Galbraith, JK.



Nitze, Paul H

Tucker, R.


Interview with Martha Mautner


INT: From the point of view of NATO, how important was it that the American administration made every effort to support Adenauer?

MM: NATO at that point was following along strong leadership... would follow strong leadership and the American position was a position of strength there, after all we were providing the bulk of all of the troops in the NATO structure and therefore, shall we say, had a feeling that we could call the shots more. That, of course, didn't go over too well with all of the other members, who felt that they were, as always, were always afraid when the Americans were getting too active and always afraid when the Americans were being too passive, and trying to find your way between these two extremes was really the crux of our NATO policy.

INT: But for the Americans, to consolidate the NATO alliance, keep the NATO alliance going, if they gave in too much on Berlin, this might put Adenauer in a situation where he was less supportive. How important was it to America to keep Adenauer happy?

MM: We had to find a position that Adenauer could sign on to without compromising his own German interests and he was willing to go pretty far in order to keep the Americans happy and committed, and he agreed to negotiations. Basically, I think from the understanding on his side, that the Soviets would never accept what the West was prepared to offer, because they wanted far more and therefore it was safe to go into negotiations on that score. Again, we go back to Ernst Reuter's idea that [inaudible], he always said this every time the Russians caused a crisis, he said, don't worry about it, the Russians will always do something that will spoil the whole issue for them and unite the West against them, basically is what it boiled down to and I think Adenauer instinctively followed this same line, that the Soviet stand on the negotiations would be such that the West would see that it was... that course was futile, but in the meanwhile you would have kept the Americans happy and also avoided the deadline would have long since past for the ultimatum and we could keep on talking. But, again, there was always the big but in this one was the very fact that the West was prepared to make or to offer concessions to the Soviets, sent up a danger signal in the backs of West German minds that if they're prepared to negotiate, the position is not firm and so then you have to worry.

INT: Going back to the very outset of things, when the ultimatum was first made by Khruschev, that the Eisenhower administration as a whole, how interested it was in negotiations, did it want to stall so that the problem would be attenuated and might go away?

MM: Mmm. Basically speaking, I think that was a... there was a very strong current of that, that what you... that what Khruschev was doing was not provoking a war, but he wanted negotiations on the subject and the question is what kind of negotiations could you have that would take account of the fact that the Soviets did have security problems. It was also taking account of the fact that Khruschev had just been through an internal struggle inside the Kremlin and was consolidating his position and would be also subject to political in-fighting at home if he wasn't able to make good on his threats or at least show he had accomplished something by those threats. That all had to take into account. And, of course, we were also... we were at that time that the Soviets were being pushed from the other side by the Chinese, that the beginnings of this crisis was also spooking in the background too and that Khruschev was under a certain amount of pressure to do something about Berlin and you should take that into account. So, you had a situation where we didn't want to advertise the fact that you realised that the so-called enemy had his difficulties, that one should take those calculate those into your game plan, but at the same time, you had to stand firm too and show the posture that you were presenting to the outside world.

INT: Shall we move on to the Kennedy administration and talk a little bit, what June 1961, after the Vienna Summit. How did the State Department and people who were deeply involved in the Berlin Crisis, how did their attitudes change, if they did change, after the Vienna Summit?

MM: Well, the Vienna Summit, I think, brought home to Kennedy the phenomena that he was dealing with with Khruschev. I don't think he'd ever been exposed to anything like that before, head-on. This was something new. That Khruschev's bluster and that his threats had a certain element of seriousness about them, that he hadn't taken that into account, and Kennedy, I think, also began to realise that he had to tow a very delicate line between responding to the Soviet threats in a way that was too belligerent and such... and as a result provoke nuclear war. On the other hand, keeping in mind that he had to keep behind him the alliance structure and German support and American public opinion on this score. Now, he had realised by that time that the American defence posture was in need of some change, the reliance of the Eisenhower administration on nuclear response, total nuclear response instead of conventional response had outlived its usefulness basically and we had to build up our conventional forces. Conventional forces require Congressional appropriations and support from a Congress which is not necessarily usually interested in that kind of a thing. That was one element. He also had to take into account that he was beginning to get more and more familiar with the Berlin situation himself. He became really the Berlin desk officer, as they say, following all of the details of the background and the negotiation, but again without the first hand experience of having been on the scene and seeing how the Soviets play games of this nature. The speech that came out at the end was July twenty fifth, was a very strong, composite representing the viewpoint of a lot of his advisers and was basically had the support really of everybody from all different elements in the administration, including the Berlin Mafia, except for that one phrase, the emphasis on West Berlin, which appeared in the speech. Now, that brings us to another problem, because there was a considerable amount of confusion over the years about exactly what West Berlin meant. It became common usage just to refer to Berlin as West Berlin, it was almost one word in America, the fact that there was an East Berlin that had a separate status, that was also part of the old Berlin quadro-partheid agreement was lost on most people who were not really familiar with the day to day realities of the Berlin situation. So, er that was the one flaw that most of us saw in that speech, but a lot of people who agreed on the speech never considered it as that kind of an element. They saw our commitment was to Berlin, was to West Berlin's sector where our troops were stationed, to protect those troops, to protect the access to Berlin that provided for those troops and also for the viability of the Western sectors of the city. What happened in the East was not our concern. So, there was a built-in problem in the position that Kentook, about which a lot of people who weapproving of the speech were totally unaware, and then only realised the implications of it when the wall went up.

INT: Can you just separate out that last bit about the things which American would stand. Can you just as a separate answer describe what the bottom line was for America's willing to make a stand, what were the principles involved?

MM: Well, our basic principles in Berlin, as far as our stand was concerned, was the fact that the allied garrison was there and we were committed to its perpetuation. That access to Berlin was an integral factor in that position and for those allied garrisons and also for Berlin's viability, which was the third element, that you could not have an allied garrison in a city which was not viable. And so those three elements of viability of West Berlin, of the status of the garrison and the access were the bottom lines in our American position. What became clear with Kennedy's speech and I think probably slowly seeped through the Russians, that we were dead serious about willingness to fight to maintain those positions if the chips were down and we were forced to. This was also something probably that bothered some of our allies who never thought that it was worthwhile fighting a war over Berlin. We always answered them and said, don't die for Danzig too, but that was considered flip!

INT: The signals in the twenty fifth of July speech, that mentioned West Berlin, for those who chose to pick that up and make of it what they would, but what were the general signals given in advance about how far the United States was willing to go in defending West Berlin?

MM: Well, Kennedy's moves on the allied commitment, to move from nuclear retaliation to conventional strength and to build up the armed forces was common knowledge. The question of getting appropriations, military planning for increasing the strength, for extending the period of the draft, expanding the draft, to call up new reserve... call up reservists, were all part of the... a military posture. At the same time, the Soviets were quite aware that our various military units were being put on readiness status for any type of crisis action, that the strategic nuclear command forces were on increased alert. Everything else was being taken to rev up this position of a defensive posture and the Soviets were, I think, quite aware of that, it would be hard hard to have missed it and we were prepare... and of course the troops in Berlin were much more... were all on alert status.