7. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the Soviet Union1

1402. You should not take initiative in raising subject of Germany and Berlin, but if Khrushchev does so within established pattern Soviet position, suggest you respond along following lines:

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New Administration has been giving careful consideration to problem of Germany and Berlin. It is recognized that entire situation in Germany and also that in Berlin is unsatisfactory both to Western Powers, Germans themselves, and Soviet Union. Central difficulty is of course continued division of Germany. United States continues to believe that there will be no real settlement of this problem or any real tranquillity in Central Europe until Germans are permitted to unite themselves. This will remain our constant aim and we would not be disposed to take any legal or other definitive steps which would appear to perpetuate or legalize this division. However as a practical matter we recognize that chance of its achievement in immediate future is remote. It is therefore necessary to endeavor to deal with this abnormal situation and we would like to emphasize that abnormality stems from situation in Germany as a whole and cannot be applied exclusively to one element thereof such as West Berlin. It would seem realistic common sense therefore to endeavor to find some means which would, without prejudicing the future unification of that country, to try, insofar as possible, to reduce its potentiality for serious friction which could lead to grave international dangers. It would seem to us that to change existing status in Western Berlin alone in direction of a free city of some other scheme of like nature would merely be to increase the abnormality of an already abnormal situation resulting from division of city and of country.

One possibility would be to leave city as it is, since however unsatisfactory, it has been nonetheless since 1948 at least tolerable for both sides. Soviets however maintain that some form of peace treaty with East German regime is essential and say they cannot wait much longer before proceeding to sign such peace treaty. We cannot physically stop them from doing this, although we could not approve or underwrite treaty confirming the division of Germany and would have to oppose it publicly. On other hand, a major practical interest to us would be effect which such peace treaty would have on our position in Berlin. Provided arrangements similar to those under the Bolz-Zorin exchange of letters2 were still continued in effect, we could try to make necessary adjustments.

Mr. Khrushchev maintains that since Soviets have put forward their proposals on Berlin, it is now turn of West to make counter-proposals. West has made proposals in past which proved unacceptable to Soviets. We shall consult with our Allies and in due course put forward our ideas. Mr. Khrushchev must surely understand however that it [Page 18] would not be possible for US to contemplate a change in city in regard to our rights and position in Berlin which would represent material change for worse in Western position in that city or access thereto.

Comment: If Ambassador feels there is any possibility of misunderstanding, it should be made clear that discussion does not constitute reply to recent Soviet memorandum to FedRep.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/2-2861. Secret; Priority; Limit Distribution. Drafted by Bohlen and Hillenbrand; cleared by Kohler, Davis, Stoessel, and the White House; and approved and signed by Rusk. Attached to the source text was a draft by Bohlen, dated February 21, which begins and ends along similar lines but includes as a possible solution a reunified Berlin with a special status as a free city and with access guaranteed in all directions. For Hillenbrand’s draft, dated February 20, see Declassified Documents, 1977, 46E.
  2. For text of letters between Soviet Deputy Foreign Minister Zorin and German Democratic Republic Foreign Minister Bolz, September 20, 1955, see Otnosheniia SSSR s GDR, pp. 649-652; for the Bolz letter alone, see Documents on Germany, 1944-1985, pp. 460-461. See also Foreign Relations, 1955-1957, vol. XXVI, pp. 537538.