283. Telegram From the Embassy in Germany to the Department of State1
1838. Paris for Embassy and Stoessel. CINCEUR for Norstad. I agree fully with suggestions contained in Berlin’s 1466.2 As I assess Soviet announcements of military flights in corridors on Feb 8 and 9 and attempted preemption air space up to 7500 feet, they add up to experimentation with new mode of procedure which can later be expanded into instrument for limiting Allied air access. If unchallenged, Soviets will have achieved important capability for degrading effective use of corridors on procedural and operational grounds, without necessity of justifying harassments with “controversial” issues of principle or law. Characteristic of their past changes in procedure, Soviets seem to be trying to introduce this departure cautiously and ambiguously, as illustrated by adherence to notification rules and by choice of air space “reservation,” which is below customary altitude commercial flights. I consider this is deliberate tactic aimed at minimizing our reaction.
In rough way utility of new procedure could be compared with such potential access barriers as Babelsberg maze or threats to repair Autobahn. Analogy with surface access, however, goes no further, since our rights in air corridors are unrestricted both by usage and agreement.
I therefore agree with Berlin that we must respond to new procedure vigorously and with purpose of deterring Soviets from continuing it. With this in mind we have formulated following specific recommendations for action Feb 9:
- USG should file flight plan and fly into Berlin at 15-20,000 foot altitude in one of two affected corridors.
- We should fly unarmed MATS flights below 7,500 feet in both corridors.
- We should also fly commercial passenger plane flights, with military crews but without passengers, in north or south corridor, below 7,500 foot altitude.
Flight over 10,000 ft level would precisely equalize Soviet moves, which if acquiesced in will have obvious effect of pinching our traffic [Page 797] into tight coffin of air which today was 3000 ft in height, tomorrow will be 2500 and in future could be further compressed. This should bring home to Soviets our ability to escape their squeeze by unwelcome counteraction and hopefully could lead to abandonment of gambit. Soviets should be held responsible for safety all these flights. With respect to commercial flights with passengers, the primary consideration in determining altitude should be safety of passengers.
Crux of matter continues to be maintenance of normal civil air transportation to Berlin and for this reason I consider it particularly important that we promptly join issue, rather than avoid it, by sending through commercial planes with USAF crews.
There has been no time to discuss this proposal with British, French or Germans here and we recognize that recommendation would involve partial implementation of Cloud Caper concept. Nevertheless, we should proceed along these lines.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 962.72/2-862. Secret; Niact; Limit Distribution. Repeated to London, Moscow, Paris, Berlin, USAREUR, USAFE, and CINCEUR.↩
- Telegram 1466, February 8, reported that the chief Soviet air controller had announced that Soviet military transports would be flying in both the northern and central air corridors on February 9. The telegram also advised that the British, who had primary responsibility for these corridors, should carry out operations in them and that the Western Allies should consider flying in the corridors above 10,000 feet. (Ibid.)↩