169. Telegram From the Department of State to the Mission at Berlin1

469. Bonn for Ambassador. For Clay from Rusk. Ref. Berlin’s 640.2 Question of importance our access to East Berlin is one which deserves and has received most careful consideration. It is not vital interest for which we would fight, as we have defined such interests. However it is clearly important element in our relations with Soviets on Berlin issue. Denial of such access is one of last significant encroachments on our position we can permit. Our reaction to attempt at closing crossing point must therefore be such as to make clear to Soviets they approaching very close to point of great danger. Moreover, as you point out, access to East Berlin is of negotiating value and should be preserved if at all possible for this purpose.

On the other hand, as you also note, we have troublesome problem of not committing ourselves so heavily that ultimate acquiescence in closing is interpreted as serious defeat.

Policy we have devised for dealing with situation is best resolution we can see for this dilemma. In approving this policy, including specifically decision not to use force in removing barrier, President had before him above considerations including substantially same argumentation you advance. A principal factor in our reluctance to use force in this manner is problem of followup after barrier destroyed. Our study has led us believe likelihood embarrassment to Allies, in absence willingness enter into combat on issue, greater than that of discomfiture to communists. [Page 468] You have not pursued in your message question of dealing with situations likely to face us after barrier removed forcibly. Since this is a key factor, any thought you might have on it would be welcome.

Regarding method protest you suggest as alternative, this seems reasonable in any case and we suggest it be discussed among Commandants in review we have asked them undertake of general question countermeasures for harassment in Berlin (Deptel 417).3

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/9-2961. Secret. Drafted by Day, cleared by Kohler and Hillenbrand, and approved by Rusk. Repeated to Bonn.
  2. See footnote 3, Document 161.
  3. Telegram 417, September 27, stated that a paper on retaliation for restrictions on access was being sent and asked that Berlin or Bonn implement its final coordination. (Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/9-2761)