8. Telegram From the Embassy in the Soviet Union to the Department of State1
2147. Germany-Berlin. After I had completed presentation of our views,2 Khrushchev noted I had not mentioned question of Germany which he wished to discuss. He said USSR had put forth its position in aide-mémoire to Adenauer,3 that it did not want to change anything in Germany, but to fix juridically what had happened after the war. He said to leave situation as is would cause instability and encourage German revanchists. Khrushchev mentioned that memo to Adenauer was published at German request.
He said he had explained Soviet position in great detail to Pres Eisenhower who, he said, had understood him, but Pentagon and others had deliberately exploded relations between us and sent U-2—a matter, he said, which is now in past.
He said he would like very much that Pres Kennedy would regard with understanding Soviet position on German question.
USSR would like to sign treaty with Adenauer, Ulbricht, and US. He said he knew US desired unified Germany; USSR also desired unified[Page 19]Germany; but to conceive of unified Germany under either Adenauer or Ulbricht would be unrealistic. Therefore, he said, let us conclude a treaty with two Germanies; we are ready to stipulate with US a provision of whatever is necessary for people of West Berlin to have political system of their own choice. He said borders now exist between FRG and GDR and between Germany, Poland, and Czechoslovakia and these borders have legal force but need legal foundation. He said Socialist camp does not want to expand toward West and, if US were ready to proceed on peace treaty, they would be prepared state this when working out treaty. If our wartime Allies do not agree, he said, SU and all Socialist countries will sign treaty with GDR. He said West Berlin is bone in throat of Sov-American relations. If Adenauer wants to fight, he said, West Berlin would be good place to begin conflict.
Khrushchev said his frank desire, and he wanted us to understand him, is not to worsen but to better relations with US. He said he had expressed similar desire to Adenauer but did not know yet his reaction. If Adenauer understands me correctly, he said, this would render it impossible for aggressive forces to use present situation for preparation of aggression, and everyone understands what this would mean with nuclear weapons.
I said President was reviewing our German policy and would wish discuss it with Adenauer and other Allies before reaching conclusions but was difficult to see how there could be much change in our basic policy. I inquired whether if free city of Berlin were created there would be special clause in peace treaty referring to this setup. When he replied in affirmative I inquired why then separate treaty could not make provision for continuance present situation in Berlin. Khrushchev asked what attracted West so much in Berlin. I answered we had given our commitment to people there and our prestige now committed. Khrushchev asserted Western powers are in Berlin because of Germany’s capitulation. He said no one is encroaching upon West Berlin. Let us work out together a status for West Berlin: we can register it with UN; let us have joint police force on basis of peace treaty which can be guaranteed by four powers, or symbolic force of four powers could be stationed West Berlin. He made clear this would not include East Berlin which was capital of GDR.
He said USSR would join whatever guarantees necessary to keep West Berlin the way it is and added that no threat from any side would be allowed which would assure us that its prestige would not suffer. He said West Berlin had little meaning for USSR.
I said I agreed USSR had no interest in West Berlin, but pointed out Ulbricht was very much interested. Khrushchev replied Ulbricht would also sign commitment on West Berlin.[Page 20]
In line with Deptel 1402,4 I said situation abnormal in Berlin because situation in Germany is abnormal; we were not disposed to legalize permanent division of Germany; we were re-examining whole problem of Germany and Berlin; problem of Berlin unsatisfactory to both of us as is entire situation in Germany. I said I thought much could be done to reduce tensions and expressed opinion President would be disposed do something to help relaxation. I added I did not want to attempt to reflect President’s views until he had chance to consider problem and discuss it with our Allies.
Khrushchev replied he would like President to understand correctly Soviet desire to solve German question. If agreement could be reached, he said, it would be big success. He said he did not know how Germans thought, and said Adenauer was very aggressive now. He said he wanted US and USSR to be together on this question—this would be understood correctly by our peoples—just as during war we shed blood together against Germany. He said peace treaty does not involve any factual change in situation. I interjected, “except Berlin”. He replied they were not striving for West Berlin. He said USSR even ready to keep such a capitalist island as West Berlin within GDR because USSR in 1965 will surpass West Germany in per capita production. He added USSR would surpass US in per capita production in 1970.
He reiterated that if Pres Kennedy and they could sign treaty it would mark great progress in American-Sov relations. If treaty were not signed, American and Sov troops would continue to confront each other, and situation would not be one of peace but one of armistice. If treaty were signed, it could be implemented by installments including gradual withdrawal of American-Sov troops from Germany, and atmosphere of trust would be established to help disarmament negotiations.5
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/3-1061. Confidential; Priority; Limit Distribution.↩
- Thompson met with Khrushchev for 3 hours on March 9 near Novosibirsk to deliver a letter from President Kennedy on U.S.-Soviet relations. In addition to bilateral relations and Berlin, they discussed the Congo, Laos, and disarmament. Further documentation on this meeting and text of the letter are published in Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, volume V.↩
- See footnote 3, Document 5.↩
- Document 7.↩
- On March 17 CBS correspondent Daniel Schorr broadcast a detailed account of Thompson’s conversation with Khrushchev. (Telegram 1518 to Moscow, March 17; Department of State, Central Files, 611.61/3-1761) On March 18 Thompson expressed his dismay at the leak and stated that conversations with Khrushchev would lose their value if he believed his remarks would appear in the press. (Telegram 2219 from Moscow, March 18; ibid., 611.61/3-1861)↩