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

601. Bonn for Ambassador. From Clay to Rusk. It is clear to me now that the action of Aug 13 was put on sooner than its probable planned date to prevent collapse of Ulbricht’s regime. The internal security measures to save it could be applied only with a sealed border. Soviet representatives apprehensive of Allied reaction stayed in the background to have greater freedom of action. They remain further back than usual but, in general, behave correctly when called to the scene of an incident. Unfortunately, the East German police apprehensive initially in exercising authority over Allied personnel are emboldened by success and trying now to increase their authority.

Harassments not in direct conflict with our basic rights do not worry me although I think they should be checked as they occur to the extent possible without show of force. To show force when we do not intend to use it is one thing we must avoid. However, I cannot accept the escalation theory that any reaction on our part leads to further actions and possible war. The complete acceptance of this policy would lead to the continuing erosion of an already eroded position.

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Harassments which are in direct conflict with our basic rights concern me very much. Our right of access to East Berlin had not been questioned since our arrival until recently when our personnel in properly licensed cars were denied permission to enter by the East German police who refused to call a Soviet officer. Our right of access on the highway between Berlin and West Germany reconfirmed in the 1949 agreement lifting the blockade2 had never been subject to attempted East German control of identification until the last several days. These incidents have not been repeated enough to constitute a pattern and the formal protests being made locally and to Marshal Konev may prove effective. However, I think we should consider now our position if they do become a pattern.

I recognize that negotiations may result in the transfer of Soviet rights to East German Government or that such transfer might occur without negotiations. However, I do not believe we should be governed in the interim by what we would do if such a transfer took place. If we accept the increasing authority of the East German police, we may have little left to negotiate. Further, it seems most important that in the period in which we are seeking a negotiating base as well as during negotiations we are at a material disadvantage if the procedures for the exercise of our rights have already been established.

Also, if incidents increase we could soon find Allied personnel unwilling to use the highway freely which in itself would be a partial blockade. To provide some protection, the army has increased its administrative patrols which is certainly not a show of force. They do have telephone contact with our check points to demand the appearance of Soviet officers. However, they cannot be sufficient in number to really accomplish this purpose. Obviously, there is no way in which we can patrol this long highway to protect our people and a show of force would be of no value whatsoever.

I hope that no pattern is developing from these incidents but I believe that we should plan for it to develop. If it does, we can be sure the East Germans will make it known. I would urge strongly that consideration be given to advising Gromyko that we cannot develop a basis for negotiating unless we are assured of normal conditions governing our access to Berlin from West Germany and to East Berlin.

If the pattern does develop, I would also be apprehensive of the closure of our one entry point to East Berlin. I shall submit a separate report on this soon.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/9-2661. Secret; Limit Distribution. Also sent to Bonn.
  2. For text of the May 5, 1949, communiqué, see Foreign Relations, 1949, vol. III, p. 751.