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

2100. Eyes only for Secretary. I opened meeting with Gromyko with brief summary my instructions.2 I then turned over the text of our memorandum3 which was translated in full by the translator. On completion of translation I presented text of the all-Berlin proposal and the summary proposal for an international access authority,4 the latter of which I also had orally translated. In presenting document on access authority I read para five my instructions.

Gromyko responded that he would comment on the documents and my statements but reserved the right to comment further at a later date. He added, “this, however, does not signify our attitude is in any degree favorable to the documents or what you have said today.”

Gromyko stated he must assume that the USG apparently does not have any intention of discussing seriously the matters under question. This is confirmed, he said, by the fact that the documents presented concern access and propose creation of an international authority responsible for access. These proposals, he continued, are not at all realistic and Soviet attitude toward them is well-known. “The Soviet Government is strongly opposed to creation of any international policeman, gendarme, fee collector, traffic regulator, or any kind of servant of the Western [Page 785] powers to regulate traffic to West Berlin.” Gromyko then also rejected any all-Berlin proposal as completely unrealistic, and expressed regret negative attitude USG toward proposals which Soviet Government had put forth in order to facilitate progress toward agreement.

Gromyko criticized what he called US concentration on access question. “You and your government and your Allies in NATO may think and consider this the most important issue, but the attitude of the Soviet Government differs basically. Such approach offers only a very narrow area for understanding and in fact precludes agreement on negotiations.” He added, access is only one question. I had not touched on the other questions he had raised such as frontiers and European security. There are many other questions and issues which will arise inevitably when a peace treaty is concluded with the GDR. Making the first of several references to a separate peace treaty Gromyko said, since this treaty will inevitably be concluded, these questions will come up. This attempt to concentrate on access is one-sided, he complained, and does not offer a chance for negotiations.

Gromyko continued by re-stating point which he emphasized in first meeting regarding access. He said we have spoken of access many times. We consider it is possible agree on question of unlimited and unrestricted access providing agreement is simultaneously reached on respect for sovereignty of the GDR. Such agreement would be in accord with centuries old international law. However, he charged, “all your arguments focus on a fear your occupation rights will be given to—or conferred on—the GDR”. Gromyko rejected the use of “confer” in this case, insisting that the rights in question was not the issue and did not pretend that these were a suitcase which can be simply handed over from one to another. He declared that a new situation must be established in West Berlin and that the communications routes from and to West Berlin which are located on GDR territory or in air corridors which go over its territory, or canals which run through its territory cannot possibly exist while ignoring GDR sovereignty. “It is impossible to sign an agreement on this question which is not in accord with GDR sovereignty.”

Gromyko then addressed himself to question of occupation status. He stated it was essential to replace old situation which existed under occupation status and which resulted from capitulation which took place 17 years ago. He insisted it was not Soviet Union which initiated practice violating Allied agreements. The fact is, he stated, occupation rights are completely divorced from life today. He took issue with US charge Soviets desire Western powers give up their rights while Soviets retain theirs. Everything we suggest, he stated, is in conformity with facts of situation today and directed toward improvement relations and peace. Displaying sensitivity he said, “you say Western powers never spoke of giving up their occupation rights, but only of exercising these [Page 786] rights. This is your position, Mr. Ambassador, but not ours.” He claimed US proposals aim at maintaining and improving Western position and retaining occupation rights. “We shall never sign, and I mean this figuratively as well as literally, any document which backs these occupation rights, nor agree to sign any document favoring retention of occupation regime in West Berlin.”

Gromyko then referred to US profession we do not desire interfere internal affairs GDR and are prepared organize international body handle access. Gromyko claimed this represents very narrow understanding GDR sovereignty and stated “the very establishment of such an international authority would constitute interference in internal affairs GDR”. Gromyko also referred to Western reluctance depend on “whims” of GDR. He complained such formulation constitutes attitude of “looking down on GDR” and is basically improper. He continued, under peace treaty with German states, GDR as well as Allies will assume certain obligations including question of access. Such assumption of obligations by GDR has nothing to do with whims. Referring to our statement responsibility rests with Soviet Government to insure interests of Western powers will not be violated following conclusion peace treaty, Gromyko stated if interests of Western powers are broad and include interests of people, normalization relations between GDR and FRG, liquidation occupation regime West Berlin, interests of Europe, then Soviet proposals are in accord with these interests. However, if your interests are narrow, in other words mean the retention of occupation rights, maintenance West Berlin as source of tension and unrest, and they oppose drawing a line under WW II, then it is true our interests differ.

