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

1012. Paris for Embassy and USRO. British Embassy has given Department memorandum1 setting forth Foreign Office views on current Berlin situation and has asked whether Department agrees with analysis. Following is substance of memorandum.

We should proceed on assumption Soviets will sooner or later “hand over to sovereign GDR those functions in Berlin which are still maintained by Soviet organs” as Khrushchev threatened in November 10 speech.

Among Soviet motives are (1) desire create atmosphere of crisis which could produce climate of opinion in West favorable to high-level discussions of future of Germany, in which Soviets would support revised Rapacki Plan as measure to deny nuclear capability to Bundeswehr (Khrushchev considers that Americans are on point of supplying West German forces with nuclear weapons and it may not be too late to prevent this) and (2) desire force Western Powers ultimately to recognize GDR, in order to consolidate satellite empire and imprison Poland within status quo.

We cannot prevent Khrushchev from carrying out his threat; main question is decide how react when he does it.

We must proceed from assumption we would resort to force, with all risks that entails, rather than submit to Berlin’s being starved out. But immediate issue is whether submit to dealing with GDR representatives on practical matters relating to transport and communications on same basis we have hitherto dealt with Soviets.

It is clearly in our interest agree in practice we should deal with representatives of GDR rather than refuse do so and thus precipitate new blockade of Berlin which in last resort might have to be broken by force. It would therefore seem worthwhile work out set of rules for our authorities which would enable them when time came to deal with GDR authorities without implying this action constituted recognition of GDR Government and while maintaining theory Soviets remain responsible.

But such modus vivendi would not be allowed operate for very long, if at all. We would soon find ourselves faced with further choice of [Page 83] recognizing GDR or exposing Berlin to blockade which would in last resort have to be broken by force. Khrushchev, who has been for long time in position oblige us make this choice, has probably calculated we would prefer recognize GDR. “So far as UK concerned, he would be right.” Nobody in West would believe avoiding recognition of GDR is worth a war.

In short, we may have to choose between:

abandoning Berlin;
resorting to force;
staying in Berlin but dealing with and, if necessary, ultimately recognizing GDR.

“Course (a) is out of the question and course (c) is greatly to be preferred to course (b).”

Our decision re dealing with GDR must depend partly on our ability stage a successful airlift and continue it indefinitely, which Foreign Office believes may be impossible. Airlift difficulties are such that it is unlikely blockade could be resisted for longer than about fifteen months. Would seem prudent accept this estimate for political planning purposes.

Foreign Office is instructing British Embassy Bonn (1) push on with negotiations with Federal Republic regarding facilities which would be required from latter in event of airlift (financial aspect of airlift and appropriate Federal Republic contribution will also require consideration and (2) concert with US and French Embassies estimates of requirements of “miniature airlift” which would take care of Allied official and military traffic only.

Full text follows by pouch.

British Embassy Paris has handed same memorandum to French Foreign Office.

Addressees’ comments urgently invited.2

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/11–1758. Secret; Limit Distribution. Drafted by McKiernan; cleared by Hillenbrand, Fessenden, EE, and BNA; and approved by Kohler. Repeated to London, Berlin, Paris, and Moscow.
  2. A copy of the full text of the British memorandum was transmitted to Bonn in instruction CA–4536, November 20. (ibid., 762.00/11–2058)
  3. In telegram 1065, November 18, 8 p.m., Trimble replied that the British memorandum was “defeatist” and based on the assumption that the West had no effective reaction to Soviet moves in Berlin, an assumption that he did not share as long as the Soviet Union was not prepared to risk war. (ibid., 762.0221/11–1858) On November 19 and 20 the Embassies in London and Paris replied. The former reported that the paper was hastily drawn up and uncharacteristic of Macmillan’s thinking, and noted that it agreed with the substance of telegram 1065 from Bonn. (Telegram 2737; ibid., 762.0221/11–1958) The Embassy in Paris reported that the French Foreign Ministry was “very disturbed at weakness shown in British memo”, but that Couve considered it an intelligent statement of the case. (Telegram 1862; ibid., 762.00/11–1958)