6. Airgram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Germany0

G–29. Bonn’s 2100 and 2102.1 We have deferred replying these two messages in order take into account series of recent developments re documentation on military trains and problem of overflights. Your [Page 11] message raises number of important issues, on which we have following comments:

Your 2100 implies there is inconsistency in our plans for handling land and air access problems because of different approach to question of dealing with GDR personnel. You suggest this may arise from fact our air access rights are more solidly based on legal grounds than ground access and that our making distinction may give rise to confusion in mind of public. We believe however that difference in our approach to surface and air access problems stems primarily from difference in physical situations, not from feeling our legal rights re air access are more solidly based than in case ground access. While it is true the specific modes of exercising these rights are set forth in different documents, they all in final analysis go back to our basic legal position arising from unconditional surrender and the occupation of Berlin pursuant to EAC agreements2 and Truman–Stalin exchange of letters.3 In addition ground access was covered by New York and Paris agreements4 and our present legal rights in this regard, whatever their origin, are confirmed most clearly in these agreements and based on practices and procedures which they were designed to maintain and protect.
Tripartite contingency planning with respect to ground access, which has governmental approval, envisages acceptance of GDR personnel at Autobahn and rail checkpoints in sense that we would if necessary be prepared show Allied documentation to GDR personnel as we are now doing to Soviets. On other hand United States view is that we should not accept GDR personnel in BASC. If this is in fact difference in policy as you suggest, in our view it would arise from fundamental differences in degree of physical control Soviets or East Germans can exercise over our movements. In case of air access we can continue to fly over Soviet Zone regardless of Soviet or East German objections unless physical interference is attempted on scale which could lead to most serious consequences. Furthermore BASC is in our Sector and we can physically exclude GDR personnel from access to BASC offices. In case of ground access not only is substitution of GDR personnel for Soviet personnel in no way under our control but Soviet or East German personnel can physically block our movements. In our view this distinction is entirely sound, and assuming that policy in each case is well founded we see no reason for altering it merely because distinction, in absence [Page 12] our explaining it to them, may not be readily apparent to Germans (see paragraph 6 below).
While we recognize that substitution GDR for Soviet personnel at checkpoints would raise problems of various sorts and would be in any case an undesirable development, our feeling is that existing tripartite policy as incorporated in basic policy paper HICOM/P(54)5 Revised/Final5 (which was worked out not long after Soviets first announced in 1954 they would treat GDR as sovereign) is basically sound as representing choice of lesser of two evils. Our legal rights with respect to Berlin access are essentially to come and go without interference. Provided there were no interference with our movements it would be hard to make a convincing legal argument insofar as rights of access are concerned that there was a vital difference whether a Soviet or GDR official looked at our papers. While an argument predicated on quadripartite responsibility can be made, it would be directed to a narrow point on which we would not have support of specific language in pertinent agreements. We question whether this is the point over which we should go to the mat with Soviets. We are inclined to feel that analysis in Embtel 265 to USAREUR of December 3 repeated Department as Bonn’s 1919 December 176 is fundamentally correct, i.e., that if Soviets turn over administration of checkpoints to GDR this will reflect a fundamental decision which we are not likely be able get them to change.
Basic rationale of existing policy on point under discussion is that authorizing Allied travelers to identify themselves to East German personnel at checkpoints and show travel orders on same basis as they have done in past to Soviet personnel would not involve any serious compromise of the basic principle that Soviets are responsible for insuring unrestricted access of properly identified Allied Autobahn travelers, convoys and military trains. It does not appear to us accurate to suggest our planning is based on assumption that if GDR personnel are substituted for Soviets they would content themselves with looking at documents. Present planning takes into account possibility that East German personnel might go beyond this and raise new demands and conditions of types you suggest. We recognize that practical problems might be raised regarding channel of communication for discussing matter. Since our basic position is that personnel at recognized checkpoints, regardless of their nationality or whether they are military or [Page 13] civilian personnel, are acting under Soviet authority, we would continue to hold Soviets responsible for any interference with our movements and would continue to discuss matter only with Soviet authorities. On this basis issue of recognition of “GDR” would not really arise since by hypothesis it would be immaterial whether these new conditions or procedures were imposed by Soviet authorities themselves or by others such as East Germans acting under Soviet authority. While there is of course possibility Soviets might refuse discuss matter with us and refer us to GDR, our further course of action would be based on fundamental principle of Soviet responsibility.
Exact point at which we refuse to submit to Communist demands with respect to some question of documentation or procedure is difficult to draw in advance, given variety of circumstances in which issues have arisen over period of time. In general it seems to us our interest is basically to keep lines of communication open. While situations may arise in which it will be necessary to suspend travel temporarily, we think that in borderline case we stand to lose more by dramatizing situation and later acquiescing than by adjusting to situation at the beginning. Basic position we must defend is that we can not accept any action by which Communists seek to substitute their decision for ours as to who can go to Berlin and what can be shipped to Berlin in connection with our occupation responsibilities.
