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

1637. Eyes only for the President. From Bruce. In reply to your eyes only telegram 2045.2


The Western position in Berlin has always been minimal, since as result of disastrous terms of 1944 wartime agreement on German partition, [Page 515] possibility of Berlin enclave (ringed by hostile territory) preserving any real independence, depended on (a) determination of Western powers to preserve position there through military force, and (b) forbearance of Soviets.

Latter chance never existed. Also, successful closure of Berlin sector border on August 13, 1961, without Allied military reaction, has now made disadvantageous Western tenancy in Berlin still more vulnerable, and deterioration in West Berlin and West German morale is already significant.

We are left from a trading standpoint (if we maintain Allied garrisons in West Berlin) with no real assets coveted by the Soviets, in compensation for the continuance of our present status quo, excepting two principal ones involving wider issues: (a) de facto recognition of the so-called East German Republic, and (b) other concessions at expense of Federal Republic and our own security.

For the Western occupants to give such de facto recognition would be to consent to their own dishonor. Britain and France might not be unduly squeamish in this respect, for they realize that the US will bear almost the entire onus of any concessions construed as representing repudiation of solemn engagements.

In the interminable arguments taking place over this affair, I am amazed by apparent forgetfulness of the stipulations of the 1954 Paris treaties.

The obligations undertaken by the Western governments thereunder are specific. The Allies contracted, amongst other pledges, to further German reunification by every diplomatic means, not to recognize the division of Germany, and to treat the Bonn regime as the only legitimate government in Germany.

It was largely in reliance upon such promises that FedRep refused the tricky but tempting Soviet offer on reunification in favor of alliance with the NATO countries.

Because the prospect of German reunification within a reasonable time is not realizable, does not absolve FedRep’s partners from their professions to advocate it in principle. Nor is the statement that partition is already a reality sufficient to justify recognition of the actual division of Germany, for no government in Western Germany could survive the open acceptance by its Allies that what has at least until now been hope deferred is to be dismissed as forever hopeless.

I have never believed that driving the Allied occupants out of West Berlin was a primary objective of Soviet policy, except insofar as it would impair, even destroy Western solidarity and prestige, so as to facilitate the greater and ultimate Soviet objective of taking possession of West Germany with its immense resources.

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They have pursued this latter end with unrelenting tenacity. One of their methods has been to encourage, under the specious guise of promoting peace through a European security arrangement, the neutralization of FedRep. I shall not burden you with my views as to how dangerous to our interest this idea is—I dealt with it at some length in Embtel 1454, October 9.3

We are close, I suppose, to the moment of decision. We appear to have a choice between three courses of action: (a) to stand still and await developments from Soviet initiative; (b) to attempt to negotiate a continuance of the uneasy status quo, which would leave us subject to renewal of the same pressures heretofore exercised by the Soviets; they could do this whenever they wished, through their GDR puppet; (c) to seek an internationalization of the whole Berlin area.

I am inclined to think that the last course has never received adequate attention. The internationalization of access routes to Berlin under UN jurisdiction, coupled with a maintenance of our present occupation rights has been suggested. Another is Khrushchev’s own comment about making West Berlin the UN capital. Others have proposed the removal there from Geneva of certain subsidiary UN organs.

None of these proposals would, in my estimation, be sufficient guaranties of the liberties of the West Berliners, or acceptable to them. The first is, nevertheless, worthy of further exploration, and the third has minor attractions.

However, amongst numerous variants, there is only one (to be held in reserve until the last moment) that I would advocate strictly as a last resort short of nuclear war, namely moving the UN capital to greater Berlin, internationalizing the whole enclave, including access routes, and retaining, for a period, Allied garrisons in Berlin.

I am aware of the many objections to such a drastic step. Yet I believe this move if accepted would preserve with honor our repeated promises to the West Berliners and to the West Germans, and would keep FedRep a loyal partner. I would certainly prefer it to war, and also to continuance of a status quo, or what is now left of it since August 13, which holds no promise for the future except danger of our losing West Berlin and later FedRep through attrition and disenchantment.

Meanwhile, I would consider it essential that we take, and make credible, decision to engage if necessary in nuclear war rather than lose West Berlin, and consequently, West Germany.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/10-2061. Secret; Niact.
  2. In telegram 2045, October 17, the President asked Bruce for a summary of his current views on Berlin. (Ibid., 762.00/10-1761)
  3. In telegram 1454, Bruce stated that he was disturbed over the possibility of injecting discussions of European security or disengagement into the talks on Berlin. (Ibid., 762.00/10-961)