Publication: The Times

Full Citation

  • Title Berlin And The West
  • Publication Title The Times
  • Collection The Times Digital Archive, 1785-2008
  • Date Monday,  July 19, 1948
  • Issue Number 51127
  • Page Number 5
  • Place of Publication London, England
  • Language English
  • Document Type Editorial
  • Publication Section Opinion and Editorial
  • Source Library Times Newspapers Limited
  • Copyright Statement © Times Newspapers Limited.
PERLIN AND THE WEST Moscow will be closely watching the five Foreign Ministers of the west European alliance when they open their confcrencc at The Hague to-day. It has long been clear that the Soviet Government is seeking to complete its programmc in central Europe, and perhaps beyond, before the West is fully organized. The mounting dangers in Berlin arise directly from that prograMme. The Russians began the blockade of the western sectors in the belief that the western Powers would be found hesitant or disunited, and they are watching for any sign that will confirm or destroy their belief. To that extent the Hague mceting is directly linked with the struggle in Bcrlin. Although it was not called to discuss Berlin it prorides a test of western intentions and preparedness. The five countries represented have been called the hard core of western union. They make up a partnership which is to be extended. In all the reports likely to be submitted on the progress of the union none will be more decisive than news from the Washington talkcs, which are still continuing. In those talks delegates of the five countries of the Brussels Treaty have been joined by United States and Canadian representatives and they have all sought to establish a broad regional defence pact that would include the free nations on both sides of the North Atlantic. Their confidence has grown as they have talked, and the preliminary results should soon be known. Even without formal association the direct community of interest is not in doubt. Yet the immediate dangers in Berlin press hard on the weeting at The Hague and they are not likely to be averted by the steady and gradual development of a grand defensiVe plan. All taking part in the meeting know what is at stake. If Berlin were to turn out badly for the west, the cause of western union would be thrown back beyond all reckoning. Germans of the west would put far less faith in western determination, and other European countries now inclining to the west might stand back to take stock again, balancing their fears. The challenge in Berlin requires immediate and clear decision. So long as the Russians remain obdurate the dangers will mount. Each side is being driven on to the point where an open clash might become unavoidable. Neither side desires war; yet, as measures and countermeasures increase, the combination of an incident and a rising belief that only force can settle the issue might produce a clash beyond control. Warnings that Soviet fighter machines would fly across the air corridors to the city have been met with unofficial suggestions that western fighters might accompany the cargo aeroplanes using the corridors. The landing of American bombers in this country has produced extravagant claims in Moscow lbout the supposed superiority of Soviet bombers. The war of nerves is reaching its height. All considerations lead back to the single question: what are the Soviet intentions ? If the Soviet Government is mainly seeking to force the western partners from Berlin, then no end to the struggle can be seen. If, however, the Russians are seeking to open a new conference on Germany then the western Powers have nothing to lose by inquiring more closely what the Russians have in mind-on the one overriding condition that neither by act or by word do the western Powers yield an inch of their rights in Berlin. The latest Soviet Note is almost wholly unpromising, almost wholly negative, yet the western Governments are evidently studying all its implications before replying to it. On first reading it would seem to state that the western Powers had forfeited all rights in Berlin and that the Soviet command was seeking to drive them out by means of the blockade. If that were all, the western answer would not be in doubt. In actual fact the Note was carefully phrased to leave a few loopholes for possible negotiation. As pointed out in these columns last week, it did not attempt to give the last word on western rights in Berlin; it stated that those rights were being diminished by actions in western Germany. Moreover, it stated that the blockade had been imposed, not as the beginning of unending policy, but to prevent currency from the western zones from being imported into Berlin. These may seem legalistic points; the western Governments and peoples have no illusions about the real purpose of the blockade; but what is of possible importance is the care which the Russians have taken to leave open even a faint prospect of negotiation. Their inner intention is still to be tested. Certainly no discussions could begin while the blockade was maintained to be used as a threat and a bargaining counter; and it is difficult to see at this stage what any discussions could achieve. Reasonable terms for opening them may still be refused by Moscow. An inquiry, accompanied by a firm statement of continued determination to resist all force, would show whether or not there is any basis for negotiation.