355. Paper Prepared in Response to National Security Study Memorandum 1461

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The present paper provides an analysis of US interests and possible policy moves with respect to the German Democratic Republic (GDR). Conclusions and recommendations are contained in the draft National Security Decision Memorandum which is attached as Annex A.2

Geographically, the territory of the GDR surrounds Berlin and forms the Warsaw Pact’s longest frontier with the NATO Alliance. It [Page 1003] constitutes the principal foreign stationing area of Soviet forces. Politically, the GDR is part of a larger German entity where the Four Powers continue to have special rights and responsibilities. It will remain a major concern for the Federal Republic of Germany and a factor of great sensitivity in the relationship between the FRG and its allies, particularly the US, UK, and France. For these reasons, what happens in the GDR is of special importance for the United States and is certain to remain so. Our main interest there will be to ensure that the GDR does not utilize its geographic position, its political status, or the strategic leverage resulting from the Soviet military presence, to undermine the security or viability of West Berlin. In addition, it will be to our advantage: (a) to open up the GDR to the liberalizing influence of increased contact with the West; (b) to encourage acceptance by the GDR leadership of a reasonable and constructive relationship with the FRG; (c) to obtain as much information as possible concerning developments in the GDR; (d) to expand economic relations; and (e) to afford consular services and protection to Americans traveling, or having business, in the GDR and East Berlin.

In considering a policy which will best conform with US interests, two principles must be taken into account as of overriding importance. First, as long as the United States retains primary responsibility for the security of the Western sectors of Berlin, the quadripartite rights and responsibilities with regard to Berlin and Germany as a whole must not be prejudiced. Second, no actions should be taken which would seriously strain relations with the FRG, since the FRG will remain vastly more important to the United States than the GDR.

In the past, these two principles have severely circumscribed the flexibility of the United States and the other Western Powers in dealing with the GDR. This situation is changing since the FRG now acknowledges the GDR’s existence as a separate state and is prepared to see it accepted as a UN member, if certain conditions are met. In addition, the Quadripartite Berlin Agreement includes Soviet recognition of the continuing validity of the Four Power rights and responsibilities and thus provides useful assurance that an enhanced status for the GDR need not affect these rights and responsibilities, particularly insofar as unimpeded access to Berlin is concerned.

The United States can, therefore, contemplate changes in its policy toward the GDR and, indeed, needs to do so, since events in train connected with the Federal Republic’s Eastern policy can lead to a fairly early enhancement in the status of the GDR. Since the UK and France share responsibility with us on the Western side, and since any Western moves affecting the GDR are of critical importance to the FRG, most changes can be undertaken only after consultation, and in many cases agreement, with the other Three Powers in the Bonn Group.

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Possible initiatives and changes in US policy fall within three general areas:

  • A more active American presence in the GDR and East Berlin. The United States, without recognizing the GDR or causing serious concern in Bonn, could pursue trade possibilities with the GDR more energetically, and seek to encourage more unofficial exchanges in the academic, cultural and scientific fields. As part of such initiatives, we could authorize US representatives to travel more widely in the GDR and deal more freely with East Germans as long as the East Germans are not functioning as members of the East German Government. The degree of success of such initiatives would depend on the reaction of the GDR, which until now has not been particularly cooperative.
  • GDR membership in the United Nations and participation in international organizations and agreements. The Four Western Powers presently contemplate that after the Berlin Agreement comes into effect negotiations will be undertaken with the Soviets and the East Germans to establish the conditions of UN membership for the two German states. These conditions are: (a) an understanding between the Three Powers and the Soviets, in which the FRG and the GDR would be associated, that UN membership will not alter the rights and responsibilities of the Four Powers; and (b) an agreement between the FRG and the GDR establishing a basis satisfactory to the FRG for their bilateral relationship. If these conditions are achieved, the Four Powers would jointly sponsor UN membership applications on behalf of the FRG and the GDR. It is possible that these conditions cannot be achieved before the GDR gains, through its own efforts, membership in a specialized agency of the United Nations. Similarly, meetings connected with a CSCE may begin first in which the GDR will participate and thus gain substantial enhancement. Several options would be open to the Western Powers under such circumstances, but the most likely course would be to continue efforts to achieve the conditions for UN membership while dealing pragmatically with the GDR’s participation in other fora on a basis of continued non-recognition.
  • US recognition of the GDR. If the conditions for UN membership can be achieved, the way would be open for the Three Western Powers to recognize the GDR bilaterally. The major advantage for the United States would be that we would then be in a better position to ensure that US interests in the GDR are effectively pursued. The major disadvantage would be the impression thereby created that we accept the division of Germany as more or less permanent, thus possibly raising some question as to the continued relevancy of Four Power rights and responsibilities for Germany as a whole. Difficult negotiations with the GDR would undoubtedly be required to establish a satisfactory basis for the operation of an American Embassy accredited to the [Page 1005] GDR. The location of the Embassy would itself raise a problem— though not of an insuperable nature—since East Berlin, while patently serving as the capital of the GDR, is not recognized as part of the GDR by the Three Western Powers.

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  1. Source: National Security Council, Secretariat Files, NSSM Files, NSSM 146. Secret. The date is taken from an April 20 memorandum from Hillenbrand forwarding the paper to Kissinger. NSSM 146 is Document 341. Hillenbrand, acting as chairman of the Interdepartmental Group on Europe, noted that the Departments of State, Defense, Treasury, and Commerce, as well as the Central Intelligence Agency and the United States Information Agency, all participated in its preparation. Davis circulated the paper for discussion at the Senior Review Group meeting on April 26. (Memorandum from Davis to Johnson, Rush, Moorer, Helms, and Under Secretary of Treasury Walker; ibid.) The meeting, however, was postponed, presumably as Kissinger was busy preparing the President for his televised address that evening on Vietnam. See also Document 383.
  2. Attached but not printed.