SOVIET AND OTHER REACTIONS TO VARIOUS COURSES OF ACTION IN THE BERLIN CRISIS (S

Created: 4/6/1959

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SPECIAL NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE ESTIMATE-

^SOVIET AND OTHER REACTIONS'COURSES OF ACTION IN THE BERLIN CRISIS

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Submitted by the DIRECTOR OF CENTRAL INTEIXT.GBNCE The following intelligence organizations, participated in tne preparation of this estimate: The Central InteUigence Agency and the intemgenee organizations of the Departments of State, the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, and The Joint Staff.

Concurred tn by the

tTNITED STATES INTELLIGENCE BOARD

prilmere The Director of In-

telligence and Research, Department of State; the Assistant Chief of Staff for IntelUgence, Department of the Army; the Director of Naval InteUigence; the Assistant Chief of Staff, IntelUgence, USAF; the Director for InteUigence, The Joint Staff; the Assistant to. the Secretary of Defense, Special

Operations; and the Director of thc National Security Agency-

The Atomic Energy Commission Representative to the USIB and the Assistant Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation, abstained, the subject being outside-of iheir jurisdiction.

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CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY

69

SUBJECT: SOVIET AND OTHER REACTIONS TO

VARIOUS COURSES OP ACTION IN THE BERLIN CRISIS

THE PROBLEM

To estimate Soviet and other reactions to four courses of action, undertaken Jointly by Britain, Prance, and the US, in the event of failure of negotiations In the Berlin crisis and Soviet interference with Western access. The courses of action are: ubstantial effort to reopen ground aocess to West Berlin by local action; ubstantial effort toair access; (c) reprisals against the Communists in other areas; and (d) preparations for general war.

assumptions!/

1. The US, UK, Prance and the GPR

a. Have reached agreement on the kind of situation regarding acoess to Berlin that would evoke Allied resort to force;

These assumptions appear as given in the policy paper to which this SNIEontribution.

Have reached agreement that resort to force

would include local ground action, local air aotlon, or

reprisals, or any combination of these;

Have therefore accepted the risk of general

implicit in such resort to force. However, they have not reached firm agreement that they will proceed automatically to general war if resort to such limited force has resulted ln Initial indecisive local action.

Before reBort to force political negotiations with the USSR at the Foreign Minister level and possibly at the Summit will have taken place and failed.

There has already been unacceptable interference with normal military access to or from Berlin, but German civilian traffic has not been stopped.

DISCUSSION

1. The consequences of any course of action on thescene will always depend on the context of events within which the move is made, and on the manner, style, and timing of the action. In the present Berlin crisis there has already been extensive maneuver on both sides. The issue at stake have been defined ln various ways, ranging from the

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relatively narrow question of Berlin's status to the wider problem of European and even of world security. Propaganda and diplomacy are continuously active. Neither side has finally defined its own position; each ls testing as far as lt may the strength and resolution of the adversary. Given the importance and dangers Implicit In the whole complex of Issues surrounding the Berlin problem, the mood and even the intentions of the protagonists may shift as the crisis is.

2. This being the situation, an estimate of theof certain courses of action in the Berlin crisispeculiar difficulties. It is Impossible to predict the particular context of events within which these actions might be taken, and we think it Important to point out that anmade without knowledge of this context might be seriously midlcading. estern move madearticular Juncture of events, or executedarticular manner, might have conse-quenoes different from the same move made under differentorifferent manner. We have therefore not tried toetailed estimate, but Instead have attempted to describe,eneral way, some of the limits within whloh we believe the consequences of Western action would be likely to fall, and to explain some of the factors which would be likely to determine these consequences.

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particular, Soviet and free world reactionsWestern measures listed above would be influenced byin which negotiations had failed as well as by theon both sides which had led to this outcome. Muchupon whether the Soviet or Western side seemed tofor the failure. If the whole chain ofhad been run through, and the breakdown occurred atinternational tension would be markedly greater than

if it came at the ministerial level or lower. from harassment or interference with AlliedSoviet or QDR authorities might have heightenedinfluenced world opinion for or against one side or Similar effects would result if either side hadmilitary preparations. Also, the 3klll with whichmeasures were Justified to the world wouldSoviet behavior and free world, .

it is clear that the whole array ofprevailing when the courses of action underput Into play cannot be known in advance. However,to narrow the range of uncertainty the followingapplying to all four cases, are assumed to be

(a) At the time when negotiations breakdown, the Western Powers will have made statements indicating that

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they intend to maintain their rights of access to Berlin by force if necessary. Their public posture will be such that resort to force will be clearly implicitext step. Some preparations manifesting readiness foraction will have been undertaken. Theserogressive basis, use of emergency powers and appropriate degree of mobilization, unit deployments. Increased emphasis on readiness of units, andof an Increased alert posture.

