26. Position Paper Prepared in the Department of State1



(Khrushchev will undoubtedly raise; if not, President should.)

Anticipated Soviet Position

Khrushchev will perhaps begin by saying—as he did to Ambassador Thompson2—that he would like very much for the President to understand the Soviet position. He may again add that he had obtained such understanding from President Eisenhower only to have the resultant improving relations deliberately exploded by the Pentagon and others.

He will probably say that the Soviet aim, as presented formally, most recently in his February 17 memorandum to the Chancellor, is not to change anything in Germany, but merely to fix juridically what has happened since World War II. Leaving the situation as it is would cause instability and encourage German revanchists.

The USSR would like to sign a treaty with the East Germans, the West Germans, and the US. The USSR, like the US, desires a unified Germany, but to conceive of a unified Germany under either Adenauer or Ulbricht would be unrealistic. Therefore, let us conclude a treaty with two Germanys.

The USSR and the GDR will join in whatever guarantees are necessary to keep West Berlin the way it is, and no threat from any side will be permitted. US prestige will not suffer. The West Berlin status could be registered with the UN, guaranteed by the Four Powers, and protected by a joint police force or symbolic military forces of the Four Powers stationed in West Berlin.

The existing borders between the Federal Republic and the German Democratic Republic and between Germany, Poland, and Czechoslovakia have legal force but need legal foundation. The Socialist Camp does not want to expand westward and would be prepared to so state in working out a treaty with us. If their wartime allies do not agree, the Socialist countries will sign a treaty with the GDR.

West Berlin is a bone in the throat of US-USSR relations. If Adenauer wants to fight, West Berlin would be a good place to start. The problem of West Berlin must be solved. The USSR desires a negotiated [Page 72] agreement. At this point Khrushchev might indicate a willingness to negotiate an interim agreement. If agreement cannot be reached, the USSR would see no alternative to a treaty with the East Germans, under which control over access to Berlin would become their responsibility.

Khrushchev may conclude by saying that he very much wants the President to understand that his frank desire is not to worsen—but to improve—US-USSR relations as well as USSR-FRG relations. This would make it impossible for aggressive forces to use the present situation to prepare aggression, the significance of which, with nuclear weapons, everyone understands.

If the US and the USSR could reach agreement on Berlin and Germany, it would be a great success, creating an atmosphere of trust in which US and USSR troops could be gradually withdrawn, and which would help disarmament negotiations. If not, Soviet and American troops will continue to confront each other, and the situation will not be one of peace, but one of armistice.

Recommended US Position

The President might wish to say that the new Administration has been giving careful consideration to US policy on Berlin and Germany, but it is difficult to see how there can be much basic change.

The situation in all of Berlin—not West Berlin alone—is abnormal because the situation in all of Germany is abnormal. The central difficulty is, of course, the continued division of Germany. We continue to believe there will be no real solution of the German problem or any real tranquillity in Central Europe until the Germans are reunified. This remains our ultimate aim, and we are not disposed to take any legal or other definitive steps which would appear to perpetuate or legalize the division.

In order that the possibilities of a disastrous miscalculation be reduced, it is absolutely vital for the USSR to understand the following. Berlin is of paramount importance to the US. The US is in Berlin by unimpeachable right of conquest. More importantly, it is there with the overwhelming approval of the people of West Berlin, which has been demonstrated many times in the past and can be easily demonstrated at any time in the future. It is there to protect the freedom of West Berlin, and, under existing circumstances, it is wholly convinced that there is no other way to protect that freedom. We have no intention whatsoever of being forced out of Berlin and will use all means to see that we are not. US concern with strengthening conventional forces should under no circumstances be interpreted as affecting our decision to use nuclear weapons if necessary to defend all the NATO area, including Berlin.

We would consider the proposed “separate peace treaty” between the USSR and East Germany and the abandonment by the USSR of its [Page 73] responsibilities to us to be a grave violation of the legal situation in Berlin. Such a unilateral act cannot affect our rights in Berlin, and we are determined to continue to exercise those rights, including specifically the right of access.

In all of this we have the full support of our allies. The West is convinced that its fate is intimately associated with the fate of West Berlin.

But now let us consider why we should avoid a showdown and how we can.

[Here follow sections on Stalin’s policy toward Western Europe and the Federal Republic of Germany’s efforts to integrate into Western Europe.]

