229. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Germany0

1130. Paris also for USRO. Ref: Berlin 504, Bonn 1378.1 Subject: Allied Autobahn Convoys.

Possibility exists we may be faced with Soviet challenge on autobahn in effort to impose new convoy procedures, this despite [Page 612] Gromyko’s categorical assurances to Secretary that Soviets were not trying to change procedures or cause incidents. Therefore, planning should proceed on this assumption.
Soviets have been trying for some time to alter established procedures for Allied autobahn convoys, as they relate to advance notification and dismounting. They have alsobeen trying to get US to adopt British and French practice of lowering tailgates on request, although US vehicles are so constructed as to make this unnecessary.
Question of advance notification has had checkered career over the years, with practices varying widely. In recent past, however, Soviets have sought to demand that the checkpoint be informed in advance of all convoys of more than five vehicles. Although notaccepting this requirement, Allies have so composed their convoys as to avoid issue.
So far as we are aware, dismounting to be counted is relatively new practice, introduced by US convoy commander for first time when US augmentation battle group sent to Berlin in August, 1961. Soviets apparently took liking to practice and it became standard part of convoy ritual. Allied practices have varied from timeto time, and Soviet desires have never been entirely clear.
During 1962 Allied authorities in Bonn and Berlin unsuccessfully attempted to reach agreement on standard procedures. This attempt apparently failed because US and French were unwilling to adopt UK procedures. These went too far to meet Soviet demands, which USand French deemed unreasonable. British were unwilling to adopt US procedures since to do so would require them in effectto engage in a roll-back vis-à-vis the Soviets.Bonn Embassies recommended to governments that they agree to disagree on procedures but to back each other in case of trouble. UK Foreign Office approved this recommendation and declined our (bilateral) proposal to consider question in Ambassadorial Group.
Recent Soviet actions have focused attention again on procedural differences. Three Commandants in Berlin have suggested common procedures to Live Oak and recommended that Soviets not be informed of differing Allied procedures until attempt made to agree on common procedures (Berlin 504). Quadripartite Bonn Ambassadorial Group (Bonn 1378) has recommended to governments and Washington Ambassadorial Group that Soviets be informed ofAllied procedures in such a way as to preclude negotiations on procedures. It has also recommended that this should be done independently of harmonization but that subsequent attempt be made to harmonize procedures in such way as to avoid weakening our position.

We propose now to take up following questions on urgent basis in Ambassadorial Group:

Should Allied governments make another attempt to agree on harmonized procedures?
Whether procedures are harmonized or not, should Allies inform Soviets of their procedures?
If so, in what form and where?

In view opportunity presented by recent incidents, we believe we should make serious new effort harmonize procedures. We are mindful, however, that convoy procedures, even on three disputed questions, are complicated, and it may not be easy to work out agreed formulae. We are now awaiting General Lemnitzer’s recommendations (Berlin 504).

Whether we can agree on procedures or not, we are also inclined support recommendations of Commandants and Bonn Ambassadors that we inform Soviets. (We have already given Soviets certain information on dismount procedure in connection recent convoy incident.)
Our attitude toward locale for informing Soviets will depend on whether Allies agree on procedures. If we do, we would favor aide-memoire delivered in Moscow. If we do not, we would favor capitals.
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 38–10. Confidential; Immediate; Limit Distribution. Drafted by Ausland on October 17; cleared by Clay, Rusk (in draft), Tyler, Klein, the Department of Defense (ISA), L, and GER; and approved by Davis. Repeated to Paris, Berlin, London, Moscow, U.S. Element Live Oak, SHAPE, CINCEUR, USAREUR, and USAFE.
  2. Dated October 16, telegram 504 from Berlin reported that at their meeting on that day, the Berlin Commandants agreed that the only way to settle Autobahn harassments was to make convoy procedures “cut and dried” and convey them tothe Soviet Union at a high level. (Ibid.) Telegram 1378 from Bonn, also dated October 16, summarized a meeting of the Bonn Quadripartite Ambassadorial Group that day, which discussed a British convoy that was being held up by the Soviet Union. The Group agreed that convoy procedures should be harmonized and the Soviet Union notified about the agreedprocedures. (Ibid.)