72. Editorial Note

At 11 a.m. on November 27 Soviet Foreign Minister Gromyko handed Ambassador Thompson a 28-page note on the Berlin question. In this note the Soviet Government proposed that West Berlin be turned into a demilitarized free city with its own government. Following this transformation the four former occupation powers would guarantee the new status of the city in a manner similar to that done in Austria following the ratification of the Austrian State Treaty. Since some time would be necessary to work out the terms for the free city, the Soviet Union proposed not to introduce any changes in the existing system of military access to and from West Berlin, but if after 6 months Berlin had not become a free city, then the Soviet Union would tranfer its responsibilities in Berlin to the German Democratic Republic.

The Embassy in Moscow transmitted its translation of the note in telegram 1173, November 27 at 3 p.m., received by the Department of State at 12:12 p.m. the same day. (Department of State, Central Files, 762.0221/11–2758) For text of the note, see Department of State Bulletin, January 19, 1959, pages 81–89; Documents on Germany, 1944–1985, pages 552–559; or Documents RIIA, 1958, pages 146–164. For the Russian text, see Pravda, November 28, 1958. The Russian-language text handed to Thompson was transmitted as an enclosure to despatch 299 from Moscow, November 28. (Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/11–2858)

On the evening of November 27 the Department of State released a statement on the Soviet note that had been approved by President Eisenhower during a telephone conversation with Secretary Dulles at 5:30 p.m. (Eisenhower Library, Dulles Papers, White House Telephone Conversations) The statement summarized the Soviet proposals and stated that the United States was committed to the security of the Western sectors of Berlin and would not enter into any agreement with the Soviet Union that resulted in abandoning the people of West Berlin. Furthermore, the United States would not acquiesce in a unilateral repudiation of its rights and obligations in Berlin by the Soviet Union. For text of this statement, see Department of State Bulletin, December 15, 1958, page 948.