221. Memorandum of Conversation0



New York, September 19–29, 1960


  • United States
    • The Secretary of State
    • Mr. Max V. Krebs
  • United Kingdom
    • Sir Frederick coyer-Millar


  • Berlin

Sir Frederick came at the Secretary’s request to discuss the situation in Berlin. The Secretary referred at the outset to the messages received from Bonn and the Department that morning1 concerning the approaches made by the GFR Foreign Office to the United States, United Kingdom and France on denunciation of their Interzonal Trade Agreement with the GDR. Sir Frederick said that the United Kingdom had considered the latest Soviet note2 quite stiff. A draft reply prepared by the United Kingdom Foreign Office had been received after Lord Home had seen Foreign Minister Gromyko the day before. Sir Frederick permitted the Secretary to read the telegram reporting Lord Home’s conversation with Gromyko which he summarized by saying Lord Home had put the Western case very firmly and had concluded from the tone of Gromyko’s reply that the Soviets might be willing to engage in further discussion on the access question.

To Sir Frederick’s comment that the Foreign Secretary was seriously concerned over the Berlin situation, the Secretary countered that he had been considering the possibility of making a statement in the General Assembly on the Berlin question pointing out the unilateral nature [Page 592] of Soviet actions in this regard and the incompatibility thereof with their protestations of wishing to settle outstanding differences by peaceful negotiation. The speech would also contrast Soviet actions with the many solemn declarations of their intention to live up to international obligations and would review the complete history of the Berlin question showing how the Soviets had repeatedly violated such obligations. Sir Frederick said he had suggested the insertion of something along these lines in Prime Minister Macmillan’s United Nations General Assembly speech.3 However, Mr. Macmillan had been afraid the Soviets would counter by offering to negotiate the matter in the General Assembly which the British feel would not be desirable since the Berlin matter lacks appeal to the Asian and African states. It was agreed that it would be desirable to have a draft prepared for the Secretary to be held in reserve.

Lord Home, Sir Frederick went on, is afraid that an immediate renunciation of the Interzonal Trade Agreement might actually precipitate a crisis. While the British feel it would be a shame to discourage the Germans now that they have reached the point of being ready to take action, they would prefer to hold this kind of reprisal in reserve to counter possible GDR steps in the economic field. The United Kingdom Embassy in Bonn had suggested the GFR might at this time make the legally required announcement of intention to terminate as of December 31 but say they intended to take no practical measures for the time being. Another alternative would be to make no announcement but simply stop or slow down deliveries under the agreement. The Secretary noted that one telegram indicated the GFR was already 25 thousand tons behind in steel deliveries4 and said he would have no objection to further delay. However, he went on, the real question in his mind is where we draw the line, i.e., what action by the GDR warrants positive steps on our part. He noted that Ambassador Dowling feels strongly that now is the time to act. Sir Frederick said the United Kingdom had agreed to have a study made to see whether economic sanctions would hurt the GDR more than the West and that this study had not yet been completed.

The Secretary went on to say that he would be prepared to agree to immediate denunciation of the Interzonal Trade Agreement, but he had real worries with respect to Mayor Brandt and the Berlin Senat. Neither had, so far as he was aware, been consulted by the GFR and the Secretary felt such consultation was absolutely necessary because of the [Page 593] possible effect of economic sanctions on Berlin. The Secretary also referred to internal political considerations revolving around the 1961 German Federal Elections. In the final analysis, however, the Secretary said the problem is whether, in acquiescing to restrictions by the Soviets and the GDR, we thereby in effect accept a principle leading to further Soviet and GDR restrictions which could culminate in the complete isolation of Berlin from the free world.

Sir Frederick said that the Prime Minister would be seeing King Hussein at 5:00 and Mr. Khrushchev at 6:00 that evening. Based on the preliminary reactions of members of the Soviet delegation to the Prime Minister’s speech the British did not expect much to come of the MacmillanKhrushchev talk.

  1. Source: Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 64 D 559, CF 1766. Secret. Drafted by Krebs on October 1 and approved in S on October 4. The conversation was held at the Waldorf Astoria.
  2. Telegram 465 from Bonn, September 28, reported that the West Germans would denounce the interzonal trade agreement with East Germany on September 30. (Ibid., Central Files, 662A.62B41/9–2860) Telegram 586 to Bonn, September 28, gave tentative approval for the denunciation. (Ibid.) Presumably these cables were repeated to USUN on the morning of September 29.
  3. For text of the Soviet note of September 26, see Documents on Germany, 1944–1985, pp. 721–722.
  4. For text of McMillan’s speech to the General Assembly on September 29, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1960, pp. 719–722.
  5. Telegram 465 from Bonn; see footnote 1 above.