308. Telegram From the Embassy in Germany to the Department of State1

2075. Paris for Emb, USRO, Stoessel and McGuire. Deptel 2356 to Bonn, Moscow’s 2290 and Embtel 1889 to Dept.2 Sov actions affecting access can assume many permutations, most predictable element of which is that they rarely take form we anticipate. Unless access authority [Page 845] is established, Allied traffic can eventually only be checked either by GDR or USSR. As Emb understands it, Allies could presumably postulate response to two “possibilities” raised by French on extant agreed guidelines and contingency plans. Generally speaking, first action would hardly be exceptionable as final outcome so long as Allies are concerned not about pretensions but about consequences of USSR-GDR separate “peace treaty.” Second action would be unacceptable under current contingency plans which provide that we would accept East Germans at checkpoints if they introduced no procedural changes. Certainly in latter and presumably in first case we would continue to hold Sovs responsible.

German touchiness about “reverse agent” role for Sovs, as explained in Emb’s reftel, does not seem to derive from logical examination of alternatives, since principal alternative would be for GDR to check Allied traffic, but rather appears to reflect concern that comfortable accommodation on Allied access would leave German civil traffic out in cold. Today’s Frankfurter Allgemeine carries Am Ende story from Berlin about Allied proposal for access authority which typifies German anxieties. Story cites “political circles” and Senat reps as objecting to idea of such authority since Sovs could “sabotage it.”

There is no evidence known [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] here that German intelligence has received any reports that USSR is on verge of declaring itself GDR agent re Allied access. Indeed it is characteristic of this topic that German FonOff floated it in press, and French are now raising rumor quadripartitely without pretext it derives from intelligence data. In fact, French here attribute rumor to German newspaper report, and FonOff rep in quadripartite committee meeting today expressed surprise that matter was raised at all in Wash and professed ignorance of source of rumor. Emb nevertheless suspects possible French/German coordination on this, although their working level reps may be unaware of it. Aim of exercise may be to ascertain either (1) what US/UK would do in such contingency, or (2) whether US/UK have received any private assurances (beyond Gromyko proposal) from USSR that Sovs would act as agents. In latter connection Wolf of FonOff Sov Referat on Feb 24 told Emb off FonOff was interested to have learned from courtesy copies of correspondence that Khrushchev in Dec letter to Macmillan3 anticipated Gromyko’s offer to let Sov personnel control Allied access and that Macmillan had replied that fact of access was of more importance than formalities. Wolf commented privately this seemed to indicate Brit would go pretty far.

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Fact that French subject is basically only hypothetical construct does not mean that USSR could not at any moment make move on Autobahn controls. Shifting field is essence of Sov tactics, and they have now let surface access alone for some months.

Emb is inclined to speculate, however, that as long as Thompson-Gromyko talks are continuing and still open-ended, it seems likely USSR will refrain from introducing radical procedural changes on access based on political reinterpretations or new principles without some sort of warning. In view of present Sov actions in corridors, it seems more likely that any immediate Sov harassments on Autobahn would be of practical and technical nature, such as closing lanes for repairs, slowdown of clearance procedures, etc., with avoidance of clear political issues in favor of technical ones.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 962.72/2-2862. Secret. Received at 8:34 p.m. Repeated to London, Paris, Berlin, and Moscow.
  2. Telegram 1889 from Bonn, February 14, reported that an AP correspondent had inquired if the Embassy knew about a German Foreign Ministry release that indicated the Soviets were planning to become agents for the GDR in checking Allied Autobahn traffic. (Ibid., 862.181/2-1462) Telegram 2356 to Bonn, February 26, reported that the French had also raised this question at a meeting of the Quadripartite Contingency Planning Group. The French suggested that the Soviets might put the GDR stamp on Allied documents in place of their own or permit GDR officials to stamp Allied documents at the same time that Soviet officials did. (Ibid.) In telegram 2290 from Moscow, February 27, Thompson speculated that, having met a firm Western response on the question of air corridors, the Soviets might turn to land access where they might believe they could now involve the GDR. (Ibid., 862.72/2-2762)
  3. See footnote 3, Document 243.