SOVIET OBJECTIVES IN THE BERLIN CRISIS (SNIE 100-13-58)

Created: 12/23/1958

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3 December 8

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SPECIAL

NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE ESTIMATE NUMBER

SOVIET OBJECTIVES IN THE BERLIN CRISIS

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SOVIET OBJECTIVES IN THE BERLIN CRISIS

THE PROBLEM

To assess Soviet objectives and probable policy in the Berlin situation.

CONCLUSIONS

move to raise thc issue of Berlin at this time Is probably not thcof any single development but stems from several converging factors; some of these bear on the shoring up of theposition in Eastern Europe, others on weakening the Allied position Inand in Western Europe generally. Wc view Moscow's move as anotherof the hardening tendency in Soviet foreign policy and of thegrowing confidence in Uie general strength of the Bloc's positionis thc Western Powers.

We believe that the Soviet objectives in their move against Berlin include:

remove or reduce thewhich Berlin poses to thcregime and thus to theof the Soviet order in

increase the internationalof the German Democraticin order lo strengthen theinternal position and toSovict-GDR program toby confederation.

c. To move thc West toward acceptance of thc USSR's version of the status quo in Eastern Europe.

d To foster discord among the NATO states, to reduce West German confidence in its allies, and to encourage Bonn toeparate deal with the USSR on the German problem.

e. To bring about West Germany's withdrawal from NATO and to impose limitation on German armament, and particularly to preventuclear capability.

o maneuver thc West intoSoviet proposals for an early summit meeting and perhaps to induce the US to enter bilateral top-level negotiations.

f the Soviets fail lo make significant progress in possible negotiations with the Allies, they will sooner or later have to face up to the question of fulfilling their announccd intention to turn over to East Germany their controls over access to West-Berlin. Their decision will beaffected by the Soviet assessment of

the degree of tension which hadand particularly thc firmness of the Western position at the time, and it is possible that the Soviet leaders might decide to back down under whatever smokescreen of explanation seems most expedient. However, we consider it more likely that the USSR would proceed with the turnover of controls to the EastThe Soviet leaders probablyto be cautious and tactically flexible. We believe that they will try to direct

Soviet and East German maneuveringanner which will avoid militarywith the Western allies, while at the same time they will be prepared to take advantage of any signs of weakness on the part of the West, or of inclinations to compromise on major issues.they have already committedconsiderably, and wc believe that the crisis may be severe, withchance of miscalculation by one or both sides.

DISCUSSION

move to raise the Issue of Berlin at this time Is probably not the result of any single development but stems from several converging factors; some of these bear on the shoring up of the Communist position in Eastern Europe, others on weakening the Allied position in Germany and In Western Europe generally. We view Moscow's move as another manifestation of the hardening tendency in Soviet foreign policy and of the Soviet's growing confidence in the general strength of Ihe Bloc's positionis the Western Powers. Khrushchev apparenUy genuinely believes that Soviet weaponsand economic successes arc shifting rhe world balance of power. The strength of this con fiction, frequently expressed in recent Communist pronouncements, is evident from the firmness with which he has demanded Uiat Uie Issue of Berlin be reopened. Soviet leaders must be aware Uiat there is virtually no point of controversy between East and West on which Uie West has so thoroughly committed itself, and Uiat there can scarcelyore dangerous international Issue to push to Uie point of crisis.

We do not believe Uiat the more assertive tone of Soviet foreign policy ln general or the Soviet move on Berlin in particular indicate any greater Soviet willingness deliberately to risk general war. The Soviets have almost certainly not Intended to give the crisis the

characterilitary showdown but haveto develop it In poliUcal terms. Thus Moscow will seek to avoid placing itself in any position from which it must either back down completely or resort to military force. Nevertheless. Soviet prestige is alreadycommitted on Uie Berlin Issue: the Soviet Government has announced Uiat it will turn over to Uie East Germans Its functions in Berlin, Including access controls. The Soviets have given public assurances of militaryto East Germany in the event Uiat Uie letter's "frontiers" are "violated" by the Allies. The Soviets may even believe that Uie West itself is less dumoxed to run substantial risk of war and that therefore Uie Western Alliance ts more likely to give in to pressure.

PRINCIPAL SOVIET OBJECTIVES

e believe Uiat the Soviet objectives in their move against Berlin Include:

remove or reduce Uie disruptivewhich Berlin poses to Uie Eastregime and thus to Uie consolidationSoviet order In Eastern Europe.

increase Uie international prestigeGerman Democratic Republic (GDR)to strengthen the regime'sand to support Uie Sovlet-GDRto "reunify" Germany by confederation.

FT

move the West toward acceptanceUSSR's version of the status quo tnEurope.

foster discord among the NATOreduce West German confidence inand to encourage Bonn to seek adeal with the USSR on the

bring about West Germany'sfrom NATO and to imposeGerman armament, and particularlyGerman acquisition of a

o maneuver the West Into accepting Soviet proposals for an early summit meeting and perhaps to induce the US to entertop-level negotiations.

he first three of these objectives arewith shoring up the Communistin Easternroblem which has preoccupied the Soviets especially during the past few years The political and economic stability of the GDR hasroublesome problem, which has been pointed up In recent months by the flight of professional personnel through West Berlin. If the Western Powers could be persuaded to withdraw their forces from Berlin, the GDR authorities would be able to restrict the flow of refugees as well to reduce the political challenge which Westhas presented the GDR. Together with implicit Western recognition of East Germany, these developments would significantlythc Soviet position in Eastern Europe by giving permanence and stability to the weakest and most exposed of the satellite regimes Barring an Allied withdrawal, the Soviets hope to force the Allies Into official dealings with East German authorities on the question of access to Berlin. They hope thus to strengthen the international prestige of East Germany, formalize the division of(with adverse effects on the populations of both West and Eastnd lay Uie foundation for further pressure on the Allies' presence in Berlin.

