263. Paper Prepared by the Operations Coordinating Board0


(The Federal Republic, Berlin, East Germany) (NSC 5803)

(Policy Approved by the President on February 7, 1958)

(Period Covered: From September 4, 1958 Through November 2, 1960)

General Situation

1. During the period under review, Germany, and more particularly Berlin, once more became one of the most active arenas in the struggle between the Free and Communist worlds. The Soviet proposal for a free city of West Berlin and Soviet threats of unilateral withdrawal from occupation functions and of the conclusion of a separate peace treaty with the German Democratic Republic (GDR) provided an impetus for four-power negotiations, which the Soviets abruptly interrupted at the Summit meeting, implying an intention to seek a new Summit meeting after the American elections.

2. Despite the dramatic attention it received, the German situation, and American interests in Germany, remained very much the same in its basic aspects. There were, however, qualitative changes resulting from the prolonged division of the country and the continuation of the various trends within the Federal Republic, Berlin, and the Soviet Zone described in earlier reports. In addition, the possibility of a nuclear “stand-off” has introduced a new factor into the German problem.

Germany As a Whole

3. The unyielding attitude of the Soviet Union at the Geneva Conference of 19591 and in the discussion of the German question prior to the Summit failure in May 1960 quenched the last hopes, even in the West German Opposition, that German reunification can be negotiated at present. There was increased acceptance in Germany of the thesis sponsored by Chancellor Adenauer that the division of Germany is [Page 698] more a consequence than a primary cause of tension between East and West and that the best hope for profitable negotiation on Germany, albeit not a bright one, lies in the possibility of world-wide détente following an agreement on general disarmament.

The Federal Republic

4. Our immediate postwar aims in the Federal Republic appear to have been satisfactorily attained—so satisfactorily in fact that the accomplishments themselves have brought about a new generation of lesser problems.

5. Economically, the Federal Republic has become sound and strong. It has a hard currency, is the world’s third trading nation, and is developing an insatiable internal market resembling our own. Its economic problems today are no longer those of scarcity but those of prosperity, e.g., a significant labor shortage despite an increased population.

6. Political stability has been continued by the firmly established rule of Adenauer and the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) parliamentary majority and by a trend in the direction of a two-party system. At the same time, the German Socialist Party (SPD) seems at least to be moving rapidly in the direction of that moderation in internal and foreign policy which seems to offer its only hope of winning substantially increased support. However, the question of succession to leadership in the CDU has not been resolved.

7. Defense Minister Strauss’s administrative and political vigor has spurred the lagging military buildup. The Bundeswehr will soon represent the largest European contingent in NATO. Appreciation of this fact by the Germans is leading to increasing pressure for equal status with its NATO partners, and has generated new echoes amplified by intensive Soviet bloc propaganda, of the old fear of German militarism.

8. The Federal Republic has been in the lead in fostering European integration, with Adenauer up to now deciding in the affirmative every debate as to whether the political advantage is worth the economic price. De Gaulle’s insistence on the importance of national integrity is putting the Federal Republic in a position where it is faced with the choice of accepting French ideas of confederation in the interest of a further development of the Franco-German entente or continuing to seek European cooperation on a supranational basis.

9. The Federal Republic is tending to emerge as a national state in its own right. It is regarded by the Government and population today less as a truncated and temporary state, created to assure a maximum of free self-government pending reunification, than as the successor to the Reich and the essential framework of the reunited Germany of the future. In seeking its acceptance as an equal among other states, the Federal [Page 699] Republic is showing an increasing impatience with the limitations originally imposed on its sovereignty or freedom of activity. The Germans have also grown more anxious about their national security. Recognition of problems inherent in a possible nuclear “stand-off” and deep concern over the continuity of U.S. commitment on the continent have stimulated renewed emphasis on making NATO an effective defense organization within which West German security can be assured. Should Federal Republic military and political leaders come to doubt the efficacy of NATO, trends toward greater independence of action or greater emphasis on bilateral defense and political arrangements may appear.

The Soviet Zone

10. Despite the distastefulness and inefficiency of its methods from the Western point of view, East Germany is “teetering on the brink of stability” and the regime is unquestionably in control. The greater part of the population while refusing at heart to accept Communist rule as permanent, are obliged to accommodate themselves to an ever increasing degree. Western efforts have succeeded in obstructing diplomatic recognition of the “German Democratic Republic”, but the GDR has not been without success in exploiting economic and cultural contacts to political advantage. There is no doubt that the Communists have persuaded many, even in the Western countries, that the existence of the GDR is a “fact of life”, which must be taken into account even if one finds it unpleasant. While the “separate peace treaty” which the Soviet Union has threatened to conclude with the GDR seems intended to place immediate pressure on the Allied position in Berlin, conclusion of such a treaty might also enhance the GDR’s position at home and abroad.


