54. Memorandum From David Klein of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)0


  • The Next Steps on Berlin

I am attaching the working paper on “The Next Steps on Berlin” which is now on its way to Chip Bohlen and the Secretary for their comments and suggestions. At this juncture we have no idea what will emerge after the Secretary and Chip Bohlen have had a chance to wrestle with the problem.

As we see the exercise (Martin,1 Henry Owen and I went over it at some length), there are two problems which must be resolved for the achievement of a satisfactory Berlin arrangement—Soviet acceptance of our military presence in Berlin and acceptable arrangements for our access to the city and a gesture on our part which meets the Soviet concept of “respect for GDR sovereignty”.

Foy 2 feels strongly that in view of the Salinger conversations3 in Moscow (I have not seen the Moscow report on them and therefore am prepared to accept Foy’s reaction), the question of the Western military [Page 152] presence in Berlin must be nailed down firmly before we move too far ahead in our exploratory discussions with the Soviets.

And as soon as there is some indication of Soviet give in this matter, we can make a significant move on the question of “respect for GDR sovereignty”, indicating a readiness to accept a GDR presence at the access control points. These would be the essential elements of the “deal”, with the non-aggression and non-diffusion commitments added.

You talked yesterday about a possible change in nomenclature for the Western forces such as “police forces”, which might make our military presence saleable to the Soviets. I am not aware of any indication that a police force would be more acceptable to the Soviets than a military force unless this was suggested by Salinger in his Moscow talks. However, in his comments to Gardner Cowles, Khrushchev did say “Western troops must leave Berlin or at least give up their occupation status”, which I took to mean that some formula which removed the words “occupation forces” might be acceptable. We could explore this possibility with the Soviets once we had some indication that they were prepared to live with our forces in Berlin.

As for tactics, the consensus of Hillenbrand, Owen and Klein was that we should avoid tabling papers; attempt for the time being to get German agreement on the substance of the revised Draft Principles Paper; and let the Secretary present to the Soviets orally what the Germans have agreed to substantively, with the Secretary improvising the orchestration as he goes along.

A new paper might be needed later. For the present however we should avoid new documents, and eliminate the interminable debate with our Allies over words, phrases and punctuation.

German agreement to the present draft of the Principles Paper should give us sufficient license to move ahead with the Dobrynin dialogue. And this would be consistent with the President’s commitment to Adenauer on the question of consultation.

Henry again suggested an early offer to the Soviets of accepting the GDR at the check points. After some discussion, it was agreed that this might be in order but only after two or three more rounds with Dobrynin, and provided Dobrynin gave some indication of give in the Soviet position on the Western military presence in Berlin.

As for transforming the character of the talks—by shifting their level and locus—and perhaps letting Bohlen and/or Kohler carry them on privately with Dobrynin away from the Department, the consensus was that this would be useful, but only after the Secretary made progress in nailing down the principal points under discussion.

The immediate task then is to establish Soviet intentions, to ascertain whether serious negotiations are possible. And if there appears to [Page 153] be promise of Soviet movement, we should set down the principal elements of an acceptable arrangement along the general lines of the proposed Draft Principles.

Allied consultation remains a tricky problem. In view of the experience of the last few weeks, however, the general feeling is that some of the difficulty might be avoided if there were fewer papers tabled and greater reliance placed on oral explanations with the Soviets.



