43. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Germany 1

2267. Eyes only for Chiefs of Mission, Stoessel, and Norstad. Taking advantage of presence in Washington of Shuckburgh and Laloy, Kohler and other Departmental officers have held series bilateral, tripartite and quadripartite discussions on Berlin over past three days.2 These understood to be informal and not binding on govts but resulted in useful exchange of views on various current aspects of Berlin question. Principal subjects covered were:

1) Reply to Soviet Aide-mémoire of June 4

US circulated to British, French and German’s working draft of possible US reply to Soviet aide-mémoire received in Vienna.3 Text deals at some length with standard Soviet arguments and concludes with alternative endings. First alternative proposes that issue re status respective parties in Germany and Berlin and effect any separate peace treaty on such status be submitted to International Court of Justice pursuant to Article 36 of Court Charter. Second alternative advances all-Berlin proposal.

In explaining rationale for Court proposal, Kohler noted that certainty very great that Soviets would never voluntarily submit to jurisdiction of International Court. As exchange with Soviets on this subject taking place, we and Allies would start taking certain measures military preparedness in line with contingency plans which now under active review US Govt. After Soviet rejection US proposal for contentious litigation, we would then consider going into Security Council, as likewise contemplated in contingency plans, seeking both cease and desist order and request by Council for advisory opinion from Court on legal issue involved. If, as anticipated, Soviets veto such request, then consideration would be given to going into General Assembly and repeating same process, except that Soviet veto would not apply. While this taking place Western Powers would have numerous opportunities to make speeches, propagandize and win wide public support for their position on Berlin. Idea would be to keep Soviets on defensive, and on assumption [Page 126] some country bound in any event bring Berlin issue into UN once it begins approach critical point, course of action proposed would enable Western Powers to keep better control of situation by having problem arise in UN on our terms. Kohler stressed that Court would of course not be asked to adjudicate fact of Western rights in Berlin but Soviet claim that by its unilateral action those rights can be extinguished.

Ensuing discussion showed considerable interest in possibility such Western initiative, though agreed this would represent important policy step which would require careful prior consideration by govts. Shuckburgh concurred that Berlin would get into UN whether Western Powers liked it or not and that it was better that it get in on our terms rather than have it dragged in on somebody else’s terms. He said possibility would be put by Home to Prime Minister next Tuesday after which British would have more definitive reaction.

Speaking against background of what he admitted was President de Gaulle’s “allergy” against anything smacking of UN, Laloy said he could appreciate rationale of suggested approach. He expressed doubt however about possible effect on Khrushchev and wondered whether such action might not precipitate crisis rather than serve to delay it. If present Soviet threats were comparable to those in past, perhaps West should think twice before taking action which might bring about very situation Western Powers trying to avoid. He pointed in this connection to certain hesitancies and ambiguities which he had noted in most recent Khrushchev speech explaining post-Vienna position.4 It was agreed that speech deserved careful analysis to determine whether any such significance could be read into it.

Grewe likewise expressed personal doubts about course of action. He wondered whether West could actually be sure of case if it should get into Court. He also wondered whether Western ammunition was not being fired too soon. Kohler commented that there was pretty strong feeling in Washington that this time we were moving toward real confrontation with Soviets over Berlin and that Soviet aide-mémoire was opening gun.

We had for obvious reasons maintained relative silence on question since May 1960 while Soviets continued propagate their “peace treaty” and “free city” gambits. However felt that we must now get into more positive general posture with view to developing political, propaganda and deterrent campaign which we would be prepared to sustain from now to end of year.

[Page 127]

In response to query by Shuckburgh as to whether all-Berlin alternative should be given equal weight, personal view those present was that, while this subject to further consideration by govts, main attention should be on Court proposal.

