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John Foster Dulles on the Possibility of Negotiations with the GDR (November 26, 1958)

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Q. Mr. Secretary, can you deal with them in such a way as to make a distinction between dealing with them as agents of the Soviet Union and dealing with them in such a way as to imply a kind of de facto recognition of their existence?

A. I think that that certainly could be done. We often deal with people that we do not recognize diplomatically, deal with them on a practical basis. Of course, we do that with the Chinese Communists in a number of respects. And, as I pointed out, both the Federal Republic of Germany and the rest of us have, in certain practical matters, for many months been dealing with minor functionaries of the GDR with respect to what might be called perfunctory, routine matters.

Q. Mr. Secretary, you say we might deal with the East Germans as agents of the Soviet Union. Is that a matter of agreed policy between the three Western Powers and the Federal Republic, or only something that is possible?

A. I think that it is agreed between us that we might.

But, as I say, the question of whether we would or would not, would have to depend upon the precise circumstances which surround the action, and that can't be anticipated in advance of knowing what, if anything, the Soviet Union is going to do.

Q. Mr. Secretary, supposedly authoritative dispatches from Bonn in the last few days have reflected a concern on the part of Chancellor Adenauer's Government that the Western Big Three would not "hang on tough" so to speak in Berlin. On the other hand, it has been widely speculated in dispatches that many Western officials want more de facto recognition of the East German Regime and as an evidence of this has been cited the renewal of the trade agreement that has just been signed this week. Can you clarify that situation a little bit?

A. I doubt if I can clarify it very much. There have been, as you point out, dealings on a de facto basis, particularly on an economic basis, and in terms of transit back and forth between the Western Sectors of Berlin and the Federal Republic of Germany. There has been an appreciable degree of de facto dealing with the GDR, and there is this trade agreement, whereby the Federal Republic gets particularly brown coal and things of that sort from the eastern part of Germany in exchange for certain manufactured goods. As to any differences within the Federal Republic about that, I am not in a position to throw light upon it. I am not aware of any differences which are of sufficient magnitude so that they have come to my attention.

[ . . . ]

Q. Mr. Secretary, you seem to draw a limit beyond which we would not go in dealing with the East Germans even as agents of the Soviet Union. Could I ask whether we would refuse, for example, to accept an East German demand that special credentials would be required from the East German Foreign Office in order to allow the traffic to continue?

A. I think it would be unwise for me to try to give categorical answers to very particular illustrations, because, obviously, this is a situation to be dealt with upon a tripartite or quadripartite basis.

I think I had better just stand on the proposition that in my opinion it is the combined judgment of all four of us that nothing should be done which would seem to give the GDR an authority and responsibility to deal with the matters as to which the Soviet Union has explicitly assumed an obligation to us and a responsibility to us.

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