(b) The Soviets and GDR will not explicitly deny Allied access to Berlin. Instead, they will sinply be making access subject to certain conditions, beginning presumably with replacement of Soviet by GDR controllers at checkpoints. Thus, the Western Justification forto force will have to rest on the West's ownthat one or another requirement governing access constitutes interference which.is inenial of

It Is emphasized that these are assumptions and in no way an estimate that the four powers, especially the OX, will or will not agree that these circumstances alone Justify the following courses of action.

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(Reaotions in the West ln particular will greatly depend on how far it is cloar to public opinion and governments that something moreere technical Issuet stake.)

COURSE A: ubstantial effort to reopen ground accessefined as the dispatcheinforcedforces upeinforced division with tacticalin readiness if required. The force will proceedthe opposite end of the autobahn. If militarytake place the force will take over control pointsand overcome such resistance as feaslole. Ifbarriers or armed resistance are encountered beyondto deal with, the force will disengage and awaithigher authority. .'

5. The USSR's response to this course of action would depend primarily upon its estimate of tho risks involved. It would be clear to the Soviet leaders that the Western allies were prepared to run substantial risks of general war; this, it ls possible that the Soviets would believe the West determined to press its action all the way to general war if necessary. If the Soviets did make the latter estimate, they might seize the initiative by an early nuclear attack on the West, but It is more likely that they would signify ato make sufficient concessions to put the issue quickly

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back into the diplomatic arena. They would probably hope that ln the general relief following their move they would gain some credit for devotion to peace, and might not fare badly in the negotiations.

6. We believe, however, that the Soviets would not be convinced by the postulated course of action, even with the accompanying preparations noted lnbove, that the Western Powers had decided to go as far as general war. we believe that the most probable Soviet response would be to use armed forceoviet or East German or bothto expel the Western troops from ODR territory. They would recognize that great risks were Involved in such action, and they might initially attempt various obstructive measures which would hinder the progress of the allied force withoutarmed conflict, while they tested the possibilityorld reaction favorable to their Interests. But they would feel that if the Western resort to force succeeded the general power position of the USSR would be greatly diminished, and that this in turn would undermine Soviet Influence everywhere. They would particularly fear the possible threat to theirin Eastern Europe. Moreover, they would calculate that, because of the superiority of Soviet forces in the Immediate area, the Western Powers would in the end prefer toegotiated settlement rather than to Increase the scale of

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their local military effort. The Soviets would still attempt to keep the engagement localized, while continuing to warn of the great danger of expansion of hostilities and to callfor renewed

7- In responding with force Moscow might limit Itself to use of East German troops. This would have the advantage ofirect confrontation between Soviet and Western forces, and It would lend plausibility to the claim of the GDR to sovereignty and independence. On the other hand, there would be definite risks in the use of East German forces. The political reliability of some of these troops may be regarded by the Soviets as uncertain and they might fear the possibility of defection among them. If the East Germans sufferedarge-scale defection, there might be flash risings in the GDR and the possibility of these spreading to Poland or Hungary, or both. We believe that the SovietB might Initially

The Assistant Chief of Staff, Intelligence, USAP,from Paragraph 6. He believes that the postulated course of aotion would convince the Soviets that the Western allies were prepared if necessary to proceed to general war, and that the Soviets would therefore find ways to ease the crisis. Moreover, he believes that the Soviets would estimate that any overt engagement of US and USSR armed forces could not be localized, but rather would lead to general war.

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German forces for setting up road blocks and other

obstructive action, but once fighting had broken out they would feel obliged to use their own forces along with East Germans.

