189. Telegram From the Mission at Berlin to the Department of State1

813. Bonn for Dowling only. From Clay for Rusk only. Re ourtel 812 Dept, 715 Bonn.2 While I have never regarded the showing of identification papers except by those in official cars as of major import and thus recommended to the Mission soon after my arrival that we obtain a tripartite agreement to define certain conditions under which we would show identification, I do not believe that we can accept this requirement [Page 533] under pressure. We have not had sufficient time without pressure since my arrival to put an identification procedure into effect.

I am convinced that GDR will require identification at Friedrichstrasse for all US licensed cars not driven by soldiers in uniform as a first step in requiring identification for all Allied personnel. This would of course eliminate any special Allied rights in East Berlin as all foreigners have these rights. Obviously as long as GDR does not close Friedrichstrasse to official vehicles we are not in a position to force entrance or if we would keep the entrance open by force we still would be unable to circulate in East Berlin. Nevertheless, I believe it would be a serious mistake to accept the GDR dictate which has just been announced (reftel) if it is placed in effect. I have always believed that the elimination of Allied rights in East Berlin is of great importance to GDR and that every effort will be made to accomplish this objective before any negotiations take place. Moreover, I do not believe that we can afford to have any remaining right taken away from us prior to and without negotiation as we would then enter into negotiations with only those rights left which we are committed to maintain by force if necessary.

It seems clear to me at this time that the Western Allies have little to gain from negotiation and nothing to gain unless Khrushchev really wants to negotiate in good faith. The FRG position is opposed to any changes in present status in principle although willing to accept certain concessions provided none of the responsibility for such acceptance is placed on FRG. I have serious doubts that Khrushchev really wants to leave to the GDR the full responsibility for control over access to Berlin with the risks of war which this involves and that he will be much more ready to negotiate on a reasonable basis if we are more resistant to negotiations under the present atmosphere.

In any event, I do not believe that we should even be willing to talk with the Russians on the subject of possible negotiation in an atmosphere approaching duress.

Thus, I believe that we should give serious and immediate consideration to calling off such talks until and unless Russia is prepared to guarantee full maintenance of the present status quo until they are either discontinued or lead to negotiations.

I would urgently recommend that you be ready to send for the Russian Ambassador as soon as we advise you that the dictate is being put into effect, advising him that the requirement that Allied personnel in properly licensed cars must submit identification papers to East German police at Friedrichstrasse represents the unilateral assumption of a Soviet right and a unilateral change in the procedure followed for years which we cannot accept in the period in which we are trying earnestly to find a basis to negotiate the Berlin problem. Further, even though the United States and its Allies are earnestly seeking a way to peace we [Page 534] cannot hope to find a basis for negotiation if the rights which we now hold are being subject to attack as we search for this basis. If the Soviet Government is unable to restore the normal procedures now in effect in Berlin and to maintain these procedures during the progress of the talks, there is no further purpose to be served by continuing the talks. I would urge that the Russian Ambassador also be asked to give a reply immediately as otherwise it will be necessary to announce that in the present atmosphere further talks are useless and will not be pursued.

In point of fact, I am inclined to believe that at the moment this would put us in a stronger position than we now occupy. It would certainly enable us to determine the seriousness of both the French and German viewpoints which as they are now recorded are not overly enthusiastic to any negotiations, and indeed would force Khrushchev to show his hand as to whether or not he really desires negotiation.

We will avoid test at Friedrichstrasse today awaiting your consideration of this recommendation. We must probe not later than tomorrow. If unarmed probe fails we will then proceed under our instructions to protest here and if unable to reach Soviet Commandant or protest fails, to try again with armed escort. Under these circumstances, I doubt if armed escort will suffice. Therefore, in event unarmed probe fails, we believe that calling in Soviet Ambassador is preferable alternative to trying armed escort.3

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762.0221/10-2461. Top Secret; Eyes Only; Niact. Received at 11:05 a.m. Also sent to Bonn.
  2. Telegram 812 from Berlin, October 23, quoted an East German News Agency (ADN) announcement that required persons in civilian clothes crossing the sector border to show identification cards. (Ibid., 862.181/10-2361)
  3. At 6 p.m. on October 24 Ambassador Dowling sent his concurrence with Clay’s views, adding that the acceptance of further restrictions on U.S. rights in Berlin would be “most detrimental” to the U.S. position in the Federal Republic. (Telegram 987 from Bonn, received at 3:17 p.m.; ibid., 762.0221/10-2461)