115. Telegram From the Mission at Berlin to the Department of State1

219. Paris for Emb, USRO, Stoessel and McGuire. Following is our estimate present situation.

As result increased refugee flow and related Communist prestige loss,SED regime with specific approval of Soviets and other Warsaw Pact countries has taken drastic control action to prevent entry their own people to West Berlin. Seal-off SovZone and East Berlin from West Berlin by military and police action has torn completely asunder residual [Page 342] web of one city fabric and of Four-Power status Berlin. Such closure boundary around West Berlin was doubtless contemplated by East as one consequence of separate peace treaty with GDR. Timing of action was apparently altered by internal GDR pressures. Increased refugee flow forced Sov/GDR hand and action of direct brute force has created a fait accompli. Well planned and abundantly accoutered with a massive display of military and police power, action was initially unqualifiedly successful and continues thus far successful so far as population East Germany or Berlin reaction is concerned, not to mention overall Western reaction.

It appears to us that there are two alternative interpretations of significance of events past 4 days:

Since Sovs/GDR have attained by direct action such important desiderata from their standpoint, it might be argued that it should be easier hence to negotiate with them an interim solution concerning West Berlin. Clear as it was before, it should now be crystal-clear that there is no possibility whatsoever of effective negotiations now with the Sovs concerning a broad all-German settlement which would of itself take care of the Berlin problem. Having thus already obtained such important results by last Sunday’s actions, Sovs/GDR may be more “reasonable” in negotiations on other aspects of a possible Berlin arrangement.
On other hand, it may be argued that if Sovs/GDR are able to “get away” with this fait accompli, other similar actions may be undertaken by them prior to any negotiations and they may be even more demanding in such negotiations. Having taken such a big slice of salami and successfully digested it, with no hindrance, they may be expected to snatch further pieces greedily. Sovs/GDR want to absorb West Berlin, drive out Western Allies, and break down German national resistance. They made a big step toward these objectives last Sunday on East-West Berlin sector line. Their apparent success will encourage them to take further steps.

We believe second alternative is proper interpretation of significance of past few days’ events here.

Threatening and arrogant utterances of Sov/GDR leaders since Vienna meeting, as well as their actions, would tend to support second alternative. From local standpoint, we are impressed by how even within a few days one direct action is being followed by another. While the initial action Sunday was directed almost exclusively to control of the movement of SovZone and East Berlin residents, already the East Germans have been introducing regulations and practical measures having the effect of drastically controlling and restricting the movement [Page 343] of West Berliners into East Berlin (ref Berlin’s 200 Dept).2 We anticipate renewal of last fall’s effort to control entry of Allied personnel into East Berlin. Two Mission cars had difficulties today. We also note arrogant tone of Sov Commandant’s reply to Western Commandants’ protest of Aug 3 concerning border-crossers (Berlin’s 212 Dept, 185 Bonn).3

If our view as to proper interpretation is correct, it means we have now entered phase of actual practical confrontation with Sovs on Berlin, that we have moved out of phase of confrontation, by words and threats and into phase of deeds. If so, it is highly doubtful whether it can possibly suffice to reply to deeds with words of protestation.

What actions should West then take to meet this situation? Suspension of issuance of TTDs we have already recommended (Berlin’s 207 Dept, 180 Bonn);4 economic countermeasures likewise we believe should be instituted at once (Berlin’s 211 Dept, 184 Bonn);5 Western travel into SovZone should be discouraged so far as possible and Western participation in SovZone sports and cultural events should be prohibited, to match restrictions on East German participation in Western events which follows from TTD ban. There may be other countermeasures which should also be applied, but we here have not been privy to detailed discussions of possible countermeasures.

However, what is important is purpose of these measures. Is their purpose to slap Sov/GDR on the wrist for what they have done? Or is it our purpose by strong counteractions to endeavor to indicate to them by deeds the grave consequences of continuation on their part of their current aggressive policy with respect to Berlin? Briefly, our countermeasures should seek to have a deterrent effect. To have a deterrent effect, countermeasures must not be calculated to fit the violation, but must to a certain extent overshoot the mark. We recognize risk that countermeasures which seek to be deterrent may in turn bring on other Sov/GDR countermeasures. We believe this risk has to be borne. Abrogation of IZT by FedRep last Sept in response to GDR Sept 8 decree was a countermeasure which overshot the mark and hence had a deterrent effect, albeit for only a year. The Sovs/GDR have now resumed the encroachment program they interrupted last fall; it may be that our countermeasures will lead them to take other measures sooner than expected. [Page 344] However, that did not happen last fall and if we take totally ineffectual measures they will be encouraged to take further steps faster.

Seal-off of West Berlin has already changed status quo in Communist favor in a way that strengthens their bargaining position in negotiations. It has already weakened effect we hoped to derive from Western military preparations announced by President on July 25. Assuming as we do that negotiations on Berlin will still take place, it is important that our bargaining position be not further weakened by our failure to take impressive countermeasures that will be clearly and widely recognized as such.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 862.181/8-1661. Secret; Niact. Received at 3:54 p.m. Also sent to Bonn and repeated to Paris, London, Moscow, and POLADUSAREUR.
  2. Telegram 200, August 15, transmitted an announcement by the East German Ministry of Interior governing the movement of West Berliners into East Berlin. (Ibid., 862.181/8-1561)
  3. Telegram 212, August 16, transmitted the text of the Soviet Commandant’s reply to the Western protest of August 3. (Ibid., 862.181/8-1661)
  4. Dated August 15. (Ibid., 762.00/8-1561)
  5. See footnote 4, Document 107.