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The Soviet Government’s Explanation of its Berlin Policy (December 24, 1962)

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If you really are genuinely concerned [with ensuring] that members of separated German families are able to have contact with their relatives, then I believe that the German Democratic Republic has made reasonable suggestions in this regard. But these were rejected by the authorities in West Berlin, whereby your personal influence was of more than minor importance. Therefore, you, too, share the responsibility for what has happened. Thus it is those who have adopted such an imprudent stance with respect to normalizing the situation in Europe and concluding a peace treaty with the two German states who have to answer for the sacrifice that you now mourn.

[ . . . ]

Every time the slightest glimmer of rapprochement in the positions of the two sides becomes perceptible, the government of the Federal Republic screams about “capitulation” and virtual “treason” by the Western powers, and accepts the most desperate of conjectures in order to block agreements and tie the great powers’ differences into an irresolvable knot.

You want to push your NATO allies to the limit. This is about the reputation of the United States in all of the free world; you recently wrote in the American journal Foreign Affairs that the United States gave its word and the whole world knows that it will keep its word.

Frankly speaking, I simply do not understand your policies. You have great responsibility for the affairs of the state; you can look back on grand life experiences and political expertise. You have already seen Germany unleash two world wars. Are you looking for a pretext to unleash a third one? You are actually pleased that the Western powers would meet their obligations. What obligations? Do you consider it the Western powers’ obligation to unleash a world war? Is that their obligation? Can you even imagine what a thermonuclear war would mean, especially for the German Federal Republic?

I am thinking about the story of a child who got hold of a box of matches for the first time in his life, lit the matches, set a haystack on fire, and naively enjoyed it. But then the fire spread to the whole barn; the child himself burned to death, and a fire broke out in the village. Everyone is familiar with this story; therefore, mothers, fathers, and all adults make sure that as long as a child is growing up he has no access to matches, and they hide anything flammable from him. This leads to the following conclusion: One should not play with fire; one should foresee the possible outcomes of one’s actions (and for politicians it is wise to look decades ahead).

[ . . . ]

Source: Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev’s Response (December 24, 1962) to German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer’s Letter of August 28, 1962, on the Germany- and Berlin-Problem, Europa-Archiv, Series 2/1963, pp. D 33-D 37.

Translation: Allison Brown

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