Full Citation

  • Title Khrushchev Tries Subtlety in Berlin
  • Publication Title New York Herald Tribune (European Edition)
  • Collection New York Herald Tribune (European Edition)
  • Date Friday,  Nov. 28, 1958
  • Page Number 6
  • Place of Publication Paris, France
  • Language English
  • Document Type Editorial
  • Publication Section Opinion and Editorial
  • Source Library The New York Times Company
Khrushchev Tries lt th Subtlety in Berlin thl hd W h The Soviet plan for trying to alter the status of Berlin is subtler than the advance propaganda blasts intimated. It is one that the Kremlin undoubtedly hopes will have an appeal for those who do not look beneath the surface. But the bitter fact remains under its sugar coating: the plan, if accepted, would achieve all the Communist objectives to the grave detriment of the interests of the free world. Moscow proposes that West Berlin become a free, demilitarized city; that six months be allowed for the Western powers to “ad¬ just themselves” to the change; that the four occupying nations agree to uphold the separate status of West Berlin, adding that “the Soviet government does not object to the United Nations participating in observ¬ ing the status of the free city of West Ber¬ lin.” What does this mean? In the first place, it would abrogate the four-power agreement on Berlin, making East Germany, not the Soviet Union, the authority with which any disputes over the city would have to be discussed. Secondly, it would split West Berlin polit¬ ically from the German J'ederal Republic, as it is now split geographically. West Berlin, although it has no voting rights in the Federal Parliament at Bonn, has represent¬ atives seated there. As Mayor Willy Brandt of'West Berlin put it: “I am against a third fragment of a state. Germany already has been divided too often.” Thirdly, it would give East Germany con¬ trol of all the approaches to West Berlin, a matter which has hitherto been regulated [(albeit with much friction and some com¬ promises) by agreement among the four oc¬ cupying powers. As the Soviet note says: “It is understood . . . that East Germany, as any other self-dependent state, should deal in full with questions pertaining to her territory and exercise her sovereignty over her land, waters and ah space.” Finally, the Western Allies would withdraw their troops, the 10,000-man garrison which has guaranteed that any aggression against West Berlin would be resisted by the united power of the West. All of this, be it understood, is presented by the Soviet Union on a take-it-or-leave-it basis. Prime Minister Khrushchev explain¬ ed in an interview that the six-month period specified by the Soviets did not con¬ stitute an ultimatum, but would “give us time to negotiate, time to talk about the problem.” But the Soviet note itself says: “If this proposal is not acceptable .to the governments of the thifee Western powers, the government of the U.S.S.R. emphasizes there is no topic left for discussion of the BStlin issue by the former occupying pow¬ ers.” And Khrushchev replied to a question on his government’s course if the plan, were turned down: “We would, of course, be most corry. But it would not stop us if they reject y the proposal we have made. We have no other way out.” This allows little, if any, room for nego¬ tiation. For the Western powers could not accede to the Soviet plan in anything like its present form without, in effect, handing West Berlin to the Communists on a platter. The free city of Berlin would be, for all practical purposes, dependent for its very life on Soviet promises, with the dubious support of UN “observers,” of undefined powers and little practical force. Khrushchev actually underscored West Berlin’s depend¬ ence, under his scheme, when he asserted: “The Soviet Union is prepared to take a solemn undertaking that the free city of West Berlin would be supplied with food and its economy supported by orders from East Germany and the Soviet Union.” The U.S.S.R. has made no attempt to con¬ ceal its belief that “the most correct and natural solution of the problem would be a decision under which the western part of Berlin . . . would re-unite with the eastern part of the city within that state in whose territory it is situated”—namely, East Ger¬ many. Khrushchev also says the present situation is “abnormal,” but that “rapid and quick changes” are undesirable . “We want,” he said, “to change the abnormal situation by normal means.” Those normal means, presumably, would be remorseless economic and other pressures on an isolated West Berlin. As Mayor Brandt bluntly told his Berliners: “It is the obvious aim of the Communist political strategy to weld all of Berlin into the so-called German Democratic Republic.” That aim must be frustrated. Bonn and London have already indicated that the So¬ viet plan is unacceptable. As a British gov¬ ernment source phrased it: “A change in the status of Berlin is logical only in the context of a peace treaty settlement that re-unites the country.” This, then, is the core of an effective Western reply to the Soviet attempt to swallow West Berlin. Let there be UN ob¬ servers—not to stand-helplessly in a hope¬ lessly besieged city, but to oversee free elec¬ tions for a united, independent Germany. Let there be a really “normal” solution for the abnormal situation in which a whole na¬ tion finds itself through Soviet machina¬ tions. Let there be surgery (to use Khrush¬ chev’s image) not for the “cancerous tumor that is West Berlin”—the only healthy organism east of the Elbe River—but for the genuine cancer that has invaded the German body politic in the form of the false “gov¬ ernment” imposed by the Soviet Union on East Germany. Let Germany be united honestly and democratically, and the Berlin problem will disappear. But until that time the West cannot, without breach of faith and incur¬ ring the gravest dangers, abandon West Ber¬ lin to the Reds. —From today’s New York Edition.