11. Soviet threats against Berlin, most immediately against the freedom of access of the Western occupation forces, have maintained an atmosphere of crisis since November, 1958. The Soviets were able at the Geneva Conference to oblige the Western Powers to discuss the question of Berlin separately from the question of Germany as a whole, a position which the Western Powers might find it difficult to alter. Though numerous permutations and combinations have been explored, no one has been able to devise a satisfying formula for negotiating a separate solution to the Berlin problem. The Western search for a Berlin solution has repeatedly been blocked by Soviet insistence upon gains both actually and visibly at the expense of vital Western interests. The need for agreement among the United States, the United Kingdom, France and the Federal Republic in a situation in which each tends to see its over-all relations with the Soviet Union in a somewhat different perspective is a complicating factor. The principal Western tactic has been to gain time [Page 700] and to demonstrate determination to maintain Allied rights in Berlin. At present, however, the prospects of negotiating even a workable “interim agreement” appear slim.

12. The importance of Berlin as a symbol of Western firmness and the earnestness of U.S. intentions with respect to further Soviet encroachments in Europe cannot be over-emphasized. Soviet actions for the past 12 years indicate their clear understanding of the importance of this symbol.

13. As the situation develops, the problem has become increasingly one of demonstrating convincingly that the Western Powers have in fact the intention and the means of enforcing their Berlin guarantee. Khrushchev has asserted disbelief that the United States would fight over Berlin and a growing body of Western European leadership considers a nuclear response to be out of the question. Recent tripartite Berlin contingency planning discussions have, however, indicated a greater readiness than before to consider a wide range of military and non-military measures, short of nuclear war, to put pressure on the Soviet Union in order to maintain the status of and access to Berlin. World opinion has in general been a factor deterring Soviet action on Berlin. There are compelling legal arguments to support the Western position and the Soviets appear aware that overt aggression against Berlin could jeopardize their broader “coexistence” objectives. On the other hand, increasing concern about the horrors of the war which a Berlin crisis could ignite may well dispose neutral opinion and even some Germans to accept the idea of the Soviet “free city” proposal as the lesser evil.

14. The main Soviet pressure tactic in the past two years has been the threat of a “separate peace treaty” with the GDR, after which the Soviets would invest the GDR with full control over access to Berlin. Recent coordinated GDR-Soviet moves against Berlin suggest a new tactic which attempts to deny Soviet responsibilities and to establish firm GDR de facto control over the city, using all possible practical and propaganda means to destroy the legal and moral basis for the Allied presence and proceeds toward unilateral changes in the Berlin situation. In this line of development, the Soviet threat of a separate treaty, which had already become less effective through constant use, appears to have been subordinated at least temporarily to claims that the GDR is already fully sovereign, except in respect to temporary obligations of the USSR relating to the Allied garrisons in the city. A more subtle de facto erosion of the Allied position has thus been substituted. It may become very difficult, in coping with such “salami tactics” to demonstrate that the real issue in each minor incident is the survival of free Berlin. The principal target for Soviet encroachment during the past few months (and possibly until the situation with respect to resumption of negotiations is clearer) has been the vital, if somewhat ambiguous, relationships which [Page 701] have developed between the Federal Republic and Berlin. Since the bulk of our contingency planning has been aimed at the problems of insuring the maintenance of Allied access to and rights in Berlin, additional multilateral planning, including economic countermeasures against the Soviet Zone, to meet these new threats is in progress.

15. Entirely apart from recent Communist threats, there has been some expression of concern of late about the long-run prospects for West Berlin. It has an unfavorable population situation and its economy can be sustained only by artificial stimuli and outside assistance which might in time or under other circumstances be difficult to continue.

Appraisal of Policy

16. The agencies represented on the Working Group on Germany have reappraised the validity and evaluated the implementation of U.S. Policy Toward Germany (Federal Republic, Berlin and East Germany) (NSC 5803, dated February 7, 1958) in the light of operating experience, and believe that the policy is out of date as a source for guidance in dealing with the developments summarized above. It is therefore recommended, especially in view of NSC 2215–c of April 7, 1960,2 that NSC 5803 be reviewed.

  1. Source: Department of State, S/SNSC Files: Lot 63 D 351, NSC 5803 Series. Secret. Attached to the source text were a cover sheet and a memorandum from the Executive Secretary of the OCB which noted that the report had been approved by the OCB on November 2 for transmittal to the NSC. The NSC considered the report on December 1 and agreed that NSC 5803 should be brought up-to-date by the Planning Board. A memorandum of the NSC discussion is in the Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records.
  2. For documentation on the Geneva Foreign Ministers Meeting May 11–August 5, 1959, see volume VIII.
  3. NSC Action No. 2215–c asked the Planning Board to review all NSC papers with the idea of bringing them up-to-date for the new administration. (Department of State, S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95, Records of Action by the National Security Council)