93. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • Summit Preparations on Germany and Berlin


  • Dr. Karl Carstens, Assistant Secretary for Political Affairs, Federal Republic of Germany
  • Assistant Secretary Foy D. Kohler
  • Mr. Martin J. HillenbrandGER
[Page 233]

Dr. Carstens began by saying that the inclusion in the joint statement issued by the President and the Chancellor1 of a provision that there could be no solution to the Berlin problem without the consent of the city’s population had made a deep and favorable impression on Chancellor Adenauer.

Mr. Kohler said that, with respect to the development of the Western positions for the Summit, if one really knows that one’s mind is made up in the direction of being firm, it is then possible to relax a little and to consider the possibility of some flexibility in tactics. We hoped that the Chancellor would now feel this way and would be willing to explore every possibility to see how the West can best come out of the present Berlin crisis. Dr. Carstens observed that he had to admit that the German position was to a large extent determined by psychological factors, i.e., by fear of the reaction which would take place in Berlin and the Federal Republic if the Western powers made certain concessions. Mr. Kohler commented that we owe it to ourselves as well as to the people to attempt to provide some guidance for public psychology. If one keeps preaching that if something is lost then everything is lost, people begin to believe this. If the generalization is not true then one has merely created an unnecessary public opinion obstacle. Dr. Carstens noted that this rigidity did not come initially from the Federal Republic but from Berlin itself. For example, Mayor Brandt has maintained that any change in the legal status of the city would merely increase the appetite of the Soviets and encourage them to press harder for a free city solution. Yet a few days ago, Mr. Kohler commented, Mayor Brandt had attacked the Federal Government for not having probed the Soviets more on the Smirnov memorandum2 especially with respect to that portion which indicated that the ties between West Berlin and the Federal Republic might in certain respects be closer. Dr. Carstens conceded that the initial reaction of the SPD to the Smirnov memorandum had been more negative than later; this shift had been largely due to internal SPD political considerations.

Mr. Kohler said that when last August the President visited the Chancellor in Bonn3 the latter had made certain remarks which had caused us to wonder. At this point Mr. Kohler quoted from the German record of conversation made by Dr. Weber4 (which had subsequently been made available to us) indicating that the Chancellor did not believe [Page 234] it was possible to consider fighting a nuclear war over Berlin, and that, as a last resort and under certain conditions, the West might consider a solution based on the Soviet free city proposal.

Dr. Carstens said he had never seen this record and, therefore, was unable to comment on it. He had arrived in the Foreign Office only after the visit in question.

We consider it essential, Mr. Kohler continued, that we think this situation through to the end. The German position in the Working Group has been that we must stand pat and cannot go back to the July 28, 1959 proposals.5 If this is our position then we must see where it will take us. We must, in fact, be prepared for all-out war if the Soviets do not back down. The Germans say that they do not believe the Soviets want to go to war. This is not quite enough, Mr. Kohler observed. We do not think they want war either, but we must be prepared for this ultimate resolution if that is the price. If we have not gone through this exercise and come to firm conclusions, the Soviets will not believe that we are so prepared. Just to say so will not suffice. In view of the grave issues involved we want the Working Group to probe deeper into the problem. It is not just enough to say that we will not budge. We must weigh the various possibilities and then draw conclusions as to their relative acceptability. Dr. Carstens said that he agreed essentially.

Mr. Kohler went on to say that even if we revive the July 28 proposals we may again end up at the same point. We will be firm on this, but we do not just wish to say that we will stand pat without having considered the possibilities in terms of our contingency planning. If, at a time of crisis, everybody backs down and puts pressure on us to accept the free city proposal, this would obviously be a fiasco. Dr. Carstens said that, as far as the Federal Republic was concerned, a clear answer could be given. When this question comes up the Chancellor usually refers to a conversation which he had in Bonn in February 1959 with the late Secretary Dulles.6 The latter reviewed with the Chancellor a number of steps contemplated under the contingency planning of that date leading up to a possible use of force on the Autobahn. The Chancellor reports that he answered Secretary Dulles by agreeing that the Western Powers should proceed step by step. Dr. Carstens said he concurred in believing that the Germans must think this through and envisage the measures that they must take. This in any event was something that should be done, no matter what proposals eventually were submitted to the Soviets. Mr. Kohler commented that our bargaining position would be enhanced by making clear that we are prepared for the worst.

