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

969. Re Moscow’s 1442 Dept, 217 Bonn, 165 Berlin.2 State frontier of GDR was extended thru city Berlin Aug 13 and has been gradually consolidated in intervening time. Finishing touches, which may end in affecting entrance Allied military to East Berlin and in requiring visas for civilians, are now being put on frontier.

Wall and extension GDR frontier control into Berlin has created major change in status quo and is especially serious because it was done unilaterally by GDR. Occupying powers cannot hide fact GDR with Sov backing has confronted them with direct challenge.

Allies not prepared go the limit on this issue but we have been trying to prevent further unilateral changes prior to commencement of negotiations by showing resolute determination to resist such changes.

None of short term lines of action that have recently been discussed as way to meet challenge is really designed to solve anything. At present we are trying to decide which course has fewer disadvantages: reciprocal showing of documents under pressure or self denial of entry East Berlin.

Acquiescence in unilateral changes will only encourage Sovs/GDR to make further unilateral changes. Denying ourselves entry seems preferable to us as it means we maintain our principle (even if we can’t enforce it), and we do not accept precedent of Vopo control within Berlin that could embarrass us if applied on Autobahn. Also, we maintain element of uncertainty re our reaction to introduction Vopo controls on Autobahn; this in turn may put Sovs/GDR on notice that even though we cannot effectively resist salami tactics in East Berlin, we will resist them where our vital interests are concerned. Furthermore, if accompanied by certain reprisals, this course of self denial would be less damaging to Berlin morale than would be our acquiescence in showing documents. Initial reaction to our introduction of Western controls over CD/CC vehicles showed great sensitivity of Berliners to even hint that we might be contemplating submitting to Vopo controls.

We realize disadvantage this policy self denial has in implying further sealing division of city but as Dept aware we believe time has come [Page 566] to face squarely the anomalies of continued adherence to 4-power status which with every passing day has less and less relation to reality. We urge most careful consideration be given to Amb Thompson’s suggestion (Moscow’s 1388 Dept, 502 Bonn, 155 Berlin)3 as the “only adequate answer” to Sov/GDR challenge. General Clay and Mission have also pointed out (Berlin’s 250, 454 and 787)4 that closer legal ties between West Berlin and FedRep would be logical answer to incorporation East Berlin into GDR.

Aside from problem of selling idea to Allies, main consideration really is whether it serves our interests now to alter quadripartite basis our policy. This is complicated problem we realize, but there are strong arguments for such new status. We have long felt legal side our Berlin rights less important than fact of our presence here and determination to maintain freedom of 2.2 million Berliners. Negative aspects outlined Dept’s 5855 Berlin replying to General Clay’s message are very real but we believe outweighed by arguments in favor. Overriding reason is great need to do something to restore our bargaining position and in light of tactics of other side we see advantage in doing this as fait accompli rather than as something to be negotiated. Believe occupation could continue through some form of occupation statute which would safeguard basis of Allied rights. Continuing adherence to goal of ultimate reunification could preserve long term goal of one Germany.

We believe this matter might profitably be explored in informal way with high-ranking members new German Govt. If there is any possibility of pursuing this idea, suggest every effort be made to keep it quiet in order to face other side with fait accompli. Early announcement of intention to withdraw Allied reservation to Berlin’s incorporation into FedRep would provoke outcry and all sorts of arguments against it—not only from Communists—and net result would be confusion compounded.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/11-861. Secret; Limit Distribution. Also sent to Bonn and repeated to Moscow.
  2. Telegram 1442 from Moscow, November 3, stated that it was better to have a showdown on Berlin over the issue of access to West Berlin from West Germany than over the question of circulation within greater Berlin. (Ibid., 762.00/11-361)
  3. Telegram 1388 from Moscow, October 28, suggested that if the Soviets persisted in treating the sector border as the East German frontier, the West should consider itself free to remove the restrictions on West Berlin’s political relations with West Germany. (Ibid., 762.00/10-2861)
  4. Dated August 18, September 9, and October 28, respectively. (Ibid., 762.00/8-1861, 762.00/9-861, and 762.00/10-2861)
  5. Dated October 24. (Ibid., 762.00/10-2061)