31. Telegram From the Mission at Berlin to the Department of State0
1891. Eyes only for Rusk from Clay. While it is much too soon for positive diagnosis and probably for this message, the change in Soviet attitude since the final Rusk-Gromyko talk must be given real significance. At this point, I am inclined to believe that it marks the full end of the wall crisis and that we have won this round which started just after the wall was in place.[Page 99]
I believe that the Soviets and East Germans had to erect a wall to stop refugee flow but that it was hoped also it would panic West Berlin and lead to Allied disagreements, particularly with FRG. Thus, harassments against Allies were stepped up in the belief that Allied failure to react would aid in creating panic in West Berlin.
We met their harassments promptly and while I sometimes thought with less strength than was desirable, I must admit with sufficient strength to nullify any real fears they might have developed in West Berlin and to convince the Soviet representatives that harassments to be effective would truly involve the risk of war. Meanwhile, West Berlin, temporarily stunned by the wall, recovered its morale and maintained a thriving economy. It was evident that harassment alone could not destroy West Berlin.
I do not pretend to know what the next Soviet move will be other than to continue talks in a less oppressive atmosphere. However, I doubt if harassments will remain the order of the day and I would predict a stable and quiet situation here for several months. If there are no negotiations or if negotiations take place and fail, we may expect another Berlin crisis. If it comes again some months from now, I would expect it to be directed against the West Berlin economy rather than against the Allies.
I would urge even now that we increase our effort to sharpen our counter measures, particularly to enable economic sanctions and blockades to be placed in effect promptly. I think we have won a battle but not the campaign and that we now have an interlude in which we can get ready for the next battle.
Once again, I repeat that I think the immediate crisis in Berlin created by the wall is over and that we have won this round. While it is still only a battle and not the campaign, you have my sincere congratulations for bringing it about.1
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/4–662. Secret; Priority.↩
- In telegram 1892 from Berlin, April 6, Clay elaborated further on signs in Berlin that indicated a definite change in the Soviet position. Citing Soviet cessation of harassing flights, their agreement on the status of military missions, overtures to discuss the impasse over visits by the Soviet and U.S. Commandants, and general friendliness of Soviet representatives, Clay stated that the West could agree to cut down the number of convoys using the Autobahn in an effort to meet these Soviet advances. (Ibid.)↩