[Page 235]

Speaking personally, Dr. Carstens said it was obvious that the Western Powers must be prepared to talk about something at the Summit. This would presumably include disarmament and East-West relations. As to discussion of the latter, Mr. Kohler observed, we did not think much would some come of it. In response to Dr. Carstens’ query, Mr. Kohler said that the paper which Jean Laloy had submitted to the Working Group in Paris7 did not seem too useful. After all, the Western Powers were not going to change the Soviet world out-look or Soviet support of Communist parties in other countries. The West should not give the Soviets a chance to say they agree with the West, when such an agreement would be patently phony. Dr. Carstens commented that the idea of “tolerance” was unacceptable; West Germany could not be expected to accept this formulation with reference to the all-German problem, but he thought that the idea of talking to the Soviets regarding common goals was not bad from a tactical standpoint. There must be something to talk about at the Summit apart from Berlin. Mr. Kohler added that if one could apply the concept to the free exchange of ideas, we might get somewhere. But the Soviets want peaceful coexistence only outside their own borders. Perhaps the West could find some formulae which would give it a propaganda advantage in the world, Dr. Carstens observed. Mr. Kohler said that he would not object to formulating our own ideas and advancing this, but any agreed paper would be a fraud. In response to Dr. Carstens’ query, Mr. Kohler indicated that he believed that Laloy had some thought of an agreement with the Soviets.

Dr. Carstens said it might be useful to think about this some more. To get back to the main theme, he continued, once it had been accepted that Germany and Berlin would be included among the items to be discussed at the Summit, it became obvious that such a discussion could not be avoided. However, the Federal Republic found some difficulty in going back to the July 28 proposals. He admitted, when Mr. Kohler pointed this out, that the Germans in the Working Group had actually criticized every point in the July 28 proposals, but added that it had to be realistically recognized that the whole proposal could not just be dumped. Dr. Carstens’ personal view was that we should reproduce at least part of the July 28 proposals. The Germans were particularly worried about the time element and the provision on subversive activities and propaganda. It might be possible to improve the proposals to make them more advantageous to the West, for example, in the field of access. [Page 236] Mr. Kohler said he thought that this was essentially a tactical matter. We could say that Geneva is dead, but in the last analysis we would probably have to honor the July 28 proposals. However, we are not certain that other possibilities should not be reviewed. Perhaps a persuasive all-Berlin proposal could be drawn up. The one made at Geneva got nowhere; it might be improved. Dr. Carstens noted that such a proposal could be defended before public opinion.

When we said we agreed that the situation in Berlin is abnormal, Mr. Kohler said, we were talking about a different kind of abnormality than the Soviets. He then mentioned that, when the Working Group started its present series of meetings the German representatives had indicated they were going to give the Group a full inventory of ties between the Federal Republic and Berlin. He also thought that such a study was being prepared on access arrangements between the Federal Republic and the GDR. Dr. Carstens said he did not know about the latter. The former was being prepared but had proved more difficult to complete than anticipated. He noted that, in formulating access proposals, the West always referred to a previous date. Perhaps it would be better to try to spell out the specific content of access. Mr. Kohler observed that the British frequently referred to the fact that there existed all sorts of arrangements and negotiations on access between East and West Germany. All German traffic was controlled by the East Germans, for example. We did not believe that the Federal Republic’s answer to this had been adequate. Dr. Carstens said, that as far as private trade was concerned the British and French likewise accepted GDR regulations. However, the question of official contacts and travel would have to be studied further.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 396. 1–PA/3–1560. Secret; Limit Distribution. Drafted by Hillenbrand and initialed by Kohler.
  2. For text, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1960, p. 363.
  3. For text of the Smirnov memorandum, January 13, see Dokumente, Band 4, 1960, Erster Halbband, pp. 69–71, or Embree, Soviet Union and the German Question, pp. 220–224.
  4. For documentation on President Eisenhower’s visit to Bonn August 26–27, 1959, see Documents 5 and 8.
  5. Document 5.
  6. See vol. VIII, Document 488.
  7. Dulles visited Bonn February 7–9, 1959.
  8. Presumably reference is to a paper on noninterference in the internal affairs of states submitted by Laloy to the Working Group on East-West Relations on February 8. A copy of this paper was transmitted as an enclosure to despatch 1184 from Paris, February 9. (Department of State, Central Files, 396.1–PA/2–960)