I was Deputy Assistant
Chief of our U.S. Mission in Berlin from 1971 to 1974. The noteworthy
event of that period was of course the negotiation of the Berlin Agreement.
I was hastily transferred from my previous assignment to join the delegation
in West Berlin for the final stage of talks. Virtually all of my waking
hours were devoted to this hectic phase of the negotiation.
The main Soviet objective in the negotiations was to legitimize East
Berlin's status as the capital of something called the German Democratic
Republic. The Soviets were in an ironic position. On the one hand, they
wanted to preserve in some way the four-power rights they shared with
Britain, France and the United States as a result of World War II. But
at the same time they wanted to promote the idea of the GDR as a new
sovereign state with East Berlin as its capital. These were contradictory
impulses. The Soviet negotiating posture was essentially to enhance
the separate status of East Berlin, and on the other side to give practical
concessions to the West by reducing disturbances on the autobahn, making
it easier for West Berliners to visit relatives, and that sort of thing.
These were practical improvements for West Berliners as opposed to logical
improvements in their legal position.
The most difficult issue was the extent to which West German officials
had a right to represent West Berlin. The Soviets had a strong interest
in trying to minimize that connection and thereby to minimize the legal
ties between West Berlin and West Germany, whereas we wanted to enhance
the relationship. This was a very important legal question about the
ties between two groups of Germans. In fact, there was a great deal
of argument about the two different German words meaning ties- Bindung,
literally meaning a knot, or Verbindung, meaning ties such as connections
(a train connection, for example). The Soviets had a vested interest
in promoting the use of the word Verbindung to imply a weaker relationship
between West Berlin and West Germany. The Allies were opposed to this,
and that issue went right up to the wire. I recollect that it was finally
resolved by a set of letters addressed to the various parties, which
sort of papered the thing over.
I was personally involved in follow-up negotiations for the opening
of a Soviet consulate general in West Berlin. This was one of the points
of the Berlin Agreement, but the details of the opening of the consulate
general had been left up to the political advisors in West Berlin. For
the first time, I was really an active negotiator and the head of my
own little delegation. I found the Soviets reasonable in this particular
case. There was less ideological involvement and we had mainly practical
things to work out. We managed it in a pretty sensible way.
Arthur C. Borg
attended West Point Military Academy and served in the U.S. Army. His
career in the Foreign Service included positions in Japan, Sweden, Austria
and Washington, D.C.
From: A Vision Fulfilled.
50 Jahre Amerikaner am Rhein. United States Embassy Bonn, 1949 - 1999.
Edited by Christine Elder and Elizabeth G. Sammis. Published by United
States Embassy Bonn.
© Department of State, 1999.