We assume that (a) the possibilities of reaching an understanding with the Soviets on Berlin have not yet been exhausted, no matter how slim they may now seem, and (b) the case for continuing U.S. contacts with the Soviets on Berlin remains strong, whatever be the current judgment as to the urgency or lack of urgency with which the latter view the situation. Under present circumstances there would accordingly seem to be five possible courses of action which we might consider:
To concede fully that we cannot move any farther or faster than the Germans want us to. This would mean waiting for the substantive comments which they promised at Athens to give us on the revised “principles paper” and the International Access Authority paper but not presenting the Soviets with any further paper until they had made some major concession or at least until the situation had developed to a point where the Germans accepted the tactical desirability of putting such a paper forward. It would presumably mean continuing the exchanges between the Secretary of State and Ambassador Dobrynin, but at a deliberate pace and without the introduction of any significant new substantive materials on the part of the West.
To accept the German judgment that we should put another paper forward at this time but, in the light of their substantive comments on the revised “principles paper”, to have the Secretary, in his discretion, explore orally with Dobrynin possible language changes in the “principles paper” given to the Soviets at Geneva.
To put pressure on the Germans after receiving their comments on the revised “principles paper” with a view to their accepting, no matter how reluctantly, that we present it to the Soviets at an early stage rather than awaiting some major concession.
To foreshorten the negotiations process drastically through fairly unorthodox methods in order to achieve either early agreement or [Page 154] clear deadlock within a period of some 6 to 8 weeks. This might involve giving the Soviets a revised “principles paper”, embodying, in effect, our fallback positions, and stressing that, if the Soviets want changes additional to those made, then we would have to consider the talks as deadlocked and our proposals withdrawn. While we would not break off contacts, we would say that the U.S. had no intention of using them to discuss further changes in our “principles paper” and that the talks might well be transferred to a lower level.
To start with the assumption that the experience of the past month has shown that the U.S. cannot conduct exploratory talks with the Soviets in a useful way and at the same time observe the amenities of conventional consultation with our Allies. We might, therefore, try to put our contacts with the Soviets on an even more private and confidential basis, without consulting our Allies in advance or from meeting to meeting. We would make it clear to the Soviets that any proposals advanced or discussed were entirely provisional without any commitment on our part or that of our Allies. Only if there seemed to be a real prospect of agreement with the Soviets along lines which might have been developed in these discussions, would we then take up substantive proposals with our Allies preparatory to moving into the more formal kind of negotiations required for a definitive arrangement in which they would be included.
None of the foregoing fails to raise serious problems, but, on balance, 1(b) seems to involve the least practical difficulties and still to be consistent with the objective of continuing contacts with the Soviets to further explore whether the possibility of an agreement exists.
We cannot permit ourselves to be diplomatically sterilized, as the most extreme interpretations of Adenauer’s position would make us, nor can we logically refuse to discuss our “principles paper” with the Soviets as something which might conceivably be modified to take account of the Geneva talks, as long as our basic interests are being preserved. At the same time, to put forward a revised version of the “principles paper” in writing, against the express wishes of the Germans, would run counter to the assurances we have given them and might precipitate another Donnybrook of the kind we just had.
The shock approach suggested in 1(d) might have to be considered if we had any reason to think that time were running out, and that the Soviets would ineluctably move ahead within the near future to take the unilateral action which they have threatened, unless some dramatic Western gesture of this sort were made. This does not seem to be the case. Ambassador Thompson in Moscow believes it unlikely that the Soviets will pay our price for a real Berlin solution and that the present “neither peace nor war” situation will continue. After an effort at some sort of a deal with the West Germans, Ambassador Thompson thinks,[Page 155] Khrushchev would sign his separate peace treaty but would take steps to prevent it from bringing on serious conflict with the West. Moreover, for the U.S. to offer further concessions without any indication of give in the Soviet position, would be a debatable negotiating tactic. The Soviets would be unlikely to be impressed by U.S. statements that this was the ultimate in concessions, and it is not clear precisely what the alternative course of action for the U.S. would be if the Soviets did not accept these concessions and we were then forced to carry out our threat to cut off discussions with the Soviets on the “principles paper”. Such a statement of purpose on the part of the U.S. may become desirable at some point in the discussions, but it does not seem to have been reached at the present stage.
If such a new tactical approach were to be followed, it presumably would have to be done without prior consultation with our Allies, following the procedures suggested in 1(e). This latter might, of course, also be used for a more leisurely approach. The difficulty with 1(e) is that it leaves us at the mercy of the Soviets. By leaking out the contents of such “private” discussions, they could completely foul up our relations with our Allies and bring about a real rather than a synthetic crisis of confidence. Soviet bad faith apart, it is difficult to believe that talks could actually be carried on without becoming known to our Allies. The pressures therefore for information would be difficult to resist.
As to the substance of our position, we should shortly have the German comments on the “principles paper” discussed at Athens. These may or may not be helpful, but under the circumstances we would presumably have more flexibility orally than in trying to put in a new paper. Two revisions of the International Access Authority paper have been prepared as the U.S. side—one attempts to adapt the Soviet version presented to us in Geneva; the other attempts to adapt our version by incorporating a number of Soviet suggestions. Since the main German objection was to the make-up of the Board of Governors, and since neither of these versions takes care of this point, it would seem desirable to await the German comments on the old paper which they have promised before floating the new versions.4
  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Germany, Berlin. Secret.
  2. Martin J. Hillenbrand.
  3. Foy D. Kohler.
  4. See Document 48.
  5. On May 22 Carstens called Dowling to the Foreign Ministry and handed him an aide-memoire giving the German observations on the draft principles paper and the access authority. In reviewing the comments Dowling observed that there were no surprises, and that Carstens had used the term “important” only in regard to nuclear diffusion (stressing that there must be no valid basis for any Soviet objection to a NATO multilateral force) and West German military access to Berlin. (Telegram 2826 from Bonn, May 22; Department of State, Central Files, 762.0221/5–2262) A translation of the aide-memoire was transmitted in telegram 2827 from Bonn, May 22. (Ibid.)