Galbraith, JK.



Nitze, Paul H

Tucker, R.


Interview with Martha Mautner


INT: Martha, can you explain what the American reaction was to the threat of nuclear war? It wasn't a consensus of what that threat entailed, how did the different people in American react to the fact that there could be a nuclear war?

MM: At that time, I don't think there was really a sense such as you had when the Cuban Missile Crisis took place that nuclear war was really an imminent possibility. It was always in the background. But you have to separate out the various audiences of this thing. There were those who were obsessed with the idea of the nuclear danger and had been since Hiroshima, were up in arms against any possibility of a nuclear war. The academics who had been dealing with nuclear strategy and that were focused on that and they were also focused on the vulnerability of the position in Berlin and therefore if you could not defend it militarily by the conventional weapons on the scene, your only recourse was was nuclear weapons. Plus the fact, of course, you know the whole strategy of the Eisenhower administration was massive retaliation and not use of conventional forces. And so this left an attitude, general attitude that when this latest Berlin crisis erupted, that those who felt nuclear war was always a threat were up in arms, expounding that view, and others who knew the Soviets better didn't take it very seriously. I don't think thewas any consensus in country at all on that subject. The population was willing to back whatever the leadership stated, as long as it made good sense. And most of the public opinion polls at the time showed that the Americans were prepared to stand firm to defend Berlin, but it didn't raise the question of nuclear weapons at all, none of them really worried about that as an issue.

INT: And what about the role of Berlin itself as being an atom bomb? Could you describe that situation?

MM: Well, long since Ernst Reuter had one of the early mayor of Berlin, had pointed out that it was the cheapest atom bomb in the American arsenal, because the very threat of Berlin to the security of the Soviet system and the Soviet empire was always there as long as Berlin was viable and remained in the hands of... under four power control with the allies sitting there and he understood that, because it committed American power to the defence of Berlin, er and therefore was an asset to the er whole American strategic position.

INT: Can you just briefly describe how he described Berlin?

MM: Reuter? Ernst Reuter described Berlin at one time as the the cheapest atom bomb that the Americans had in their arsenal. Its very existence was a plus to the American arsenal against the Soviet Union, because of that implicit threat that it implied to Soviet security.

INT: How influential was the Adenauer government on the United States? How important was it for the United States to keep the West Germans happy?

MM: Mmm. Well, strategically was the fact, of course, the West German... the existence of West Germany, the geography of West Germany and the positioning of American forces there vis vis the Soviet Union and the Soviet empire were essential, of course, to the American defence posture in Europe. Secondly, the German support for that position had to be, shall we say, paid for by support for German interests and German interests involved the right of the West German, the Bonn government, to speak for all of Germany, which was a commitment that the allies... the NATO structure had made to Bonn in the 1954 agreement, which began Germany's integration into the NATO structure and into the West European alliances. And the fact that Berlin was a major interest to the West Germans, that, after all, was the hostage for a reunification of Germany at some future date. And so the goal of reunification and preserving Berlin's viability until that time was a major element in German policy. Now, that does not exclude the fact that Adenauer had no love for Berlin. For him the West ended somewhere along the Elbe, but he knew German interests and knew what was important for German security, plus the fact that the American position in Berlin committed the United States to remain in Europe and that was the linchpin, of course, for the American commitment there. The very fact that you had to stay there and couldn't get out of Berlin without suffering a major political defeat meant that the American commitment to Europe would remain viable, even in the 1950s when a lot of people were talking about the War is over, why don't we pull our troops out.

INT: What were the main things that were in it for the Americans, that they felt they had to always encourage and make Adenauer feel that he was important? I think one of the references, he always had to keep telling the West Germans that you love them.