B. At the same lime, and by the samethe Soviet leaders aim to undermine the Allied position in Western Europe. They

probably believe that they canerlin crisis to exploit latent differences among the Allies concerning the German problem inand the method of dealing with thc GDR ba particular They hope to estrange theRepublic from its allies, since anyaccommodation with the GDR wouldlarge sections of Ocrman opinion that the West was retreating from the position it had hitherto taken on reunification. Theleaders probably believe that anyfailure of the Bonn Government toclose association with the Western great powers would undermine Its domesticspread feelings of helplessness andamong the West German population, and lead to broader support for an attempt to explore the possibilityeparate deal with the USSR on thc German problem. It is probably the Soviet view that if suchbecame dominant In West Germany, the collapse of NATO and Its defensewould be in sight.

POSSIBtE COURSES OF SOVIET ACTION

lie Soviets almost certaltdy did not expect Western acceptance of theirovemberto make Westfreehey probably foresee some form of negotiations with thc allies before they turn over to thc East Germans control over Western access to Berlin. However, il is possible that in certain eventualities, such as an outright Westernlo enter into negotiations, the Soviets would take this step before the expiration of the six months' period stipulated in their note. At any stage of the crisis, of course, they may threaten to makeove in order to put pressure on the Allies But. on the whole, wc believe It unlikely that they will actuallyrecipitate move, regardless of initialresponses.

he Soviets probably nowestern proposal to discuss Berlin within the context or thc entire German problem Wc do not think lhatroposal would be greeted with outright Soviet rejection but would piobably be mel with counteroffersto exploit any show of Alliedgenerated by the Berlin crisis.

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least initially, any such counteroffers would probably center around Sovietfor disengagement in Central Europe and/or for negotiationserman peace treaty. These might be presented in the formoviet packageeneral European settlement which would includeevised Rapacki Plan, theconclusionerman peace treatytep toward confederation of two German states, and an East-West nonaggression pact. Thc Soviets might make some conciliatory gestures in order to render their proposals more palatable.

In making such proposals, thc Soviets would estimate lhat certain elements ofopinion would react favorably to those features of their proposals which provide for military disengagementwithdrawal of forces and banning of nuclear weapons from Central Europe. They would expect toin particular to those Westerners who regard the presence of nuclear-equipped forces of both sides in Germanyain cause of tension and war danger. They would hold out the prospect to the Social Democrats and neutralists in West Germany that further progress toward unification would be possible once acceptance of Soviet proposals hadeneral casing of thc tensions which surround the German problem. By appeals of this kind to various elements of opinion in Europe, they would try to make it as difficult as possible for the Western European Powers lo reject their proposals altogether.

We believe it likely that at some moment which the Soviets judge favorable they will again bringramatic proposalummit meeting on the whole array of Issues which will have been raised. The moment chosen for this move would be one at which tensions were high over the prospect or aand at which the Soviets might consider opinion in the West to be deeply divided over the next steps. Inummit meeting the Soviets would try to bring thc Western Powers to accept agreements which, while trumpetedreat advance for peace, would tn fact amount to acceptance of the main Soviet terms.

Whether orummit meetingthe Soviets, either to stimulatenegotiations on Germanyhole or toeadlock, might at some stage attach new features to their "free city"to make them more attractive toopinion. They may, for example, offer to Include East Berlin in their proposalemilitarized "freehey may also offer to place access to the city under formal UN guarantees, perhaps with UN observersIn the city and on access routes. Such offers would almost certainly still beon the continuationommunist government in the Eastern sector, an end to the East German refugee flow through West Berlin,essation of Allied "subversive" and Intelligence activities in thc city.

We thus believe that Soviet tacUcs will retain some flexibility, the better to takeof thc situaUon as it develops.Soviet opposition to German reurufica-Uon on any basis otheronfederation which preserved Communist East Germany will be in the background of all SovietThe Soviet leaders almost certainly do not contemplate relinquishing control over East Germany because of the threat such action would pose to their whole position in Eastern Europe, beginning with Poland.

If the Soviets fail to make significant progress in possible negotiations with the Allies, they will sooner or later have to face up to the question of fulfilling theirintention to turn over to Easttheir controls over access to WestTheir decision will be greatly affected by the Soviet assessment of the degree of tension which had developed and particularly the firmness of the Western position at the time, and it is possible that thc Soviet leaders might decide lo back down under whateverof explanation seems most expedient. However, we consider it more likely that the USSR would proceed with the turnover ofto the East Germans. The Sovietprobably intend to be cautious andflexible. Wc believe lhat they will try to direct Soviet and East German maneuver-

inganner which will avoid military conflict with the Western allies, while at the same time they will be prepared to takeof any signs of weakness on the part of the West, or of inclinations to compromise

on major Issues. Nevertheless, they havecommitted themselves considerably, and we believe that the crisis may be severe, with considerable chance of miscalculation by one or both sides.

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