Other Reactions

8. Western resort to armed force would meet withpublic disapproval in the non-Communist world generally, though in varying degrees ln different countries depending on the importance attached to the Issues Involved. Unfavorable reactions would stem primarily from fear of war. In the more important countries of NATO, public reaction would probably be mixed, and would depend to some degree on how far Soviet obstructive actions appeared designed merely to enforcerequirements for ODR supervision of Western access to Berlin, rather than to Isolate Berlin from the West and com-

munize the city. If the latter seemed clearly to be the Soviet objective, there would be considerable public support for the Western countermove. But events would probably move so rap-Idly that their would bo little time for public opinion to crystallize and to affect the action of governments. In the

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end, It would be the success or failure of the operation which would largely determine public attitudes.

9- We believe that the NATO governments together with others would support the move of the three powers. Kany governments, however, and especially those of neutralist countries, would oppose. The matter would almost certainly be raised ln the UN. Once in the UN General Assemblythat the Security Council could nott is unlikely that either the SovietB or the West couldwo-thirds majorityesolution fully endorsing its own position. There would be strong pressureompromise resolution, which, though it might be presented as not prejudicing the position of either side, might nevertheless tend to freeze the status quo to the advantage of the Soviets.

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Course S: ubstantial effort lo reopen air access -- Western action would be graduated depending upon thc degree of Soviet and GDR interference. If there waa interference which endangered the safety of Western aircraft peaceably transiting the corridors. Western combat aircraft would come to their assistance, Soviet Reactionn

10, We believe that, if the Western Powers ignored Soviet GDR requirements for control of air access by continuing their flights to Berlin, the Soviets would probably employ means of interference short of actual firing upon Weatern aircraft. If they employed means of harassment still short of actual firing upon Weatern aircraftgainst which thc Western Powers felt obliged to employ combat aircraft, we do not believe the Soviets would even then actually fire upon the Western planes, although the likelihood of their doing so would increase. Such action would cause them to appear before the world as the initiator of hostilities. ore compelling reason for Soviet restraint would beenial of ground access would almost certainly be in effect; the Soviets would probably think theyetter case on that aspect, and

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could also more easily force the West to take thc onus of actually opening fire. We believe that Bloc aircraft would engage inonly if they were fired upon by Western aircraft, or ii*aircraft left the corridors. More likely, therefore, thcwould point to the great dangers in the situation and call urgently for reopening of negotiations. If further negotiations did not result or failed to resolve the situation andong-continued garrison airlift developed, the USSR would find itself faced with increased world tensionontinuing handicap to itscoexistence" policy without concrete gains. In this thc USSR might take more drastic action against tho but would be more likely to seek some peaceful alternative

method of ending the Berlin tensions, as in the case of

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irlift, even at the cost of non-vital concessions.-

47 The Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Department of the Army, and the Director of Special Operations, Office of thc Secretary of Defense, do not agree with thc eBtimated Soviet reaction lo this course of action as presented in this paragraph. They believe that the present text does not fully recognize:he technical and practical infeasibility of high performancecombat aircraft remaining within tho corridors while engaged in the tactical operations contemplated in this course of action;

repeated historical precedents of Soviet armedany Western aircraft violating Communist air space; or

probable ineffectiveness of the use of Westernto drive off harassing Soviet aircraft without firing.

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In their view, analysis of these considerations alone leads to the conclusion that, in thc circumstances envisaged, the most probable Soviet response to this Western course of action would sooner or later be tlie use of armed force to deny air access to Berlin; that is, essentially the same response and based an the same reasoning contemplated with respectestern effort to reopen land access (paragraphs

Therefore, they believe that Paragraph hould read as follows: .

"We believe that if the Western Powers ignored thc Soviet and GDR. requirements for control of air access, ilitary effort to reopen land access had not taken place, the Soviets would probably react initially with means ofshort of actual firing upon Western aircraft. If they employed means of harassment against which thcPowers felt obliged to employ combat aircraft, wethe Soviets would probably respond with the force deemed sufficient to destroy or drive out the Western aircraft. Such action would be presented to the worldefensive act against armed aggression by the West. While the Soviets would appreciate that tho actual shooting down of Western planes might spark wider conflict leading perhaps to general war, we believe their reasoning in this instance would be the same as with respect to an attemptestern land force to reopen land access as indicated innd 6

.'abov

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course open to the Soviets would be to imposeon civil access to West Berlin in the belief thatcould not supply the city by air against forms of interfcr-

I encc such as ECM. We believe this course of action is unlikely because the Soviets would wish for political reasons not to imply that their aim was seizure of West Berlin. This would unite Western opinion and probably close off acceptance of some form of "free city" arrangement, egotiating position which the Soviets would probably wish to keep open.

