259. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the Soviet Union1

1615. Paris pass Finletter—eyes only. Eyes only for Ambassadors. Following are your instructions for next meeting with Gromyko (which you should request for early date) containing minor amendments to take account of points made by Germans and British.

Begin verbatim text.

You should seek further appointment with Gromyko and conduct discussion along following lines:

US Government considers that initial exchange of views with Soviet Foreign Minister on January 22 was useful in helping further to clarify positions of both parties and in providing occasion for each to stress certain questions which considered of particular importance. There also seemed to be agreement that both wanted to settle issues involved by peaceful means, though it is obvious that real substantive differences continue to exist.
In first discussion number of principles were stated which we believe are essential for progress towards an acceptable agreement. There is no need to repeat these at length but they should not be overlooked. We particularly stressed that key practical point in Berlin situation is access, for it is on this point that unilateral action by one side could have highly dangerous results.
While Soviet Foreign Minister gave his preliminary reactions to presentation of US position, he also indicated that US statements would require serious thought and consideration. We will therefore be interested in hearing his further views on various points raised.
In this connection it might be well to begin by eliminating one subject on which it obvious from outset that no meeting of minds is possible, and from what Gromyko has said can be set aside. Proposal for single peace treaty with both GDR and Federal Republic or for a separate peace treaty with GDR is not acceptable to West. We believe that any action which attempts formally to legalize division of Germany [Page 737] would be serious mistake, even regarded from Soviet viewpoint. However, we know that Soviet Union holds other views, and it is clear from our present actions that we are living with this situation and do not contemplate any use of force to change it. Entire NATO posture is based on this approach.
In referring to possibility of all-Berlin solution, Soviet Foreign Minister took position that this question could not be discussed and that East Berlin is completely integrated into GDR. He also stated that construction of wall was necessary to combat threats emanating from West Berlin. To take latter point first, it is not purpose of present discussion to analyze motivations for action which took place on August 13. Even Ulbricht in his December 30 Pravda article virtually admitted that wall was directed not so much at outer world but at inhabitants of GDR, who continued to evidence desire to leave. Be that as it may, fact of wall and of ensuing actions directed towards sealing off East Berlin from rest of city has, in practice, constituted considerable unilateral change of status quo in further disregard of Soviet obligations. While US Government, therefore, continues to consider that all-Berlin solution based upon recognition of continuing Four-Power responsibilities, is best and most logical approach to problem, it cannot help but draw certain conclusions from fact that these unilateral actions have been taken. One of these conclusions is that Soviets, having attempted to dispose of their sector of city without consent of West, now claim right to have determining voice in disposition of Western sectors of city. Not only is there lack of logic in Soviet approach, but pressure which is being brought on Western Powers to consent to modifications of situation is in the form of threat of further unilateral abandonment of its responsibilities by Soviets to GDR—in this case those relating to Berlin access.
A noteworthy example of such lack of logic is what Soviets say regarding alleged effect of peace treaty on occupation rights in West Berlin. West Berlin has never been part of GDR. No treaty between Soviet Union and GDR can, therefore, terminate occupation rights of Western Powers. Question may further be asked why, if Soviet Union has in mind agreement with respect to Western position in West Berlin, so much importance is attached to distinction between such agreement and occupation rights. Conclusion might be drawn that this is because Soviets believe that, in some way, rights under agreement would be less securely based than occupation rights. It is our suggestion, therefore, that since Soviets understand we are not prepared to abandon our rights in and access to West Berlin, discussion of basis these rights is unnecessary and need not cause difficulties.
Given these considerations, we would be particularly interested in further explanation of what in the Soviet view the situation in West Berlin would look like. Soviets continually attack Western occupation as [Page 738] obsolete. The presence of Western troops might be undesirable if they remain in face of opposition of civilian population and if they no longer serve a function which we and that population consider essential. There can be no question but that, in both respects, Western forces are far from obsolete. If there is any question—and we do not believe Soviets really seriously doubt this—about desires of West Berlin population, Western Powers would be glad at any time to have properly supervised plebiscite held in West Berlin. Moreover, experience of Berliners over years has confirmed their conviction that presence of Western forces is necessary guarantee of continuing freedom. Experience of blockade and of continual harassments, pressures and threats from GDR since then could have no other effect. Western Powers do not consider, therefore, that their continuing presence is negotiable. As pointed out in January 2 conversation, Western Powers have never negotiated with Soviets on occupation rights but only on exercise and implementation of those rights. They do not expect that Soviet Union will specifically reaffirm continuation of occupation rights, but they do expect that it will conduct itself in such a way as to take practical cognizance of the facts of life as they exist in West Berlin—including presence of Western protective forces.
After you have made statement along foregoing lines, we assume Gromyko will be prepared make further comments on your presentation of January 2. These may merely repeat points made in his “preliminary reaction” or may provide basis for further probing on your part. This is matter which we leave largely to your judgment. You are still both exchanging views and putting forward suggestions which do not commit either side. Essential purpose is still to find out whether and in what area basis for negotiations can be found.
Two points on which Soviet have insisted in past which particularly require clarification are changed status for West Berlin and “respect for GDR sovereignty”. Going back to Gromyko’s remarks on these subjects during January 2 conversation, you should if this seems appropriate, attempt to draw him out further on his statement to you that it would be wrong to conclude that Soviets are prepared to leave West Berlin situation unchanged in view of threat present situation in Central Europe. We do not understand what threat present situation in West Berlin poses to Eastern Europe unless Soviets consider very existence of a free West Berlin to be such a threat. In putting questions, impression must, of course, be avoided that Western presence is in any way negotiable beyond points in para 3 of Annex III to Working Group Report of December 10, 1961.
As to “respect for GDR sovereignty”, your efforts should be directed towards attempting to nail down whether this criterion can be met largely in procedural terms by having GDR concur in arrangements [Page 739] on access made by Four Power agreement or whether some GDR role in access is what Soviets have in mind. You might refer to fact that Soviet Union has frequently used expression “respect for sovereignty of GDR” which we hope can be clarified. In this connection, on January 2 Soviet Foreign Minister took exception to what American Ambassador said regarding de jure and de facto recognition of GDR by citing Soviet acceptance of existence of certain countries with which it does not have relations. Similarly, Soviet Foreign Minister claimed that in actual fact US has already recognized GDR de facto. This suggests to us that what Soviet Foreign Minister has in mind is that we not act as if we deny existence of East Germany, as indeed we do not. Since Soviet Foreign Minister and Chairman Khrushchev have emphasized factual situation, we see no problem arising from our inability to accord some kind of formal de jure or de facto recognition which would go beyond that factual situation. On “respect for sovereignty of GDR” as it relates to Berlin access, we understand Soviets wish to ensure that access rights do not in fact interfere with authority or life in East Germany. This creates no problems for us because we do not wish so to interfere; what we want is access which is not interfered with by East Germany. There are numerous cases in which means of transit across territory or through air space are used without any interference in the affairs of the territory transited. We suggest that Soviet Foreign Minister accept as point of departure concept that guaranteed access would not interfere with affairs of East Germany and that East Germany would not interfere with freedom of access.
Although your efforts to pin down Gromyko specifically on whether “free access” would envisage freedom for anyone to travel back and forth were not successful you should make further effort towards this end. You might make point that we assume Soviet Government is sincere in its stated intention of permitting a viable and supportable existence for West Berliners. Soviets must realize as well as we do that this requires continuation of their relations with outer world on really free basis not subject to control of any third party.
If in your judgment you need to say more about status of West Berlin than contained above in order to accomplish objective, you may find it useful to set forth present US understanding of legal status of Western sectors of Berlin. These sectors are an area in which supreme authority continues to be exercised by three Western Powers. Relationship which has grown up between Federal Republic and Berlin in various areas of activity has been on permissive basis subject to this authority. While Constitution of Federal Republic provides that West Berlin is Land of Federal Republic by virtue of suspension of pertinent articles of Bonn Basic Law in 1949 this portion of Constitution is inoperative in Berlin. If you deem it desirable further to spell out US understanding [Page 740] of present status West Berlin you may draw on BTF-343 as appropriate (copies pouched to you January 4—Registry No. 526272). It may be worth pointing out that one of effects of termination of Western occupation would automatically be to end suspension those articles of Bonn Basic Law referred to above. You might remind Gromyko logical response to Soviet unilateral action directed towards incorporation of East Berlin into GDR would have been incorporation of West Berlin in Federal Republic. However, Western Powers have refrained from considering this action as not contributing to achievement of mutually acceptable arrangement under present circumstances.
Should Gromyko insist that Berlin cannot be discussed in isolation but must be related to broader questions aimed at “drawing line under World War II”, you should state that, in our view creation of barriers against World War III is more important than drawing purely technical line under World War II. We must, therefore, consider issues in light of what is possible now in terms of vital interests of each side. If Gromyko responds to this by repeating usual charges against alleged West German militarism and revanchism, you might take line that, while Soviet leaders have placed great stress in recent years on rejection of Stalinism, it must nevertheless be pointed out that the Soviets first began postwar rearmament of Germany by rearming East Germans over Western protests. Western actions have been defensive and designed purely for nonaggressive purposes. You may also find it useful in this context to draw on relevant points made by President in his interview of November 25 with Adzhubei4 and emphasize conviction of US that present Germany is thoroughly peaceful.
If Gromyko continues to insist on discussion of “broader questions” you might observe that every subject can obviously not be discussed simultaneously. We have placed initial stress on Berlin access which we believe critical issue for reasons indicated. He should understand, however, that what US would be prepared to say on other subjects will depend to great extent on reasonableness of Soviet position on Berlin access which we consider to be most appropriate question on which to focus at outset.

