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

1234. Zorin summoned me to FonOff at 10:30 pm local time to inform me that after my earlier demarche1Sov authorities had made thorough investigation of Berlin situation and had ascertained that situation described by me did not correspond to facts.2

According to Zorin, facts were that early this morning convoy consisting of 18 vehicles, 61 men, appeared at checkpoint, refused comply with established procedures and was held up. Such refusal, said Zorin, was clearly in violation of agreed understanding that personnel in convoys of more than five vehicles were obliged to dismount. Shortly thereafter a second convoy consisting of 27 vehicles and 140 personnel complied with existing procedures and thus was cleared by Soviet authorities. Thereupon a US Army major appeared on the scene and informed Sov officer in charge at checkpoint that convoy which had already been cleared would not proceed until other convoy also cleared. When Sov officer in charge refused to accede to US officer’s demand latter ordered the second convoy to stand in place and as result both convoys remain at checkpoint. Thus, according to Zorin, it is crystal clear [Page 607] from carefully checked facts that there has been no violation of established procedures on part Sov authorities, that hold up is result of deliberately planned maneuver of US military authorities in Berlin who have themselves attempted unilaterally to change existing procedures and establish new ones. It is obvious to the Sov Govt that the US military authorities in Berlin have incorrectly informed the US Govt of the situation at checkpoint and have deliberately acted in such a way as to complicate situation.

Zorin continued that Sov military authorities are under strict orders to carry out established procedures; if US authorities should abide by such procedures then there would be no problem. Appropriate instructions, therefore, should be given to US military authorities to comply with procedures and to avoid complicating situation in Berlin. With regard to general Sov policy, Zorin said Sov Govt stands for peace, has no intention of doing anything to worsen existing relationships. For reasons he had stated Zorin said Sov Govt could not accept protest which I had made in earlier meeting.

In reply I questioned Zorin’s statement with regard to what he referred to as an agreed understanding that convoys of more than five vehicles were subject to the dismounting procedure. I said that in my long experience with Berlin problems I had never heard that such an agreement existed. My understanding was that the principal requirement was that Sov authorities should be in a position to estimate the number of personnel in a particular convoy and if for this purpose dismounting should be required then it would be so ordered by the convoy commander. Meanwhile I could assure him that our military authorities had strict instructions to comply with established procedures but also were obliged to insure that existing procedures were not changed unilaterally by Sov authorities. Obviously then our military authorities regarded the requirement to dismount in this case as a deviation from standing procedures on the part of Sov authorities and thus they had refused to comply. While I would, of course, report Zorin’s remarks immediately to my govt, I hoped that current situation could be liquidated and convoys permitted to proceed. If the problem had arisen as a result of disagreement between us as to what size convoy should be subjected to the dismounting procedure, then perhaps this was a question which should be discussed between us later.

Zorin countered with a reiteration of his argument that the present crisishad arisen because of the refusal of one convoy to comply with the procedure with which similar convoy had complied. He could see no logic in this. He pointed out that from time to time our military authorities have deliberately created incidents which complicate the situation in Berlin; the last of these took place in May when a convoy was also delayed for several hours. In his view, if US military authorities would [Page 608] complywith existing procedures in every case then there would be no incident.

I again told Zorin that in my view there was clearly a difference between us as to what constituted normal practices and procedures. So far as I was aware there existed no agreement as to what size convoy should be subject to the dismounting procedure; our authorities followed the practice of dismounting only to facilitate a determination by Sov authorities as to number of personnel in the convoy. In all honesty and contrary to his assertion, we had had the impression that the Sov military, to use a phrase I had sometimes heard, were trying to “tread on our corns”.

Zorin said he could not agree. It was perfectly clear from the facts of the situation that Sov authorities had not introduced nor did they intend to introduce any change in existing procedures. On the other hand, it was equally clear that our military authorities wished precisely to do this. In Zorin’s view, refusal to comply with existing procedures was a deliberate act on the part of our military authorities.

I again assured Zorin I would report his remarks and once more expressed the hope that the present tension could be removed. Subsequently we could discuss in the proper forum what was an obvious disagreement as to established procedures. Meanwhile I could assure Zorin that neither the US Govt nor US military authorities had attempted to change what we understand as established procedures.

Zorin concluded the conversation by expressing the hope that our military authorities would be given instructions to comply with existing procedures.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 38–10. Secret; Flash. Received at 10:33 p.m. on October 11 and relayed to the White House, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and the CIA at 11:20 p.m. Repeated to Bonn, Berlin, Paris, and London.
  2. See Document 223.
  3. Shortly before noon October 12, the Soviets removed the vehicles blocking Convoy U.S. 27 and processed the convoy into Berlin.