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

1616. Eyes only for Ambassador from Secretary.

Separate cable containing your basic instructions2 as discussed with British and Germans and passed to French for information suggests line of approach for your next meeting with Gromyko in considerable detail. At same time you are left sufficient latitude to probe Soviets should favorable openings appear, and I am, of course, fully confident that, within broad framework of these instructions and our objectives as you know them, you will feel free to exercise your good judgment.
From studying results of your first talk, it appears to us, in essence, that what is involved in this discussion is Western desire for an improved access arrangement with Berlin on one hand, as against Soviet [Page 742] desire for change in (1) status of West Berlin, and (2) other questions relating to Germany as a whole. This may be too simplified a formulation of the problem, since it does not include questions such as “respect for GDR sovereignty”, but its formulation in these terms will help to clarify essence of these talks. As you are fully aware, we have no interest in any change in status of West Berlin and would not advance any of the questions affecting Germany as a whole. We are, however, interested in an improved access arrangement which would reinforce our position in Berlin and safeguard communications between West Berlin and West Germany, and we consider, therefore, that you should be prepared to express, without commitment, our views on improved access agreement, leaving, however, to Soviets to put forward their desiderata in regard to status of West Berlin and more general questions affecting Germany.
In spelling out arguments in basic instruction, point should emerge that we have put forward a view on possibility of an international authority covering access and that the Soviets, for their part, should put forth specifically what they have in mind in regard to status of Berlin and other questions. You should stress that until we know Soviet views on these latter two questions, we will not have complete picture which would enable us to judge whether or not a reasonable basis for more formal negotiations exists.
If Gromyko, as is possible, spells out “free city” concept for West Berlin, you should not hesitate to use argument of previous instruction3 that, since Soviets reject completely all-Berlin solution and insist that Eastern sectors of city are integral parts of GDR, this, in our view, deprives them of right to voice in future status of West Berlin. You might emphasize that in these circumstances, there would appear to be no need for any revision of existing status which, as Soviets are aware, is desired and fully supported by West Berlin population. Your purpose in this part of conversation would be to endeavor to obtain a full statement of Soviet position in regard to future of West Berlin without, however, entering into any detailed discussion of Soviet proposal.
In regard to other questions, you should pursue identical tactics, that is, endeavor to obtain from Soviets without commitment on our part precise statement of what other questions affecting Germany as a whole Soviets desire to discuss.
What we would be after at this stage in talks would be some clear indication of totality of Soviet position. We recognize that at this stage Soviets would probably only indicate first negotiating positions and not, in any sense, final positions, but your judgment as to depth of [Page 743] Soviet feeling in regard to any of these positions would be most valuable. We feel it important to ascertain in relatively near future whether or not there would be any grounds for contemplating more formal negotiations. It is not, however, our intention to bring the talks you are presently conducting to a breaking point since we consider that the very fact of the existence of these talks operates as an inhibition on Soviet action in Berlin itself. On other hand, we have to, at some point, consider alternatives open to us, i.e., movement towards formal negotiations or prospect of breakdown of these exploratory talks.

In this connection, Germans have indicated to us their view that tempo of conversations should be adapted to Soviet tempo which they now interpret as relatively relaxed. In their view, more accelerated pace might give impression West feels its position is weak. Our estimate of degree of Soviet urgency on Berlin differs from line which Germans are now spreading, but we certainly wish to avoid giving any impression of undue anxiety. I would appreciate having your impressions on this general point.

Our further comments on specific points in basic instructions or raised in your cables follow:

While we do not believe it desirable to go beyond language in final sentence of paragraph 7 of instructions at present time, you should be aware that British have raised with us possibility of finding formula which, without danger to legal basis of Western presence in Berlin, would go some way to meet Soviet position that West Berlin should no longer be under “an occupation regime”. (Text of British memorandum on this subject pouched Moscow January 8—Registry No. 1506239.)4
In discussing British suggestion with Ormsby Gore, I said I hoped some way could be found to deal with question without necessity of any formal steps by West Berliners or by us to set up trusteeship which would give Berliners impression that basis of their rights had been radically changed. I suggested that there were perhaps two ways of achieving this: (a) Four-Power agreement which was silent on question of Western occupation rights. This would be superimposed on existing system rather than superseding it. We would say we were prepared to operate on basis of such agreement but if anything happened to agreement, direct application of occupation rights would be restored. Soviets could concentrate on agreement itself. (b) Western Powers could themselves declare that they consider their position in Berlin would be based on more than occupation rights, and that they are holding Western sectors in trusteeship for German people and at desire [Page 744] of West Berliners. This would combine elements of trusteeship and self-determination.
While final sentence of paragraph 9 is, therefore, valid at this stage, we may wish at later point to consider interpreting it along lines I suggested.
On discussion of “broader questions” raised paragraph 14 of instructions, our basic position remains as set forth in Deptel 1523.5
Should Gromyko raise question of “subversive activities” you may take line suggested Moscow’s 1886.6 Should he inquire whether West still ready to consider prohibition on atomic arms in Berlin, you should indicate point not covered specifically in your instructions but you will inquire. As to troop levels in Berlin, you should be guided by footnote b on page 2 of Annex III to Working Group Report of December 10, 1961.7
Confusion regarding German reserve on composition Board of Governors in BQD-37 due to fact that Embassy representative belatedly came in on January 2 with supplementary request for modifications of instructions to which Ambassador Grewe had previously agreed.8 In most respects these merely attempted reinforcement of positions which were fully covered in original instructions. They did call particular attention, however, to German reserve on composition Board of Governors. This was not shown in November 3 document since reserve only made later and overlooked by German Foreign Office in sending instructions to Grewe on basis of which he concurred contents Deptel 1520.9
Regarding your 1847,10 as you aware, bracketed language in subparagraph 3 of Article X of BQD-37 represents fallback position. Is it your judgment that failure to include this point in formal text when put forward as proposal would be determining factor in Soviet acceptance or rejection? Regarding elimination of reference to military forces, believe it would be dangerous in light of our previous experience with [Page 745] Soviet interpretation of agreements not to mention this subject, but we are considering possible reformulations. Suggest that question need not be dealt with directly until specific draft agreement put forward.
We have not yet explored with Allies confederation concept as applied East and West Berlin suggested Moscow’s 1854 and 1874.11 Agree idea worth considering further but do not feel it should be put forward in your next discussion with Gromyko. We are not certain of proposed scope of proposal but would presumably have no objection to advancing suggestion for body to handle such matters as transportation, sewage disposal, and other public utilities on common basis. Establishment of body with such limited functions would not require any change in present status of Berlin, however, as only essential action would be delegation of authority to body by respective municipal governments. Seems dubious Soviets would view such proposal as offering any basis for removal of wall and acceptance continuation of occupation. On other hand, if authority of confederation Board expanded so as to make it real substitute for supreme authority held by Western Allies, this would, given nature of confederal system, mean giving East Berlin a veto respecting variety of matters of substantial and possibly vital importance to West Berlin. Alternative to this would be some form of weighted authority but this would seem amount to essentials of all-Berlin proposal which clearly unacceptable to Soviets.
Regarding your 1906,12 no objection to modification of Gromyko quote along lines indicated. I am also giving consideration to questions raised your 1907.13 As you are aware, basic problem on Western side is finding formula which French would consider as constituting acceptable basis for negotiations.
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/1-1062. Secret; Priority. Drafted by Bohlen and Hillenbrand, cleared by Rusk and Bundy, and initialed and approved by Kohler.
  2. Document 259.
  3. Document 248.
  4. A copy of this memorandum is attached to the memorandum of conversation cited in footnote 1, Document 256.
  5. Document 249.
  6. Thompson suggested in telegram 1886, January 6, that he reply that measures on subversive activities would apply to both parts of Berlin. (Department of State, Central Files, 611.61/1-662)
  7. Footnote b stated that the Western powers could accept no substantial reduction in the level of their forces but would consider freezing at the present level or examining a reduction if developments permitted. (Ibid., Conference Files: Lot 65 D 366, CF 1999)
  8. A memorandum of Bohlen’s conversation with the German Minister on January 2 is ibid., Central Files, 762A.00/1-262.
  9. Document 248.
  10. In telegram 1847, January 3, Thompson reported that Gromyko was likely to press for further details on the access authority and suggested strategy to meet this demand. (Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/1-362)
  11. Telegram 1854 is printed as Document 252. Telegram 1874, January 5, discussed the confederation idea with neither East nor West Germany having Berlin as its capital. (Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/1-562)
  12. Dated January 9. (Ibid., 611.61/1-962)
  13. Document 257.