Other Reactions

extent to which the protection of Westernwould be condemned or approved by free worlddepend in large part on what provocation the USSR If the Soviets used physical interference orshoot down Western transport planes to enforce closing, measures would probably be approved. If Westernaircraft went into the corridors after transports hadfired upon or shot down, the Western action wouldclearly justified for the great bulk of Western opinion. wider approval would be found for the Western actions ifwere simultaneously attempting to deny ground access.

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COURSE C: Reprisals against the Communists ln the form of tripartite naval controls on USSR and GDR merchanteprisals would be applied progressively in accordance with the degree of interference applied by the USSR and GDR to Western access to Berlin. Delays wild be imposed for inspection of documents, cargo and health conditions, or search for illegally carried personnel. Passage would be denied where certain cargos were carried or certain destinations declared. Finally, there would be full control on the high seas, return of Soviet and GDR shipping to ports of departure, and detention of ships attempting to evade the blockade. Execution of these measures would be by US, British, and French naval forces.

Soviet, j

13. Since the Western program of reprisals would begradually, the USSR would not be forced to determine at once whother it should make concessions on the Berlin issue. The USSR would probably react initially with warnings that it would not tolerate such derogation of its prestigereat power. It would alao await world reactions to see whether opposition to the Western measures developed in key countriesufficient scale

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to permit effective diplomatic and propaganda action against thc Western Ebwers, perhaps in the UN. As thc Western reprisals mounted in scale and seriousness, the Soviets would probably retaliate in kind against the shipping of the the three powers in Bloc ports and national waturs, enlisting the collaboration of other states if they could. They would probably attempt toor take custody of Western merchant shipping on thc high seas near to their own coasts and ports; declare certain waters, such as the Black and Baltic seas, closed to ships of the three powers; use armed escorts for their shipping where feasible and even use their large submarine force to harass, detain, and threaten Western shipping. They would probably not shrink from armed encounters at sea in protecting their merchant shipping.

14. Throughout these actions and counteractions the Soviet; leaders would weigh carefully both the risks of an expansion of hostilities and the possibilities for political exploitation of the situation against the Western Powers. The effect on the Soviet economy would be little, Moscow could circumvent such reprisals by recourse to ships of other flags and by overland shipments if it felt obliged to do so. The political penalties imposed on the

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Soviet Union, if any, would be minor. If this course of action led

to diacord among tho Western Powers, Moscow would even sec

certain advantages resulting from at. Thus, we do not think that thc postulated allied course of action wouldignificanton the Soviet position in the Berlin crisis.

Other Reactions

15. As with reactions in free world countries to the other courses of action, much would depend on the nature of the Soviet action in blocking access to Berlin. Thus, while there wouldendency to view the measures as exclusively retaliatory and perhaps as making settlement of the Berlin problem even more difficult, they would probably win far wider support if they cameime when West Berlin was under full blockade. InitiaUy, since there would be less danger of immediate hostilities than would be involved in the other courses of action, there would probably be less opposition stemming from fear of war. Reactions would probably be increasingly unfavorable, however, aa reprisals mounted tho scale toward armed action. Even before this, some countries with important shipping interests would object on the ground that thc reprisals compromised the principle of freedom of the seas. Should these measures prove ineffective in changing the

Soviet attitude on Berlin there would probably be widespreadagainst the three powers in free world countries.

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COURSE D: Preparations for general warn addition to the measures outlined ina) above, and to any other military preparations which may be required to bring the US to full military and civilian defense readiness for general war,leaders would be alerted to the probable necessity of war. Congressional authorization would be obtained for the use of force as necessary to redress our grievances, NATO would boand action sought for the initial stages of NATO formal alert, and consultations held as provided in the Rio, SEA TO. and ANZ.US treaties, and with the Baghdad Pact members.

