INT: Could you make...
MB: (Interupts) Then and hot air now.
INT: Could you make me a statement of that?
INT: If you could describe..
MB: (Interrupts) It is true that at various points Khrushchev used rhetorical flourishes that had a flavour of nuclear danger to them but I do not think that those speeches were weighed heavily in Washington.
INT: What were the military optithat were available to the US over Berlin?
MB: As we considered the question of military defence in Berlin we had to recognise that we wwin a full-scale conventional war in the middle of Germany. We had therefore to use our conventional strength as the means of demonstrating our determination but we could not plan on fighting and winning large battles. We simply had to be ready to force the issue in terms of making the other guy fire the first shot and it was in that context that we had increased capabilities for asserting and maintaining our rights of access and presence in West Berlin.
INT: Could you describe what that increased military capability was?
MB: Well, they were the you know in overall war-fighting terms, the changes were not very large. What they had to do with was really more readiness of commanders on the scene to be prompt and quick in maintaining the existing rights and privileges in Berlin, and in that sense, the most important military step that we took was to put General Clay on the spot.
INT: That was after the barrier was created?
MB: Yes, but before that we had people on the scene who were alert and that and maintained our rights. I don't think there's any particular magic to that. It was simply a matter of having it clear that we would insist on the existing military rights and privileges.
INT: These were the three essentials. Can you describe the three essentials.
MB: Well, the three essentials that were worked out and publicly stated in a lot of different forms but in essence they were the American and Western military presence effective access and the maintenance of the political rights and status of the citizens and polity of West Berlin.
INT: That's two.
MB: That's three. Presence, access and political rights.
INT: I'm going to ask you about the twenty fifth of July speech. That was an important speech of Kennedy's presidency. How far do you think that signalled to the Soviets about the American strength of purpose over Berlin?
MB: Well, I think the speech of July 25th did make clear the basic American requirements for peace in Berlin which are the three that we were just discussing and it's also true that the speech does not assert as fundamental and sort of war and peace issues, the wider rights in Berlin as a whole and that was deliberate.
INT: That's what I wanted you to expound upon. The fact that Kennedy very quickly referred to West Berlin. Now was that a signal that the Soviets would take that there would be no interference in the Soviet sphere?
MB: Well, we don't have any direct knowledge of the degree to which what was put in and what was left out of the July speech was read as permitting or encouraging or allowing actions such as those that the Soviets did take when they built the wall. But I think it is a fact that we were not going to fight about what the Soviets did on their side of the wall and that it is quite likely that Khrushchev was helped to understand that American position by the July speech. And my own view, looking back, is that's a good thing.
INT: But your own view of the stress on West Berlin, how much do you think that that gave encouragement to Khrushchev?
MB: I think the basic point to remember about the way the Berlin Crisis came out is that it came out with a reassertion and re-emphasis of the existing rights and powers and I think that was on the whole constructive. It did mean that the Western rights in East Berlin were not enforced. And the reason for that is the underlying power situation on the ground. The Soviets had the power to do what they eventually did, namely build the wall.
INT: Looking back on it would you have any regrets that the phrase "West Berlin"....
MB: (Interrupts) No, I would not. I do not think it was wrong to emphasise West Berlin because I think it would have been over-stretching to try to make the formal rights of the West in East Berlin effective in the 1960s.
INT: When the barrier, before it actually became a wall, went up and news reached the President, can you remember what his response was?
MB: I don't have any direct recollection.
INT: I'm sorry.
MB: I don't have any direct recollection.
INT: What was your own response?
MB: I haven't really reviewed that either. It was an intense period and I have to plead unprepared on that subject.
INT: Well, you do write in...
MB: If I can look and see what I said there...