Galbraith, JK.



Nitze, Paul H

Tucker, R.




INTERVIEWER: It's Sunday, twenty fifth of August, we're in Washington D.C., and this is an interview for Cold War programme 9 with Mrs Martha Mautner. Thank you very much for being willing to contribute the interview. We're starting off with the Eisenhower administration, so I'd like to ask you first of all, in 1958 how you assessed the seriousness of the Soviet ultimatum and what do you think Khruschev's motive was?

MARTHA MAUTNER: Of course, how I assessed it and how other people assessed it were often various different things. My reaction was it was one more step in his war of nerves on trying to get us out of Berlin, which had been goal throughout his whole era. The attitudes of various people ranged from one good friend in Berlin, who, when the ultimatum was announced, immediately announced a house-warming for the new house he was building in Berlin for the day when the ultimatum would expire, showing his contempt for the whole idea. In Washington, it was taken here with not deadly seriously, but very seriously that this was one more step in a game that had been er played for over the years. The first problem, of course, was to get allied reactions co-ordinated before one could respond to it, because there were after all three powers involved in West Berlin and, of course, the German government, which had to be taken into account in responding to this... the challenge. Secondly, was the fact that in the Fall of '58, American policy towards Germany had been more or less in the hands of John Foster Dulles and John Foster Dulles had been diagnosed with terminal cancer by about that time and knew that his days were numbered and the President also knew that. So you began to have the ultimatum coincided with a period of the beginning of a drift in American policy formulation. One should keep that in mind. The question about getting a response to the ultimatum took about a month's time. In Berlin it was taken with seriousness, because the Soviets ... what was happening in East Germany at the time was sufficient to give the local people on the scene fears that the Soviets were really going to push and that something would have to be done. But it was not a crisis situation, that was one point I think one should emphasise. It was taken as one more step in a long history of Berlin crises and that would have to be dealt with. It was calculated that Khruschev wanted a summit meeting with the Western powers, he wanted to resolve the Berlin problem, because it was a headache for the Eastern empire and that he was prepared to utilise the big shot in the arm that Soviet prestige had gotten the previous year with the Sputnik and its achievements in space, much greater than anybody else had been able to accomplish and the Soviets were then in a position to feel that they had recovered from the set-backs that they had had with the Hungarian crisis and elsewhere and were not prepared to go on the offensive again. So we had all these things in the back of our minds and ready to deal with it as another problem.

INT: The Eisenhower strategy when this ultimatum was received, how far was he prepared to go in negotiating over Berlin and what was his reasons behind that?

MM: I think the basic one was that we had no intention of getting into a war. Nobody wanted a war at that time. You also had the beginnings in this country of the big propaganda about the missile gap theory, that the Americans were falling behind the Soviets in the missile race and Sputnik, of course, had underscored that. You had the beginnings of a large coterie of academics who were nurtured on the nuclear age and the devastation that a nuclear war could cause, who were all worried about anything that could lead to a war with another nuclear armed power and the Soviet Union had now achieved nuclear strength as well, not parity, but strength vis vis the United States. So all of these played a factor. The Eisenhower administration was committed to the defence of Berlin, every administration since 1945 had basically been committed to the defence of Berlin one way or another, the allied rights there. What had changed during that period, of course, was the different allies, their strengths, weaknesses had altered considerably. The French were in the middle of the Algerian crisis, the British government was coping with economic difficulties and not wanting to get involved in any crisis situation, the German government was just getting back on its feet economically as well as politically at the time and didn't want disruption...


INT: Just to summarise again, what was the strategy of the Eisenhower administration?

MM: Well, John Foster Dulles was essentially a lawyer and his approach was generally to find a common ground on any issue and resolve it that way and he immediately embarked in a round of visits throughout Europe to line up the allied position on the subject. And essentially, the allies agreed that we would remain firm in Berlin, the allied position would be defended, access to Berlin was a non-negotiable issue, and the fact that the German government had a commitment dating back from 1954 that Germany would speak... West Germany, the Bonn government was the spokesman for all of Germany, which had been an allied agreement with that 1954 treaty with Bonn, er had to be taken into account, the fact that the East Germans could not be considered as a spokesman for German interests. Well, starting from that basis, Dulles tried to develop a common approach which everyone would accept. Basically speaking, he was striving to find a negotiating forum in which an allied position could be presented to the Soviets and they could negotiate and see if there was common ground. The end result of this, of course, eventually was by May the Soviets had agreed to meet in... and without lifting their ultimatum, they agreed to meet with the Foreign Ministers' Conference in Geneva, I think in May of 1959 and with that negotiating positions were developed. At that point, the attempt to find a compromise with the Soviets was where we began to get into serious trouble, at least from the view point of the hard-line Berlin Mafia, because any concessions that you made to the Soviets from the Western side would be an erosion of the Western position there and the Soviets themselves were committed to a situation in Berlin that the allies could not tolerate, so you were already... I mean, there was no possible outcome... negotiated outcome that was possible. But at the same time, the willingness of the West to discuss concessions and Gromyko was a very skilled negotiator in those sessions, began to cause questions about Western firmness on Berlin. They were prepared to, for instance, put limitations on the garrisons, that was one part of the position of the negotiating position at Geneva, to avoid provocative actions there, such as limiting the activities of security services or the radios, propaganda radios, that kind of thing, to take other moves to, for instance, consider dealing with the East Germans as an agent of the Soviet Union in case the Soviets turned over access rights to the East Germans, this kind of thing. How serious those commitments... those negotiating proposals were, nobody can really answer, whether they've ever been finally accepted in the last analysis, but the point was the publication of the fact that that was given and the Soviet knowledge that the West was prepared to make concessions er was enough to not only the Soviets to consider the negotiation. that Geneva had been a success, but they could go on from there. And when the seriousness of those concessions began to register, I think, in upper quarters in Washington - and by that time Dulles had died - I think Eisenhower and Hoete, the new Secretary of State, felt that the best idea for getting this off dead centre would be to propose a summit meeting with Khruschev, it eventually turned out to be Camp David, [inaudible], and that would at least move the forum away from Geneva and those concessions and see if there was any possibility of talone to with the Soviet leader on a basis of mutual understanding. So that's how we moved from the Geneva emphasis on concessions to a situation where Khruschev got what he wanted, which was a visit to the United States and treatment as an equal, [inaudible] and an exchange with Eisenhower, which gave him I think a fair idea that probably if he continued without too much provocative actions on the ground, he could get more and more out of the Western side. And that, I think, is what happened as a result of that in