61. Telegram From the Embassy in Germany to the Department of State1

11943. Subj: Czechoslovakia.

I know that urgent attention is being given in the Department to the question of what the reaction should be in the event of Soviet military intervention in Czechoslovakia. This is also the case in the FRG and the FonOff has already asked us what the US will do if the Czech Government should request our assistance. Under the circumstances, I wish to set down relevant considerations as seen from here.
It is inevitable, of course, to recall the Hungarian experience. A major difference in the case of Czechoslovakia, however, is the presence of substantial US forces in Germany. This means that, contrary to the Hungarian case, we could in theory signal our support for the Czech Government by moving our troops closer to the Czech border or, indeed, cross the border to assist the Czechs in warding off a Soviet attack. I cannot, of course, on the basis of my responsibilities in Germany, make any significant contribution to whether this is desirable per se. Not only Germany but NATO would be deeply involved.
There is now a different attitude on the part of the German Government on dealing with the Soviets than was true a few years ago. The coalition’s Eastern policy is not the same as that of previous governments. FonOff Acting Assistant Secretary Sahm raised the matter with us in a very preliminary way, and the view he conveyed can be summarized as follows: (a) the FRG must avoid any involvement internally in Czechoslovakia and (b) the United States should not undertake any action re Czechoslovakia from Germany, i.e., the utilization of any US forces stationed here. During the meeting this afternoon on border security (reported by septel)2 Sahm, after a direct telephone call from State Secretary Duckwitz, emphasized the German wish that the United States fully respect German sovereignty in planning for a Czech emergency. Sahm also suggested that we review very carefully the output of Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty, and RIAS during the current period. He clearly meant that any statements emanating from German soil which might seem to constitute intervention in the Czech situation should be avoided.
If the likelihood of Soviet military intervention increases, I believe that there should be further high level discussion with the FRG in order to insure that our thinking and planning on how to meet any crisis [Page 196] that might arise are running parallel. My present assessment—which still requires testing at a high German level—is that it would be unrealistic for us to think in terms of countermeasures involving action in or from Germany even if we were inclined in this direction.3
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL CZECH. Secret; Limdis. Repeated to USNATO, Prague, Munich, USEUCOM, USAREUR, and USAFE.
  2. Telegram 11942 from Bonn, May 10. (Ibid, DEF 1–1 GER–W)
  3. In telegram 11943 to Bonn, May 11, the Department of State responded that it would seek to avoid any military provocation by U.S. forces within Germany and was restraining the content of broadcasts in an effort to avoid any pretext for Soviet military action in Czechoslovakia. (Ibid.)