Full Citation

  • Title The Tanks that Bloom
  • Publication Title The Economist
  • Collection The Economist
  • Date Saturday,  Nov. 4, 1961
  • Volume 201
  • Issue Number 6167
  • Page Number 417
  • Place of Publication London, England
  • Language English
  • Document Type Article
  • Publication Section News
  • Source Library The Economist Newspaper Limited
  • Copyright Statement © The Economist Newspaper Limited.
NOTES OF THE WEEK BERLIN mr-mm ■m IT B •«: > The Tanks that Bloom f A-principle must have been at stake in the sixteen tense hours on October 27th and 28th. when American and Soviet tanks confronted each other directly at the Friedrichstrasse crossing-point in the centre of Berlin. What is difficult is to isolate the precise principle involved. Applying a recent regulation. the east German guards on the crossing-point had insisted on seeing the identity papers of western official visitors met in uniform before allowing them into the eastern sector. The American authori- ties in west Berlin sent a series of officials and soldiers in civilian clothes. but in cars with American military number-plates. to demand admittance without showing papers. I What happened when this was refused depended on the officer's mission. One or two. with real business to get done. changed into uniform and went through. Some waited for a Soviet officer to be brought so that their papers could be shown to him. A few were given an armed. motorised escort across the boundary line. drove round the block. and returned. In support of this dangerous manoeuvre. the American authorities on October 25th brought up tanks- on the 26th. a bigger force of Soviet tanks entered Berlin (it is said. for the first time since the suppression of the 1953 disorders). and on the 27th they confronted the American tanks directly at the Friedrichstrasse. Amiable Germans brought flowers to the tank crews on either side. a proceeding that made the situation look a shade less warlike than it had looked. but a good deal more bizarre. On the 28th. the Soviet tanks withdrew from the boundary. though not from Berlin. and the Americans followed suit. Throughout the whole incident. Soviet and allied officers. properly dressed. had been pottering to and fro across the line. each observing the other side's activities with its consent. In two ways these events have been claimed as an American success the Russians withdrew first- to have brought them in at all was to have extorted a Soviet admission of responsibility and therefore to have asserted the four-power status of the city. As to the first claim. the Russians withdrew after an American intimation that there were to be no more visitors out of uniform for the present. As to the second. Moscow has never made any secret of its readiness to give armed support when necessary to the east Germans. its allies in the Warsaw Pact- and this is what it claims. with some plausibility. to have been doing.