12. Paper Prepared in the Department of State1

THE PROBLEM OF BERLIN

Summary

1.
However impelling the urge to find some new approach to the Berlin problem, the facts of the situation strictly limit the practical courses of action open to the West. The history of the Berlin crisis since [Page 34]November 1958 gives little reason for thinking that a lasting settlement can be devised which, under current circumstances, will prove acceptable to both East and West.
2.
A vital component of the Western position is the maintenance of a credible deterrent against unilateral Soviet action. Without this the full geographic weaknesses of the Western position in Berlin will have decisive weight in any negotiation. Thought should be given to the possibility of developing and strengthening deterrents other than the pure threat of ultimate thermonuclear war.
3.
While we should give further thought to the possibility of providing some all-German “sweetening” for continuing discussion of the Berlin question with the Soviets, this should be done in awareness of the unlikelihood that any real step towards German reunification can be achieved within the calculable future under circumstances acceptable to the West. It also seems questionable that any all-German approach acceptable to the West will alone suffice to provide the basis for even a temporary solution to the Berlin problem.
4.
In planning, therefore, for further negotiations with the Soviets, the Western Powers must prudently expect that they will once again be forced to discuss the question of Berlin in isolation. While a number of possible proposals for an arrangement on Berlin should be further studied to see if they contain the basis for an acceptable settlement, it seems unlikely that any of them will be negotiable with the Soviets or, if negotiable, acceptable to the West.
5.
Under certain circumstances, however, the Western Powers might find it desirable to aim at a limited arrangement involving stabilization of existing access procedures, allowing for a certain East German role but preserving the essentials of the Western position. Alternatively they might find it necessary to contemplate the execution of their contingency plans.
6.
While the Western contingency plans as now developed constitute a highly articulated system of related stages, we must realistically expect the intrusion of unpredictable factors as well as possible efforts by our Allies to reopen, under crisis conditions, certain aspects of contingency planning.

[Here follow sections on political and military aspects of the Berlin crisis (pages 2-3), the problems of deterrents (pages 4-5), a position for possible four-power negotiations (pages 6-7), discussion of Berlin in isolation (pages 7-9), and contingency plans (pages 9-10).]

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/3-3161. Secret. Drafted by Hillenbrand on March 30. At the end of February Bundy had tasked the Department of State with preparing a report for the President on the problem of Berlin. (Memorandum from McGhee to Kohler, February 27; ibid., 762.00/2-2761) An initial draft of March 13, containing four annexes on the development of the crisis, possible all-German context for a Berlin solution, discussion of Berlin in isolation, and contingency planning, was revised and transmitted to Bundy on March 24. (Ibid., 762.00/3-1361) The text printed here is a “streamlined version” of the March 24 draft as requested by Bundy; only the summary is printed.