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

833. Paris for Embassy, USRO, Stoessel and McGuire. US Commandant General Watson accompanied by US POLAD and Mission officer called on Sov Commandant Colonel Solovyev 3 pm today at former’s request.2 Watson opened discussion by stating that Sovs had permitted potentially explosive situation develop at Friedrichstrasse, where East Berlin police were illegally attempting control passage U.S. forces personnel into SovSector. Watson then briefly reviewed background on developments and discussions on this subject since his call on Solovyev Aug 26 (Berlin’s 333 Dept, 296 Bonn)3 including US POLAD’s call on Sov Colonel Lazarev Oct 17 (Berlin’s 762 Dept, 677 Bonn),4 incident evening of Oct 22 (Berlin’s 801 Dept, 709 Bonn),5 and subsequent Vopo interference (Berlin’s 822 and 825 Dept, 725 and 728 Bonn).6 He pointed out that Sovs had on several occasions implied they prepared take steps remedy situation.

Watson continued that US side considered Sovs bound by four-power agreements whether or not Sovs willing to admit this. He pointed out that US does not recognize East German regime and does not accept regime’s pretensions to control US personnel. Watson reminded Solovyev that during previous interview on October 13 (Berlin’s 752 Dept, 667 Bonn)7 Solovyev referred to importance of avoiding disturbing actions at time when government level discussions were being held. Watson concluded by demanding that Sov authorities fulfill their commitment and responsibility to assure unimpeded circulation US vehicles and personnel; he suggested Solovyev might start by obtaining [Page 538] release of two army buses Watson had observed halted on East German side of Friedrichstrasse crossing point en route Karlshorst.

Solovyev began reply by referring to Oct 22 incident. He said vehicle had had to be controlled by East Berlin police under regulations of GDR. He then objected to US action sending armed guard to escort vehicle into East Berlin. Solovyev claimed there no precedent for entry into one sector Berlin of armed personnel from another sector. Said US action had been violation of GDR’s order rules. Solovyev then alleged that Sov personnel in civilian clothes who enter West Berlin in military vehicles are controlled by West Berlin police and always show ID cards, which they consider normal practice.

Referring to escort of US vehicle through crossing point this morning by armed soldiers in jeeps, Solovyev called this “open provocation.” He said placing of US garrison in state of combat readiness and stationing of tanks at sector boundary was “sabre-rattling.” He continued, “I am authorized to state that it is necessary to avoid actions of this kind. Such actions can provoke corresponding actions from our side. We have tanks too. We hate the idea of carrying out such actions, and are sure that you will re-examine your course.”

Solovyev then passed on to crossing point procedures. He said our military personnel in uniform never encountered impediments. Difficulties arose only with personnel in civilian clothes, since it was impossible to tell their nationality. Inspection of the documents of such persons was proper under laws of GDR, which Solovyev could not change.

Watson pointed out that he and Solovyev previously had complete exchange of views re responsibilities in Berlin, which it not necessary review. Present difficulties were most serious, and Solovyev would realize how deeply serious we were in matter of free passage. Important principle was involved. Because matter was so serious, Watson was reporting it to his government and assumed that Solovyev would do the same. In meantime, we would continue exercise important principle and take most serious measures to do so. Watson also mentioned earlier suggestion of US POLAD that Sov officer might be stationed at Friedrichstrasse temporarily to deal with Allied personnel until current difficulties resolved. Watson emphasized that all persons authorized use of the various types of license plates described to Karlshorst were under his command and equally entitled uncontrolled passage.

Remainder of interview, which lasted one and one-half hours, was largely repetition, with Solovyev repeatedly asserting GDR regulations were valid and it was normal expect persons not in uniform identify selves. He said all that was wanted was for them to show piece of paper to identify them as US personnel. It not even necessary hand over such document, which could be shown through window. He contended this [Page 539] was not control. Solovyev several times proposed that he called solution to difficulty: Americans in uniform need show no identification while those in civilian clothes should show. Watson firmly asserted license plates were sufficient identification. This was whole purpose of supplying descriptions and photographs in accordance with Sov request. Watson pointed out that East German harassments based on alleged distinction between uniformed and non-uniformed personnel were recent phenomenon. Solovyev asserted new rules had been in effect since August 15. Watson countered by pointing out that since incident involving army buses August 26, there had been no difficulties in army bus movements until today.

Mission comment: Mission considers following were main points emerging from interview:

Sovs fully backing GDR in attempt compel US personnel in civilian clothes display ID.
Sovs did not categorically reject idea of stationing Sov officer at Friedrichstrasse, but certainly showed no interest.
Sovs extremely sensitive to US armed penetration East Berlin. It interesting note that Solovyev displayed no hesitation using term “Soviet Sector” or citing four-power practice when discussing this point though practically in same breath he able disclaim responsibility for GDR actions East Berlin.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 862.181/10-2561. Confidential; Niact. Received at 7:55 p.m. Also sent to Bonn and repeated to London, Moscow, Paris, and POLADUSAREUR.
  2. In telegram 825 from Berlin, October 25, 5 p.m., Lightner reported that another U.S. vehicle had been denied access to East Berlin. Following a lengthy discussion with the Soviet Political Adviser, who denied Soviet responsibility, the vehicle was given an armed escort into the Soviet Zone, and Lightner informed Solovyev that General Watson wanted to meet with him to prevent a difficult situation from arising. Lightner also reported that two platoons of tanks had been moved up to the crossing point and that Berlin Command had been placed on alert. (Ibid.)
  3. Dated August 26. (Ibid., 762.0221/8-2661)
  4. Dated October 17. (Ibid., 762.0221/10-1761)
  5. Document 186.
  6. Telegram 822, October 24, is not printed. (Department of State, Central Files, 862.181/10-2461) Regarding telegram 825, see footnote 2 above.
  7. Dated October 13. (Department of State, Central Files, 662A.62B/10-1361)