As we understand it one of your principal concerns about question our existing policy is based on effect its implementation would have on German opinion. It appears to Department this is matter on which German views should be sought. We do not suggest Germans be brought into all details of Allied instructions and planning with regard to military trains, etc. However fundamental policy re GDR personnel at checkpoints is related to whole series of matters on which we are constantly dealing with Federal Republic. It is type of problem on which we agreed to coordinate views as far back as 1954 and we consider it essential that German comments be sought. In view of nature of Soviet actions to which we have referred, we believe this should be done at high level at early date. If British and French Embassies continue to be opposed, we are prepared raise this matter at governmental level.
As for your comments re planning for airlift to meet needs Berlin garrison in event suspension of travel by military train and Autobahn, we are in accord your rationale as to considerations which might make limited airlift necessary and desirable. Re details of planning you are now conducting with USAREUR and USAFE, we see nothing in these details inconsistent with those contained in already agreed quadripartite airlift planning and believe in fact they will constitute useful supplement thereto.
In looking ahead we believe that issue of GDR “sovereignty” is likely to be thrust at us more and more. Until recently we had not considered there was any imminent possibility of substitution East German for Soviet personnel at checkpoints. On other hand various Soviet actions which have resulted in bringing about standardization of documentation and practices can be reconciled with possibility Soviets are endeavoring create situation in which, should they desire turn supervision of Allied passage over to GDR, this could be done with least possibility of immediate friction or crisis with Allies. Recent Soviet actions suggest turnover to GDR may be more imminent than previously appeared. Cessation of Soviet visas for Allied personnel for privileged travel, which was accompanied by publicity, altered practice in way which would have been possible [impossible] at any time since 1954. Refusal of overflight permit for Ambassador Thompson’s plane7 which we assume Soviets were aware would result in publicity, also reached into established practices. Finally, GDR sovereignty issue was again thrust at us by publication of exchange of letters on Warsaw courier flight.8 While we may be reading too much significance into these actions in light of repeated Soviet posture in recent notes and statements that West must accept reality of status quo under circumstances, we think we must be prepared face intensification of introduction GDR sovereignty issue into Berlin access problem and elsewhere.
We agree that elaboration of our detailed contingency planning with respect to these problems would be useful. We believe however that planning of this character must be centered in Germany and do not feel it would be appropriate or useful for us to take matters of detail up with British and French Governments which have not been discussed fully in Germany. There is no accepted center for tripartite discussions among three Governments, and specific problems involved are so much a function of factual situation in Germany and practices which have developed on the ground over many years that raising them at governmental level is likely to result only in having British and French Governments refer them back to Germany for resolution. At any rate practical responsibility for exercise of retained powers in Germany has been vested by Three Governments in Ambassadors by tripartite agreement signed at Paris on October 23, 1954.9 Should there be on other [Page 15] hand any reluctance on part British and French Embassies to engage in discussion of contingency planning with view to preparing for eventuality that issue of GDR sovereignty will be pressed on us more intensely, Department entirely prepared raise this general issue with British and French Governments.
Embassy requested send copies this message to U.S. Mission, Berlin and USAREUR.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762.0221/1–958. Secret. Drafted by Reinstein and Creel on February 7; cleared by Lisle, Jandrey, and Eleanor Dulles; and approved by Murphy.
  2. Telegram 2100 is Document 1. Telegram 2102 reported that the British and French were unwilling to consult with the West Germans on the question of dealing with GDR personnel. (Department of State, Central Files, 762.0221/1–958)
  3. Regarding the EAC agreements on Berlin, see Foreign Relations, 1945, vol. III, pp. 539 passim; for the air access agreements, see ibid., pp. 1576 ff.
  4. Presumably these are the letters of June 14 and 16, 1945, printed ibid., pp. 135137.
  5. For text of the New York and Paris agreements of 1949, see ibid., 1949, vol. III, p. 751 and pp. 10621065.
  6. This 28-page report, dated August 23, 1954, was divided into five sections: 1) Access to Berlin, 2) Passports and Visas Issued by the GDR, 3) Commercial Relations Between the Western Powers and the GDR, 4) Protection of Nationals and Interests in the GDR, and 5) Participation of the GDR in International Organizations. (Department of State, Central Files, 762.0221/8–2354)
  7. Not printed. (ibid., 762.0221/12–1757)
  8. On January 18 the Soviet controller at BASC stated that granting permission for a flight from Berlin to Moscow and return for Ambassador Thompson through the air space of the German Democratic Republic was a matter that had to be taken up with the East Germans. (Telegram 848 from Belrin, January 18; ibid., 762B.5411/1–1858)
  9. For texts of these letters, January 18 and 25, see Dokumente, III, Band 4/1958, Erster Halbband, pp. 161–162 and 444.
  10. For text of this agreement, see Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, vol. V, Part 2, pp. 14391440.