MM: You love them. No, that became a [inaudible] here afterwards, when people just got tired of catering to it. The fact remained that Adenauer was a great figure in his own right, there's no question about that, he was one of the outstanding post-War figures and his function was to keep Germany... not to keep it, but to get Germany totally integrated into the West to such a point where it could never extract itself again to follow an independent er loose canon course in European politics. And with that he had the support of all the Western allies, nobody wanted to see that change. But when you're a German, you have other interests too and that was that all of Germany was in their purview and not just the part that was occupied by the Bonn was controlled by the Bonn government. Adenauer had a very close personal relationship with John Foster Dulles and also part of that with Acheson, who understood these geo-political issues and realised the importance of also keeping Adenauer on German... on their side and knew how to play it. But as time went on, Eisenhower did not have this personal tie, and also was not that deeply involved on a day to day basis with foreign policy, he always left that to John Foster Dulles. So, in that case, you began to see the erosion of it after Dulles left the scene and the Germans began to get more and more worried, because they didn't have the personal contact as well.

INT: But in power politics, what were the main things that were in it for the Americans, to have a loyal, dedicated West Germany?

MM: If you have the American divisions stationed in a country, you want popular support for that, otherwise your position is untenable. That was the first thing. I mean, the geography, the location, the logistics, everything required vehement support for this action. And secondly, our biggest threat, our biggest target, objective, was the Soviet Union and Germany was the front line of our strategic posture against the German ... Soviet Union and Berlin, the troops in the Berlin were the trip wire on this posture. So, for the Americans maintaining this position vis vis the one military threat they faced, the Soviet Union, the Germans were indispensable.

INT: Can we just stop there...


INT: Can we talk about the American perception of German fears of what would happen to Berlin when negotiations really got under way.

MM: Well, the administration was very much conscious of the fact that there was a strong undercurrent of neutralist sentiment in West Germany that had been there actually since the time of the founding of the government. You had the... first the anti-World War Three campaign, which was promoted to the hilt by Eastern forces, and then you had the whole question of German neutralism, vis vis the big powers, because you were... the attitude was that the German government was always on the defensive, afraid that it was... its viability and its future depended on the existence of the allied support and that if allied support ever eroded or disappeared, the tendency among the population would be to try to find some accommodation with the East and detach its ties with the West, or loosen them as much as possible. And, in other words, move towards a neutralist position vis vis the East and vis vis East and West. And that, of course, would be a death blow to American defence posture in Europe vis vis the Soviet Union. So it was necessary, of course, to counteract this element. We were also very conscious of the fact that the Adenauer administration was not averse to using this argument to persuade the Americans of the necessity to stand firm. So that was the other side of the coin and you had to sort of find your way between these various strands in policy, a real threat and also the emphasis on the threat and find a negotiating position in the middle. The other fact that we had to take into account was the Germans, I think, were much more conscious of the fact that any concessions made on the Berlin scene would be basically an erosion of allied commitments to Berlin, because already the Soviets had cut the salami so finely that there was really not much left, except the nub there and this idea of negotiating bothered them, but on the other hand, they knew that the administration, the American administration, would have to find some kind of a negotiating position to deal with the Soviets on the subject to remove the threat, to avoid any possibility of this crisis escalating to the point where military conflict was essential. Adenauer made no bones about the fact that he never wanted to see a nuclear war fought over Berlin. On the other hand, he didn't want to see the American position in Berlin eroded in any way to the point where thcrisis was so exacerbated that nwar became an actual consideration on the part of the American administration. So, we had... you had a fine line to weave between all of these conflicting influences and that doesn't even take into account the other members of the alliance structure. The French were extremely firm on not negotiating away any of our positions in Berlin, but on the other hand, the French had no military might to back-up their position, their rigid position on this subject, so they, of course, de Gaulle in particular, made common cause to a very good extent with Adenauer, but never to the point of rupturing his claim to be a member of the big three. The British were always inclined much more towards negotiation than to any kind of utilisation of power politics. They wanted negotiations and pushed for that all along, Macmillan not only going to Moscow, but also visiting all the other capitals to promote his cause and made a good case of it.