129. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the United Kingdom 1

982. Following based on uncleared memcon.2

Ambassadorial Group and military advisers met today with Secretary and Secretary McNamara.

Secretary raised questions of how Western countries see future developments of Berlin situation and how they propose to handle? He [Page 372] pointed out that responsibility for deciding to go to nuclear war is so grave that we must be assured that all other alternatives have been canvassed. Unfortunately, present state Western planning and readiness not adequate to ensure that we have available a wide range of effective alternatives. US does not want to go from a repulsed jeep probe on autobahn to all out nuclear war in one move. We envision rather a series of responses in ascending order of violence. But plans and forces for such responses and their political concomitants must be available. At present, they are not and we run grave risk of relying upon assumption that by saying we will go to nuclear war we are thereby assuring that there will be no war.

Secretary McNamara pointed out that there are also deficiencies in our planning for nuclear warfare. Until such planning takes place, we will not know what our shortages are or what our chances are to make good on such shortages. Planning for conventional war has already revealed shortages which are now being filled as a result.

Defense Secretary reported his serious concern at state of Live Oak and NATO planning. He reported US now doing NATO planning which is undesirable but necessary in view time factor. He said we must enlarge and expand Live Oak to provide wide range alternatives within which governments could make decisions. After considerable discussion problem of bringing all NATO countries into planning process without causing inordinate delays, US reps expressed hope that instructions would go forward to General Norstad to have Live Oak planning take account of NATO implications, such plans to be subject to subsequent review by NATO planners. In meantime, NAC directives to NATO on planning could be prepared and consideration be given to inviting Stikker US for consultation Ambassadorial Group. Secretary noted that events would inevitably merge tripartite plans and action with NATO plans and action in any event.

Nitze reviewed discussions of military experts noting—

On blocking or harassing of Berlin air access, experts have catalogued twelve possible situations, three of which require expanded Jack Pine planning which group now discussing. Plans requiring political decisions prior implementation have been isolated. All agreed Smirnov threat (Bonn 430)3 to civil air lines which probably could be made good showed urgency finalizing air access plans. Nitze reported group confident military planes can supply garrison and handle passenger traffic [Page 373] even in face electronic harassment but military planes unable mount freight airlift with present capability in face such harassment.
Naval measures up to and including full blockade Bloc shipping within US capability but economic effect upon USSR negligible and effect on GDR would be for limited period. Secretary suggested US prepare battery legal positions for use in case we wish institute navicert system, seize USSR electronic-spy trawlers, etc. Nitze reported political repercussions from neutrals on naval measures will be severe but that measures would convince Sovs that their actions in Germany were dangerous.
Group is considering papers on Live Oak and NATO planning. A recommendation to Ambassadors along line Rusk/McNamara remarks reported above may be available Monday when the Ambassadors meet again.

Only political question raised was Grewe’s fear that Soviets have speeded up time table to go to brink because they know we are vulnerable at this time. Germans believe Sovs will stop at brink and begin “nibbling” against West Berlin’s political status. Berlin’s myriad vulnerabilities could leave city “hollow shell” by time Allies ready for showdown. Grewe hoped we could plan non-military countermeasures to halt this process. He agreed Caccia remark that heretofore there had been consensus that our moves were appropriate. Grewe offered no suggestion new actions. Secretary commented that primary responsibility for maintenance West Berlin morale was with West Berliners themselves. They have been magnificent for 15 years. Even the massive aid we are prepared give them cannot substitute for their internal decisions to maintain their way of life in face adversity.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762.0221/8-2661. Top Secret; Limit Distribution. Drafted by Holloway and approved by Hillenbrand. Also sent to Bonn, Paris for USRO, Moscow, and Berlin.
  2. The memorandum of this conversation, which was held at 10:30 a.m., is ibid., Secretary’s Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 65 D 330.
  3. Telegram 430 from Bonn, August 26, summarized an AP dispatch in which Smirnov advocated that air traffic to Berlin be subject to the same controls as rail and road traffic. (Ibid., Central Files, 862.72/8-2661)