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Arthur C. Borg


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.

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Updated: August 2001