92. Telegram From the Embassy in the Soviet Union to the Department of State0

1247. I believe Khrushchev’s long conversation with Humphrey on Berlin question indicates realization on his part of dangers involved and concern over outcome. He and other Presidium members have shown great interest in Western reaction and among others have questioned my Swedish, Austrian and Indian colleagues. While it is clear that neither Khrushchev nor Soviet Government as a whole wishes to run real risk of war, they will be very reluctant to back down if issue is posed in [Page 163] such a way as to involve great loss of prestige for Soviet Union. If in such circumstances we should use force to maintain access to Berlin they are capable, in my judgment, of allowing East Germans to respond with force. It therefore seems important that in handling the situation we leave open some way for Khrushchev to retreat and save face.

Difficulty of devising any counter proposals on Berlin are obvious but would appear to me there are elements for a bargain which would leave neither side materially worse off and which Soviets might be brought to accept if West is firmly united in opposition to current Soviet proposals and prepared in last resort to use force. As to concessions on our part there is a wide range of possibilities running from radical to relatively minor window dressing actions. For example, we could consider such actions as 1) withdrawal our troops and their substitution by West German forces and incorporation of West Berlin into West Germany; 2) some steps toward de facto recognition of GDR; 3) turning over full responsibility for administration West Berlin to Germans, although keeping our troops there; 4) termination of overt Western activities in Berlin such as operation radio station, etc.

As against concessions of this nature principal concession from Soviet side would presumably be related to problem of access. We might obtain recognition right of commercial air access, some type of corridor under West German control, etc. It might also be possible to devise scheme involving creation free city including East Berlin. This does not, however, appear to me to be profitable line of approach since Soviets unlikely make concession on this point and at same time agree to satisfactory arrangements to ensure access.

I do not believe Soviet action on Berlin was designed to lead to discussion of German problem as a whole nor do I believe they would formally agree to a meeting for this purpose. Nevertheless I think that at a meeting on the Berlin question it might be possible to draw them into such a discussion particularly if approached from the point of view of European security.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/12–1058. Secret. Repeated to London, Paris, and Bonn.