2. German Reply to Soviet Memorandum of February 17

After considerable discussion text of reply agreed.5 Germans noted however that FonOff had indicated it wished propose some additional language which would require meeting of Four Power Working Group next week. It was also agreed that final form of German response could really only be determined when basic decisions made as to content US reply to aide-mémoire of June 4. Grewe observed that there was considerable pressure on German Govt to send long-delayed German reply to Soviets. In discussion related timing of German and US response, despite certain German hesitancies, consensus was that this likewise could only finally be decided in light timing American response. Kohler commented that delivery American reply before July 4 holiday weekend would be desirable in order ensure maximum publicity and suggested there might perhaps be two-day gap between two, with German reply following. Grewe said German reply would lose all impact if it came in wake of American. Shuckburgh and Laloy pointed out that timing envisaged seemed too tight in view importance American reply and need for careful governmental consideration. Kohler observed one merit of early reply was that it would cut off speculation on possible weakening our position.

Only substantive point of importance in discussion German reply was whether specific language should be included in response to Soviet charge of German militarism, as in earlier draft, that FedRep does not seek independent nuclear capability or transfer of nuclear weapons to national jurisdiction. Grewe said that his Govt felt that this was something which should be kept in store for possible later use and not included as commitment vis-à-vis Soviets, who are here giving nothing in return. This argument generally accepted, but inclusion such language in American reply to aide-mémoire, as in draft under discussion, considered desirable as statement of fact which US would be in position to make.

3. Contingency Planning

This subject discussed only bilaterally and tripartitely. Kohler noted that subject presently under intensive review in US Govt and that [Page 128] we hoped shortly to come up with some fairly specific proposals to heighten effectiveness of Western deterrent in Berlin situation. He stressed US feeling, which conveyed to both British and French on previous occasions, that US felt probe contemplated on too small a scale to prove anything and that action to reopen access required greater commitment of Western forces as well as firm decisions by govts to planning and execution of courses of action. Shuckburgh noted that one difficulty was that British did not feel present Live Oak exercise represented adequate mechanism, from that point of view, for injection views of British Chiefs of Staff. He claimed that it was impossible for British Govt to make political decisions required when British Chiefs of Staff seem to differ with us in their evaluation basic facts involved, such as feasibility airlift, implications of ground action, etc. He therefore proposed that British and French Chiefs of Staff send high level representation to Washington to discuss directly with US Chiefs of Staff. US suggested that British and French might consider sending higher level officers to participate in Live Oak discussions. British may however continue press for meeting of type indicated.

4. Procedures

Shuckburgh, Laloy and Kohler agreed that meeting of three at one of capitals extending for 10-day period might be desirable toward end of July to attempt tie together various strands of allied planning both re contingency planning and tactics and substance for next round with Soviets. No decision taken in this matter, but agreement was general that some sort of working group session as prior to Geneva Conference 1959 and Summit Conference 1960 would probably be necessary, whether or not West attempting move toward negotiations with Soviets prior to threatened peace treaty action. Question of German participation such meeting raised but not decided, although US view is that this essential. Kohler also urged full German participation in Washington Ambassadorial Group and closer association with Live Oak exercise. French and British seemed more responsive than previously and said would take up with their Govts.

Full memoranda of conversation being pouched.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/6-1761. Secret. Drafted by Hillenbrand and approved by Kohler. Also sent to Paris and London and repeated to Moscow, Berlin, and USUN.
  2. Memoranda of Kohler’s conversations with Shuckburgh on June 15 and Laloy on June 16 are ibid., 762.00/6-1561 and 762.00/6-1661; memoranda of the tripartite discussion on June 16 and the quadripartite discussion on June 17 are ibid., 762.0221/6-1761.
  3. See footnote 3, Document 40.
  4. For the English text of Khrushchev’s address on June 15, see Documents on International Affairs, 1961, pp. 286-302. Extracts are printed in Documents on Germany, 1944-1985, pp. 734-736, and American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1961, pp. 579-583.
  5. This text has not been found; for the text as delivered on July 12, see Dokumente zur Deutschlandpolitik, Zweiter Halbband, pp. 1227-1230; for the English text, see Documents on Germany, 1944-1985, pp. 750-753.