2. Letter From Secretary of State Rusk to President Kennedy1

Dear Mr. President: I am enclosing a brief chronology2 of the principal events relating to Berlin which have occurred since the ending of the first Berlin blockade in 1949.

The period covered falls logically into two parts: that from the end of the blockade until November 1958, when the current “Berlin crisis” began; and the period of the crisis itself since that time.

The first period was characterized by the readjustment of relation-ships between the Western Allies and West Germany, between the Federal Republic and West Berlin, and between the USSR and East Germany. The last of these in particular set the stage for the Soviet efforts to dislodge the Allies from West Berlin which began in 1958.

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Soviet tactics to force Western abandonment of Berlin which, with the measures taken by the West to counter them, dominate the second period, have gone through two general phases. The first was a direct threat to Allied access rights to West Berlin. This threat took the form of the stated intention of the USSR to sign a peace treaty with East Germany and turn over to the latter the control over Allied access to the city. In the second phase, which has developed since the abortive Summit meeting of May 1960, the Soviets have substituted a gradual de facto transfer to the East Germans of control over Berlin, and in this framework harassment has centered on West German-Berlin relations. A return to the earlier tactic may be expected and may in fact be heralded by Khrushchev’s reiteration on January 6 in Moscow of his threat to sign a separate peace treaty.3

Meanwhile, relative quiescence has prevailed since Western, particularly West German, countermeasures brought an easing of East German harassment of Berlin access late in 1960.

There are indications that Mr. Khrushchev will be returning to the Berlin question in due course, perhaps soon. The chronology will give you a brief outline of the past pending a full briefing.4

Faithfully yours,

Dean Rusk5
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/1-2861. Confidential. Drafted by Rusk.
  2. Not printed.
  3. For an extract of Khrushchev’s January 6 speech, including the statement on a separate peace treaty, see Documents on International Affairs, 1961, pp. 259-262.
  4. On January 18 the Department of State sent to the White House a briefing paper on Berlin for President Eisenhower’s meeting with President-elect Kennedy on January 19. (Department of State, Central Files, 711.11-KE/1-1861) Eisenhower apparently did not use the paper or even mention Berlin during the meeting. (Memorandum of conference between President Eisenhower and President-elect Kennedy by Clifton, January 24; ibid., Rusk Files: Lot 72 D 192, WH Correspondence)
  5. Printed from a copy that bears this stamped signature