Avoiding a Crisis

There are aspects of the present situation in Germany and Berlin unsatisfactory to the USSR just as there are aspects unsatisfactory to the US. There is, however, nothing in the present situation in Germany and Berlin really intolerable to either. The Soviet Union cannot really believe that the continued existence of West Berlin offers any threat to Soviet security—or indeed to the continued existence of the East German regime. There is, of course, the type of competition foreseen and approved by the Soviet Union as “peaceful coexistence” but a mutual willingness to accept this competition is a fair test of the real meaning of the “peaceful coexistence” concept. For a decade after the Berlin blockade ended until the Soviet initiative of November 1958, the situation in Berlin and Germany was relatively quiet.

Looked at from the historical view, it would clearly seem to be the part of wisdom for the Soviet Union and the Western powers to avoid a sharp confrontation and a crisis situation in Germany and Berlin. As Khrushchev himself has frequently pointed out, the major and overriding international problem of the day is disarmament. To jeopardize progress in this all-important field by forcefully striving for political pains of minor significance compared to disarmament must surely be shortsighted. The problems of Germany, Berlin and European security can be approached in a much more promising context when we have begun to progress toward disarmament. The settlement of these problems would then become immeasurably easier.

Under conditions of increased international tension not only would forward movement on disarmament become most difficult, but there would arise the strong probability of an acceleration of the armaments race.


Khrushchev may well ask whether the West is ready to negotiate about West Berlin. If so, the President might wish to say that he would [Page 74] have to consult with his allies, but that they—with the US—undoubtedly “remain unshaken in their conviction that all outstanding international questions should be settled not by the use or threat of force, but by peaceful means through negotiation” and “remain ready to take part in such negotiations at any suitable time in the future.” (This is from the statement of the Three in Paris after the abortive summit of May 1960,3 and there has been no change in this position.) If Khrushchev brings up the question of level of negotiations, the President might wish to say that, speaking personally, the foreign minister level would seem appropriate for a meeting after the necessary preparatory work has been done through diplomatic channels.


Khrushchev would be less than human if Laos, Cuba, and Yuriy Gagarin have not reinforced his normal self-confidence to the point where over-boldness and possible miscalculation could constitute a grave potential menace to the whole world. In such a mood, Berlin must offer a temptation that may very well be too strong to resist. Although Khrushchev is undoubtedly reluctant to risk a major war, the real danger is that he might risk just such a war without realizing he is doing so. He must, therefore, be warned in the firmest and most solemn manner that the US has no intention whatsoever of being forced out of Berlin and that in any attempt to do so he would be taking the gravest possible risk.

In his initial talk with Ambassador Thompson, Khrushchev’s treatment of the problems of Germany and Berlin was cast in a semi-philosophical vein, as much a sort of chalk talk to get President Kennedy’s “understanding” of the Soviet position as a discussion of the issues. It might be to our advantage to take this cue and do what has often been suggested but not yet done in any rounded way—set out fully our own views on the course of the postwar development of West Germany.

We would envisage a kind of historical account, designed to lay particular emphasis on two themes: 1) the state of the Federal Republic’s armament and the attitude of the Federal Republic toward the Soviet Union and the bloc are to a considerable extent a reaction to Soviet policy and actions; and 2) under Adenauer, the Federal Republic has taken significant steps to merge its policies, and even some institutions, with its neighbors, and this development is decidedly in the Soviet interest. Our objective would be to suggest to Khrushchev that, while the situation in Germany and Berlin cannot be considered satisfactory from the point of view of either of us, it has been, and is, tolerable with no great strain and should be left alone until some significant measure of [Page 75] progress toward disarmament has been made. Conversely, we would be suggesting that an aggressive Soviet policy in Germany may well act to encourage exactly the developments in Germany and Europe which Khrushchev seeks to avoid. A reduction of armaments, on the other hand, would change the entire context within which we approach the problems of Germany and European security with greatly improved prospect for a mutually agreeable settlement.

It is, of course, extremely unlikely that Khrushchev would agree to leave the Berlin situation alone, but this approach might exert some influence toward reducing the terms on which he would agree, either explicitly or implicitly.

  1. Source: Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 66 D 110, CF 1905. Secret. Drafted by Armitage (SOV) and Cash and cleared by Kohler, Hillenbrand, and Guthrie (SOV). Prepared as one of the many position papers for the President’s meeting with Khrushchev in Vienna June 3-4.
  2. See Document 24.
  3. For text of this statement, May 17, 1960, see Documents on Germany, 1944-1985, p. 706.