by actions of Soviets themselves. Communist statements attempt obscure historic facts. Soviet imperialism is responsible for insecurity in Europe which has led free European nations, including Federal Republic, to strengthen military defense and to request continued presence of American forces. Soviet attempts establish new totalitarian regime, with same disregard of human dignity and the values of civilization shown by the Nazi regime, are mockery of original purposes of occupation and constant obstacle to building firm foundation for peace in Europe.

Western position re Soviet attempts frustrate establishment democracy in Germany and reunification Germany in peace and freedom is well known. Western Powers have consistently maintained Soviets cannot unilaterally divest selves of responsibilities undertaken in quadripartite agreements, for example, by asserting problems come within jurisdiction of so-called German Democratic Republic. Following so-called [Page 60] USSR–GDR agreements of September 20, 1955,5 which purported to give “sovereignty” to GDR, Western Powers informed USSR “These agreements cannot affect in any respect and in any way obligations or responsibilities of USSR under agreements and arrangements on subject of Germany, including Berlin, previously concluded between France, US, UK and USSR,” and that, in particular, agreements “cannot have effect of discharging USSR from responsibilities which it has assumed in matters concerning transportation and communications between the different parts of Germany, including Berlin”.

Seriousness with which Western Powers would view any attempt force them from Berlin is reflected in October 3, 1954 declaration of Foreign Ministers of US, UK, and France, which has been frequently reaffirmed (most recently by Secretary Dulles in Berlin May 8, 1958)6 which reads:

“Security and welfare of Berlin and maintenance of position of Three Powers there are regarded by Three Powers as essential elements of peace of free would in present international situation. Accordingly, they will maintain armed forces within territory of Berlin as long as their responsibilities require it. They therefore reaffirm that they will treat any attack against Berlin from any quarter as attack upon their forces and themselves.”

For USRO: You are authorized draw on foregoing in any discussion this subject with Spaak and other Permanent Representatives.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/11–1358. Official Use Only. Drafted by Armitage and McKiernan; cleared with Hillenbrand, Freers, Kretzmann in P, and Timmons; and approved by Elbrick. Sent to all posts except Bonn, Paris Topol, London, Moscow, and Berlin, to which it was repeated.
  2. The text of the joint Soviet-Polish declaration of November 12, 1958, is printed in Pravda, November 12, 1958. Regarding Grotewohl’s press conference, see footnote 2, Document 30.
  3. For the Protocol of the European Advisory Commission, signed September 12, 1944, at London, see Foreign Relations, The Conferences of Malta and Yalta, 1945, pp. 118121.
  4. For text, see Department of State Bulletin, June 10, 1945, p. 1052.
  5. For texts of the May 4 and June 20, 1949 agreements, see Foreign Relations, 1949, vol. III, pp. 751 and 10621065.
  6. For text of the treaty signed at Moscow on September 20, 1955, see Documents on Germany, 1944–1985, pp. 458–460.
  7. See Document 11.