49. Telegram From the Embassy in the United Kingdom to the Department of State 0

2752. Reference: Embtel 2737.1 As were leaving a small dinner at Gray’s Inn last night I mentioned quite casually to Selwyn Lloyd that I wondered whether we were not getting off our joint track re Berlin. It was immediately apparent that I had struck a nerve and he asked me if I would upon leaving the party come with him to his house. There we discussed UK memo2 which I told him we had seen and which had bothered me considerably since it seemed to imply that the preferred British position involved the recognition of the East German Government. He had not seen, he said, the whole message when it was sent and it did not have his specific approval. However, it was quite apparent that it had a lot of his thinking in it. At the end of our discussion during which it was clear to me that he was fearful that his office had loosed off a premature rocket he asked that I not report our talk immediately but that we meet again “with as many people as you want to bring” at noon the following morning. After meeting with Lloyd at Foreign Office this morning, I believe we have obtained some clarification of British views and may eliminate certain misunderstandings occasioned by original FonOff memorandum.

Lloyd said that memorandum should certainly not be regarded as more than stimulus for discussion, since he had checked with none of his colleagues in government. He said that he was anxious we should remain on “same wavelength” re Berlin problem, but apparently we had received impression that British Government way out ahead re question recognition of GDR. Reading text of Bonn’s 1065 to Department,1 he said that he could agree with everything stated in paragraphs 1, 2, 4, 6, and 7. Paragraph 5 based on misunderstanding of British point, and real point of difference between us that discussed in paragraph 3.3 Lloyd said that no disagreement about our being on “slippery slope” when we begin to make de facto arrangements with GDR, but in British view bottom of slope would be reached by recognition of GDR, and they saw no reason why this should lead to our ejection from Berlin. We suggested [Page 87] that slope might not end there, and it would in any event involve major revision of our policy against partition of Germany. We doubted that it would be acceptable to Adenauer.

Lloyd said that everything of course depended upon acceptability to Federal Republic. British first choice was that there be no change in existing arrangement, and if Soviets or GDR interfered with access to Berlin we should respond vigorously in first place. He did not agree with his staff on ineffectiveness of air lift, feeling that if it could be maintained twelve months, that was as good as indefinitely. However, air lift would be a nuisance and would involve large expenses which Germans could afford much better than British. Lloyd felt that it would be absurd of West Germans to refuse to deal with East Germans, if we made it clear that we intended to stay in Berlin. Main point of British suggestion, which had possibly been misunderstood, was that if West Germans were to decide to make arrangements with GDR rather than bear cost of provisioning Berlin, and such arrangements led or amounted to West German recognition of GDR, certainly British for their part would have no objection, no need to be more royal than the King. It all depended on what West Germans willing to do.

We suggested that our presence in Berlin and position vis-à-vis Soviets involved more than merely German considerations (i.e. what West Germans willing to accept). It seemed to us of significance for NATO and whole East-West position over and beyond West Germans and Berliners.

Lloyd summed up by saying that there was not much difference between us. It was clear we could not go against wishes of Federal Republic, provided they realized that we might have to submit to some de facto arrangements. This would create danger of slide toward recognition, and there was something in point that it might confirm partition of Germany, which Lloyd would be against. However, we were not quite in agreement that recognition of GDR would lead to further slide toward our physical removal from Berlin. Agreed that at latter point issue of force would be raised. Lloyd was worried lest British memorandum gave impression that UK “almost welcomed” recognition, and hoped that Germans would not receive wrong impression. Couve de Murviile had agreed with him that merely implied recognition of GDR was better than risk of war. Lloyd felt that purpose of memorandum would be served if it led to further study of problem, before Berlin situation became acute.

I informed him that no instructions had been received from Department, but I had wished to obtain his considered views for Department’s information.

As our meeting broke up, I asked Lloyd what he thought Adenauer’s attitude would be about recognition of GDR if this became [Page 88] issue. He replied that question will not arise in such clear cut way, but there will be a de facto process which would lead step by step towards recognition.4

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/11–1958. Secret; Priority; Limited Distribution. Repeated to Paris, Bonn, and Moscow.
  2. See footnote 2, Document 45.
  3. See Document 45.
  4. See footnote 2, Document 45.
  5. Paragraph 5 of telegram 1065 discussed how much the Western powers could deal directly with the East Germans without recognizing them.
  6. In telegram 2753 from London, November 17 at 5 p.m., Whitney reported a further discussion of the memorandum between an Embassy officer and a Foreign Office official during which the latter indicated that the British could never go to war over the question of recognition of the German Democratic Republic. The official stressed further that the British were uncertain of the strength of the Federal Republic on the issue and would not incur risks over Berlin if the West Germans were reluctant to make sacrifices on the question. (Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/11–1958)