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15. Re International Access Authority, we are sending in separate message summary of proposal5 which you may find useful in further discussion with Gromyko. Do not believe, however, that specific language of formal agreement should be tabled pending further explorations. To degree necessary, however, you may also draw for details on draft charter in BQD-37 revised November 30, 1961. In view of German reserve on Board of Governors, you should be cautious in discussing this aspect of Authority not to give impression that composition represents agreed Western position and should indicate that other formulae may be possible.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.61/1-1062. Secret; Priority; Verbatim Text. Drafted by Hillenbrand; cleared by Bohlen, Bundy, and Rusk (in draft); and approved and initialed by Kohler. Repeated to Bonn, Paris, London, and Berlin. On January 5 the Department of State had transmitted to Thompson a preliminary draft of these instructions (telegram 1580 to Moscow; ibid., 611.61/1-562), which were the same in substance as those transmitted here. Thompson had commented briefly on them in telegram 1886 from Moscow, January 6. (Ibid., 611.61/1-662)
  2. See Document 251.
  3. A copy of this document, “Relationships Between Berlin and the Federal Republic of Germany,” is in the Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Germany, Berlin, Task Force Reports.
  4. See Document 223.
  5. Telegram 1617 to Moscow, January 10. (Department of State, Central Files, 762.0221/1-1062)