Soviet Reactions

16. We believe lhat US preparations for general war of lhc scope and nature postulatedhc Allies not having been hoard fromould probably convince the Soviet leaders that the US. at least, had decided actually to proceed if necessary to that extreme. If the principal NATO allios of the US appeared to be in agreement, lhc Soviets would almost certainly be convinced that general war was imminent, and ws think that they would signify their willingness toegotiated settlement which respected basic Western interests. It should be observed, however, that the

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dangeriscalculation in the situation would be great, if the NATO allies clearly were not with the US in the decision for general war we still believe that the Soviets would probably back down sufficiently to assure the reopening of negotiations; in this case, however, ihey would probably expect that the divided policies of thr Western alliance wouldelatively favorable diplomatic outcome for themselves.

Other Reactions

17. There would probably be widespread alarm among the people of thc Atlantic community and profound disapproval in much uf the rest of the world. There would bo demands in the UN for action to halt the trend toward war. Yet these would not necessarily be the permanent or decisive reactions. To the extent to which NATO countries recognised that the issue posed over Berlin really involved the defense of tho free world, we believe that these countries would accept the measures. This would be especially true if it wore widely believed that the militaryheld good promise of maintaining the essential Western position without actual resort to war. We cannot Judge at this

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time whether such reactions would be likely to outweigh those

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of fear and opposition.

Soviet Reaction to an Ulti mat urn

18. If military preparations and declarations of intent to go to general war had nothift in the Sovietand the Western Powers then issued an ultimatuma redress of grievances, say withinours, it seems to us impossible to predict the Soviet response with any assurance. We believe that, at this stage in the proceedings, the Soviet leaders would not doubt the firmness of thc Western ultimatum, nor would Ihere be much time for them to explore alternative courses of action. It must be presumed that, if they had allowed the crisis to proceed ao far as to call for an ultimatum,

5/ The Acting Director of Intelligence and Reaearch,of State, believes that this paragraph makes insufficiently clear the attitude to be expected of NATO governments under lhe assumed circumstances that they have not previously agreed tond that they are acting on the development represented inb) above. The Acting Director believes that moat of the NATO governments would probably oppose and not join the US innder the given circumstances. They would join in this course of action, however, should the USSR, as is unlikely, reverse its tactics and openly threaten to expel thc Allies fromBerlin by force or blockade, and especially ifad already been undertaken.

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they would be prepared to accept the gravcsl risk ol general war. Confrontedlear-cut and uncompromising challenge the USSR would consider itti prestigereat powor at stake, and would surely find it difficult to back down. Accordingly, the Soviet loaders might launch an armed attack on the West immediately.

19. On the other hand, the issuance of the ultimatum would itself have deprived both sides of most of thc advantages of The Soviets would be in thc worst position torue pre-emptive attack on Western forces when those forces were fully poised for their own missions. This consideration alone almost certainly would be sufficient to persuade the Sovietseneral attack on thc Wesl was an unacceptable risk, provided that they had not come to estimate at the time that the West was irrevocably committed to an attack on the USSR. The possibility cannot be discounted that they mighttourprise attack after an interval during which the crisis had subsided. Western forces wereoutine state of alert and negotiations had been reopened. Thehowever, is that the Soviet leaders would not deliberately initiate general war since they would still estimate'that the scale

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oi damage they would suffer inar would threaten iho survival of their regime and society. It is much more likely that the Soviets would make the minimum concessions deemed necessary, meanwhile temporizing and exploiting the Western action in propaganda throughout the world while seeking new approaches and means of pressure to create new political initiatives in Europe or elsewhere.

REACTIONS WITHIN GERMANY TO THE FOUR COURSES OF ACTION

20. The reactions in Germany to tho four courses of action would not differ substantially from those in the othar Western European countries. In Wesl Germany generally there would be considerable support for Courses A, B, or C, but the fear of general war is auch thatould almost certainly arouse some reactions of panic. Courses A, B,ould be strongly supported in West Berlin and evenould be somewhat more likely to get gonoral assent there than elsewhere in Europe. In the circumstancesthe sense of danger would already be extreme and the Berliners would probably prefer to run the further risksrather than to submit to Soviet demands. In East

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Germany, there would be some likelihood, especially in

connection withnd D,opular rising would

be triggered, but we think it more likely that the population would not expose itself to retaliation so long as the outcome was uncertain. There might be greater likelihood of spontaneous anti-regime manifestations if the Communists seemed to back down before the Western threat.

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