Gromyko then complained that my statement and recent statements by certain American statesmen suggest “that if no agreement reached and Soviet Government takes certain actions, in other words, concludes a peace treaty with the GDR—and a peace treaty will be concluded—in this case the West would stop short of nothing, including force.” Gromyko warned that if the West is seeking a test of strength and trying to get war, they may very well succeed. Such language, he stated, should not be spoken when negotiating with the USSR, and will not frighten the Soviet Union. He concluded with statement it unfortunately seemed clear US does not intend discuss seriously matter in question. “However, I repeat I retain the right to comment further, as I said earlier. We can arrange a date later.”

I responded regretting very much that Gromyko’s preliminary remarks had been so negative. I then took up his reference to the international authority as an employee of the Western powers, emphasizing Soviets, as well as Western powers would participate and stated we were prepared work out arrangement for some participation of East [Page 787] Germans and East Berliners, as well as West Germans and West Berliners. (When interpreter used expression “representatives” of East Germany etc. I corrected him.) Authority would not be employee of anyone, but an impartial international organization. Regarding recognition of the GDR, I pointed out that while we are not prepared to recognize it, it is not our purpose demonstrate that we don’t recognize it, and we have framed our proposals with this in mind. I then recalled the reference to the international air service agreement and pointed out that this international agreement is subscribed to by some 60 countries which have committed themselves to permit over-flights and emergency landings in their countries. I reminded Gromyko of his earlier statements and added we had thought it might be possible reach agreement with the Soviet Union on access under procedure which he had indicated and that this agreement would then be recognized by the GDR which would cover the question of sovereignty.

I also stated that these proposals were devised in order to avoid friction between us and to prevent any temptation of East Germans to bring pressure on West Berlin or interfere with its access. This was in interest all parties concerned.

I stated that we have made clear the unacceptability of Soviet free city proposal but that if Soviets had problems regarding West Berlin we were ready to discuss them. I pointed out that it is the Soviet side which raised this whole problem. While we do not consider situation in Germany and Berlin completely satisfactory we had been able to live with it. I continued that, since Soviets raised this problem we have tried to find ways deal with it by agreement, and our proposals represent such efforts.

Regarding Gromyko’s remarks about the use of force, I stated, “you and your government have said after the conclusion of peace treaty with East Germany Western rights would be ended. We had to take account of these statements and consider what position of our West Berlin troops would be. Apparently you consider they would be there illegally.” I asked Gromyko what would happen to these troops, and stated “we did not believe it would be in interest of peace if you did not understand what our troops would do if anyone tried to throw them out. The same applies to their access to and from Berlin.” Certainly, I continued, it cannot be considered a threat to state that if our troops were attacked they would defend themselves. I agreed we should fix another meeting when mutually convenient. I added hope Gromyko would further consider our proposals which we believe would be in the interest of all those concerned.

[Page 788]

Gromyko at this point reiterated his disappointment in our proposals, claiming they are not realistic and apparently the USG is not serious about trying to reach agreement at present time. He then returned to peace treaty question, repeating standard position that best solution would be conclusion treaty with both German states. He insisted Soviet Government not pursuing selfish Soviet interest in West Berlin. “We don’t want West Berlin, not one West Berlin street, not one house in West Berlin.” What we do want, he said, is solution in accordance with facts of life in existing situation. “If you don’t agree to treaty with both German states, Soviet Union will sign a treaty with the GDR.”

Gromyko then turned to question West Berlin plebiscite. He repeated earlier denunciations of proposal and argument that troops stationed in West Berlin were not invited into Berlin following a German vote. In fact, he said, they arrived even against the will of those who were running the Hitler government.

I recalled that Gromyko claimed present conditions demanded change. However, I said, one fact of life today is people of West Berlin want us to remain. Our offer regarding a plebiscite, I explained, was made in case there is any doubt on the Soviet side about this fact. Gromyko insisted question of West Berlin does not depend on will of West Berliners because it is an international question and the interest of several states are involved. I agreed this was international question but pointed out that when we decided on this matter the wishes of the people should be taken into account and reiterated that if there is any doubt on the Soviet side about the wishes of West Berliners, a plebiscite could resolve those doubts. Gromyko then concluded stating he was sorry we had made no progress in our work and, on the basis of what is known about the US position, it seems clear it is not designed to permit agreement. I concluded that I had to agree with the first half of his comment, but of course could not accept the last half.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.61/2-162. Confidential; Priority.
  2. Document 274.
  3. Transmitted in telegram 1751, January 26. (Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/1-2662)
  4. A copy of the all-Berlin proposal, Annex 4 to Part 4 of the Washington Working Group Report, September 16, 1961, is ibid., Conference Files: Lot 65 D 366, CF 1951. The summary of the international access authority proposal was transmitted in telegram 1617, January 10. (Ibid., Central Files, 762.0221/1-1062)