223. Telegram From the Embassy in the Soviet Union to the Department of State0

1233. Subj: Detention American convoy at Babelsberg. After some delay, I was able to see Zorin at 2000 local time, after he returned to Foreign Office for purpose. (We were told yesterday Kuznetzov “out of town”.) I repeated to him Secretary’s instructions as received by phone from Davis,1 stressing: serious nature situation; unacceptability Soviet attempt change established procedures unilaterally and by force; effect in jeopardizing efforts improve relations; and incompatability with Gromyko statements to President. I asked matter be brought personal attention Khrushchev soonest.

In reply to Zorin’s request for details, I said I was not yet fully informed present situation, but apparently it was similar yesterday’s in which Soviet officers demanded our convoy dismount in contravention customary procedure.

Zorin said Dobrynin telephoned half hour before to report Secretary’s statement,2 but Zorin had no further details present situation [Page 602] Babelsberg. Concerning Marienborn incident he said convoys would not comply with usual inspection procedure, thus causing delay; when convoys complied they were allowed proceed. Zorin pointed out there is good deal of convoy traffic at present time, most convoys complied with established procedures but these did not. He said this situation represented nothing new from Sov side, but merely a refusal by US troops to meet usual demands. Zorin, in accordance with my request, would check into situation and asked us check facts as well. Khrushchev was not in town but Zorin would deliver message those acting his stead.

I pointed out that our reports on situation differed. I said my understanding was that Marienborn convoys were released without dismounting. In any case Sov function was to facilitate US passage—not grant, deny or control. I again stressed urgency of situation, saying convoys now blocked by armored cars, and publicity bound be harmful. Finally I noted that when questioned by correspondents today I said I doubted that this situation had arisen as a result of deliberate Soviet policy to cause crisis. Zorin agreed and stressed that Sov side had no intention create difficulties and that if this true of US side, all would be well.

Since my call on Zorin bound to come to attention local American correspondents, I have felt it best course to inform them without details that purpose of call was to protest, on instructions, detention of convoy by Sovs at Babelsberg.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 38–10. Secret; Immediate. Repeated to Bonn, Berlin, London, and Paris. A notation on the source text states that it was received at 7:10 p.m. and relayed to the White House at 7:47 p.m., but it must have been available earlier since it is referred to in the meeting with the President at 5:30 p.m.; see Document 224.
  2. No record of this conversation has been found.
  3. A record of this Rusk-Dobrynin conversation is in the Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Germany, Berlin, Autobahn Crisis.