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

607. Eyes only for Clay. Eyes only for Ambassador. Many thanks your 834 and 835.2 I would certainly agree that the chances of success in representations in Moscow are not too bright. However it is essential [Page 540] that we test Soviet intentions in a much broader context than the question of entry procedures to East Berlin. In the nature of things we had long since decided that entry into East Berlin is not a vital interest which would warrant determined recourse to force to protect and sustain. Having for this reason acquiesced in the building of the wall we must recognize frankly among ourselves that we thus went a long way in accepting the fact that the Soviets could, in the case of East Berlin, as they have done previously in other areas under their effective physical control, isolate their unwilling subjects. An important consideration is the fact that our Allies would clearly be unwilling to support us in stronger measures, especially on issue of showing credentials where British practice differs from ours. We are having some difficulty in making them face up to the real prospect of armed conflict to protect our basic vital interests as regards West Berlin and access thereto. Consequently while we have favored every reasonable effort to demonstrate the illegality of the Soviet/GDR actions on August 13 and subsequently, and to manifest an intent to maintain our rights by every method short of force, we have not wished this to go so far as to constitute simply a demonstration of impotence, to focus world-wide public attention on the wrong issue and to arouse hopes and expectations on the part of the West Berliners and the West Germans who in the end could only be disillusioned. Thus we have wished to keep “harassing tactics” within these limits. Frankly within the context of these considerations I am unable to see what national purpose would be accomplished by the proposed raid in force. I had not realized that this was a proposal on your part in 8243 which accounts for the lack of comment in my reply to that message. In fact the British have already indicated strong opposition to the lesser demonstrative course of action described in Deptel 5534 to be undertaken in the event of a closing of Friedrichstrasse. This is being discussed further this afternoon5 but in view of the importance of keeping the three principal Allies together it seems quite possible that we cannot get agreement on even this much.

If Moscow’s reaction to Thompson’s démarche is in fact negative, then we will of course have to review the whole question of where we go from there. In this case, would certainly be obliged to make it clear that any chances for genuine negotiations on the over-all problem would be seriously prejudiced by this unilateral action which places us under duress.

[Page 541]

As for making negotiations directly dependent upon restoration status quo in regard showing credentials, we have not embarked upon negotiations because no adequate basis for them exists with respect to most fundamental issues. We could not be in position of saying to Soviets that satisfaction regarding entry into East Berlin would open way for negotiations. Clearly Friedrichstrasse issue is one of many involved in such possibilities.

Please be assured our deep awareness difficulties situation West Berlin and great appreciation your help and counsel. We face here dual necessity of maintaining allied unity on basic issues in face grave Soviet threat while at same time building up pressures on Soviets against further unilateral action. You can be sure that your views and recommendations are given the fullest possible attention.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762.0221/10-2661. Secret. Drafted by Kohler. Repeated to Bonn. The source text bears Kohler’s handwritten notation: “Approved by Secy after consideration with President.”
  2. Regarding telegram 834, see footnote 2, Document 191. In telegram 835, October 26, 1 p.m., Clay asked for Rusk’s reaction to a raid in force into the Eastern sector which would tear down parts of the wall on its return. (Department of State, Central Files, 762.0221/10-2661)
  3. See footnote 1, Document 191.
  4. Document 180.
  5. A 4-line summary of the Ambassadorial Group discussion of the events at Friedrichstrasse was transmitted in telegram 609 to Berlin, October 26, 8:50 p.m. (Department of State, Central Files, 762.0221/10-2361)