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The U.S. State Department Analyzes the Soviet Note on Berlin (January 7, 1959)

In response to the Soviet Union’s Berlin Ultimatum of November 27, 1958, and to Soviet charges that the Western powers had violated treaties, the U.S. State Department issued a detailed memorandum in January 1959. The memo offered up a harsh critique of Soviet policy on Germany since the 1920s. The Americans began by noting that the Soviet Union had once enjoyed close economic and political ties with the Nazi regime – ties that had persisted until a few weeks before the German attack on the Soviet Union in June 1941. They also noted that the Western powers had given Stalin unconditional support in the struggle against Germany between 1941 and 1945. According to the memo, the Western Allies had attempted to continue working together with the Soviet Union after 1945 and had sought to devise a joint policy on Germany. The Soviet Union, on the other hand, had been concerned from the get-go with expanding Communism and establishing satellite states in Eastern Europe and East Germany. In pursuing their agenda, the Soviets had regularly undercut the positive principles laid down in the Potsdam Agreement – e.g., the emphasis on rebuilding Germany and treating it as a unified economic entity. Unlike the Federal Republic, the memo argued, the GDR and its government in East Berlin had never been democratically legitimized. Rather, they were the result of Soviet directives. The Americans also rejected the charge that the remilitarization of West Germany had violated treaties by pointing to the strong East German military and police forces that had been established early on and by emphasizing the limitations placed on West German military engagement.

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I. Prewar Developments

Soviet Allegations:
The Soviet note states that prior to World War II the Soviet Union displayed constant willingness to establish cooperation with the other powers with the object of resisting Hitlerite aggression and that, if the Western powers had not been shortsighted in their hopes of turning Hitler eastward and had cooperated with the U.S.S.R., millions of lives would have been saved. The note says:

It is common knowledge that the USA, as well as Great Britain and France, by no means immediately came to the conclusion that it was essential to establish cooperation with the Soviet Union with the purpose of counteracting Hitlerite aggression, although the Soviet Government constantly indicated its readiness to do so. [ . . . ]
Had the Western powers followed a more far-sighted policy, such cooperation between the Soviet Union, the USA, Great Britain, and France could have been established much sooner, in the first years after Hitler seized power in Germany, and then there would have been no occupation of France, no Dunkirk, no Pearl Harbor. Then it would have been possible to save millions of human lives sacrificed by the peoples of the Soviet Union, Poland, Yugoslavia, France, Britain, Czechoslovakia, the USA, Greece, Norway, and other countries to curb the aggressors. [ . . . ]
It is evident that the bitter lessons of the murderous war have been lost on certain Western statesmen, who are once again dragging out the notorious Munich policy of inciting German militarism against the Soviet Union, their recent comrade in arms.

The Facts Are:
1. The U.S.S.R. established diplomatic relations with Germany in 1923 and assisted in building up a new German war machine which had been prohibited by the Versailles Treaty after World War I.
2. From 1930 to 1933 the Soviet Union, through its international Communist arm, the Comintern, directed the German Communist Party to collaborate with the Nazis and other extremists in undermining the German Weimar Republic. It helped sabotage democratic parties and institutions and promoted lawlessness and disorder. This aided Hitler's rise to absolute power.
3. In 1933, after Hitler came to power, the U.S.S.R. and Germany exchanged ratifications of an extended neutrality pact.
4. The U.S.S.R. signed 6 credit and commercial agreements with Germany between 1922 and 1933. During Hitler's ascendancy after 1933 the U.S.S.R. concluded 12 more agreements with the Nazi regime at the time when Hitler was building up his military power.
5. The U.S.S.R. turned aside from negotiations with the United Kingdom and France in August 1939 and concluded the Molotov-Ribbentrop agreements which provided the necessary guaranties for coordinated Nazi-Soviet aggression in Eastern Europe and resulted in World War II.
6. In spite of warnings from the Western powers of impending German attack, the Soviet Government aided Nazi Germany until Hitler marched against it in 1941.
7. In April 1941 the U.S.S.R. signed a neutrality pact with the Japanese ally of Hitler, thereby clearing the way for the Pearl Harbor attack on the United States on December 7, 1941.
8. The United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada provided large quantities of vital war materials to the U.S.S.R. during the war. This aid underscored prompt political support from the United States the day after Hitler attacked Russia in June 1941.

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