284. Telegram From the Embassy in the Soviet Union to the Department of State 1

2175. Eyes only for Secretary. Gromyko opened meeting with 15-page declaration (sent by septel,2 original text pouched to Kohler today). I then told Gromyko I had following preliminary remarks to make and expressed general disappointment contents his declaration. Regarding the objectives of our talks, I stated our aim has been to seek agreement and to reduce tensions. “We would prefer a treaty with a reunified Germany. Since that doesn’t now seem possible, we have tried to find an arrangement which would take account of existing realities and to reduce tensions.” As far as procedure is concerned, I reiterated that we have made clear why we believe access question logically should be dealt with first. Insofar as other questions Gromyko raised are [Page 798] concerned, such as frontiers, I stated there has been no change in our position since he had talked with Secretary and President. I emphasized to him that while we are prepared to discuss such questions in due course, it would be impossible for us to achieve agreement with our Allies on these questions until we know fairly precisely the nature of agreement on Berlin.

I denied categorically Gromyko’s contention that we desire retain West Berlin as a military springboard. Reminded him Khrushchev himself had once pointed out Western troops in Berlin have no military significance and in case of conflict he would prefer have as many there as possible since they would all be taken prisoner. I emphasized that our obligations to peoples of West Berlin made it necessary retain our troops there.

Regarding international access authority, I confessed could not understand incompatibility thereof with so-called sovereignty of GDR since Soviet proposal also would apparently provide access guarantees for West Berlin. Added, in our opinion, IAA would prevent tensions over access.

I stated we could not of course agree with Gromyko’s claim that East Berlin was part of GDR. Pointed out that if we could reach agreement on Berlin question it would in itself reduce most of the tension there. It is because we are unable to agree, that much of the tension present exists.

I expressed surprise Gromyko again raised question of symbolic Soviet contingents in West Berlin, pointing out that my government has made its position on this question clear on several occasions. I repeated that we are unable to see how Soviets can first dispose of their part of Berlin and then pretend to have rights in the other part. Also questioned why Soviets feel it necessary place deadline on presence foreign troop contingents, even under their proposal, since troops are and would be to guarantee Berlin security. This security would remain important until a final resolution of German question.

I then stated that Gromyko had spoken of a peace treaty, even a separate peace treaty, as means reduce tension. I questioned how any action which would threaten vital rights Western powers can contribute to reducing tension. Reminded Gromyko that we have never said we would oppose mere conclusion of a peace treaty with force but that they claim this action would liquidate our rights. I again asked what then would be position of our forces there.

Gromyko expressed inability understand how, if Western powers also have aim of reducing tension, they can oppose Soviet proposals for peace treaty and free and demilitarized city of West Berlin. He insisted retention of “the remnants of WW Two and the occupation regime” is [Page 799] not means of reducing tension and improving relations between our two states. “Soviet Government categorically refuses agree to maintenance existing situation in Germany—absence peace treaty and maintenance occupation regime, which we are convinced are source of tensions and possible conflict.” He continued, Soviet Government cannot agree procrastination present situation.

Gromyko, as in earlier meetings, then expressed regret that so far it has not been possible achieve progress due to US position.

He stated he accepted my explanation that there has been no change in USG position since his talks with Secretary and President, but he said my statement that agreement with Allies impossible until access agreed attests to fact we are trying to impose a plan on these talks to effect that they must revolve around access question. While this is Western position, he continued, Soviet position differs. “We consider it necessary that all questions including peace treaty and West Berlin problem be discussed.” He reiterated that Soviet Government, including Khrushchev himself, does not reject discussion access question which he had already discussed with me.

Gromyko then turned to my reference to Khrushchev statement regarding Western troops in Berlin. He agreed Khrushchev had made such statement to President in Vienna, but, he said, that is exactly why we are doubly surprised West attempting maintain occupation regime in West Berlin, and so opposed to their withdrawal or addition Soviet contingents if troops have no military significance. “They do, however, have significance because they turn West Berlin into serious center of danger by their presence.” Gromyko claimed my statement that forces present in Berlin in response obligations to defend West Berlin population is simply an argument to support US desire retain our troops in West Berlin. He declared “we have no relationship to these obligations.” Western troops came to West Berlin under entirely different obligations—those assumed by the alliance against Hitler Germany. He insisted alleged obligations Western powers to West Berlin population are not legitimate and are without any international legal force. “They also do not reduce tension, but run contrary to the aims assumed by alliance after defeat Hitlerite Germany, that is, the establishment of a peace-loving democratic state of Germany.” Leaving aside fact no one intends disturb West Berlin order, Gromyko stated, such obligations do not arise in Potsdam Agreement or any other agreement we have participated in. He added afterthought, “which you have broken.”

Gromyko then turned to my question, which he described as “variant,” why deadline necessary on troops in West Berlin since purpose is to guarantee security. He stated Soviet Government considers indefinite retention Western forces and Soviet forces in West Berlin quite impossible. [Page 800] Such situation does not meet interests of our two states or of peace and security.

Gromyko criticized my statement USG not so much concerned with Soviet peace treaty with GDR, as with its effect on position of Western powers in West Berlin. “Such a situation unthinkable since conclusion peace treaty is not simply formality, but a major step from which would flow important measures.” He concluded by reiterating Soviet Government prefers agreed solution but again said, “Unfortunately, so far position of USG offers no hope for success.”

I replied with: Regard question of free city, I had already expressed my views and my government undoubtedly will comment further; regarding question of agreement with our Allies, I pointed out I had not referred just to access, but to nature of the whole settlement of Berlin problem; regarding his remarks on our obligations to population of Berlin having no legal force with Soviets, I pointed out this might be, but he had said Soviets could not consider all-Berlin solution because East Berlin is the capital of GDR. We did not agree with this and “this claim has no legal force with us”; I repeated that US attaches importance maintenance our troops in West Berlin until resolution German question, but denied any intention create a “springboard”. Gromyko began to develop his previous arguments that basic social differences which have emerged between West and East Berlin are basis [omission in the source text] but he apparently thought better of it, and we closed the meeting with my reiteration assurance I would transmit his declaration soonest.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762.0221/2-962. Confidential; Priority.
  2. The Soviet paper was transmitted in telegram 2177 from Moscow, February 9, 10 p.m. (Ibid.)