211. Telegram From the Embassy in the Soviet Union to the Department of State1

1485. Position taken by Gromyko (my tel 1469)2 faces US with extremely serious situation and I find it difficult to suggest what appropriate response should be. Following would appear to be principal alternatives:

Simply to maintain situation as it exists at present time, continuing self-denial of civilian entry in military cars, coupled perhaps with stern warning to Soviets that we will not tolerate any further encroachments upon our rights in Berlin. This might be effective in preventing further steps by East Germans such as demanding identification military personnel but would of course involve considerable loss of face for US.
Some retaliatory action in Berlin such as barring Soviets from West Berlin coupled with refusal to continue preparations for negotiations on broader question. In my opinion this course of action could lead to even more serious difficulties. We would presumably gain French support but would probably lose British. British Amb tells me his govt and particularly Macmillan are already restive at current inaction in moving toward negotiations and that Hood has received instructions to press ahead. If we take public stand against continuation preparations for negotiations I suspect likely result would be another Macmillan visit to Moscow and further strain on Alliance. Judging from NAC discussion number of our Allies are likely to support British. I think it can be excluded that Soviets would simply back down in face of such a stand on our part. Once we took military moves such as calling alerts, bringing up tanks, probes into East Berlin, etc, we so engaged Sov military prestige that simple reversal of East German police action became out of question. Most we could hope for in my opinion from such stand would be Sov willingness to discuss situation and possibly agree on some compromise settlement but I think this unlikely. A more likely reaction would be for Soviets to proceed with their separate treaty and we would have to face supreme test with our Alliance in complete disarray. Before embarking upon such policy would seem important that we know exactly where our Allies and particularly West Germans would stand. In any event I do not believe we should continue exploratory talks here until after Adenauer visit to US.
We could take some retaliatory action with object of trying to bring Soviets to discuss situation and perhaps arrive at a compromise solution. Probably most extreme action would be steps toward incorporation West Berlin into FedRep discussed in Berlin's 625.3 Would probably be better to threaten such action than actually carry it out without warning but there are great dangers in such action and it could precipitate real crisis including Sov signature of separate treaty.
Secretary could send further message to Gromyko stating that we could not simply accept continuance of present situation. Perhaps we could at same time broaden problem and state that we consider present situation in Berlin to be explosive one and that in order to get on with negotiations we should take steps to diminish tension there. We could suggest that Commandants be instructed to get together to attempt agree on measures to reduce tension. Soviets may of course maintain position that this is question for GDR and will not like emphasis on four power aspect of having Commandants deal with problem. In this case our proposals might have to be put to Gromyko. In present circumstances [Page 583]difficult suggest what proposals we could put forward if Soviets agreed to any such approach. If we should put forward two points mentioned in Deptel 11464 we would virtually have lost our right to object to showing documents to Vopos on basis of principle since we would have agreed to exchange willingness do so for unrelated concession. In broader context of reducing tension however suggest opening of additional crossing points might be put forward in connection with agreement for civilians to show documents to Vopos whenever they had reason to believe use of military vehicles was being abused but not to check all vehicles containing civilians. There might be other concessions on both sides although I am not in position to judge what possibilities are. I should think we might suggest reciprocal efforts of East and West Berlin authorities to enable families to be united.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762.0221/11-961. Secret; Priority; Limit Distribution. Repeated to London, Paris, Bonn, and Berlin.
  2. Document 207.
  3. Dated November 8. (Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/11-861)
  4. See footnote 3, Document 194.