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Documents on Germany, 1944-1959 : background documents on Germany, 1944-1959, and a chronology of political developments affecting Berlin, 1945-1956

Report by President Eisenhower to the American people, on security in the free world, March 16, 1959,   pp. 405-409 PDF (2.2 MB)

Page 407

Then, last November, the Soviets announced that they intended to
repudiate these solemn obligations. They once more appear to be
living by the Communist formula that "Promises are like pie crusts,
made to be broken."
The Soviet Government has also announced its intention to enter
into a peace treaty with the East German puppet regime. The mak-
ing of this treaty, the Soviets assert, will deny our occupation rights
and our rights of access. It is, of course, clear that no so-called "peace
treaty" between the Soviets and the East German regime can have
any moral or legal effect upon our rights.
The Soviet threat has since been repeated several times, accom-
panied by various and changing suggestions for dealing with the
status of the city. Their proposals have included a vague offer to
make the Western part of Berlin-though not the Eastern part, which
the Soviets control-a so-called "free city."
It is by no means clear what West Berlin would be free from, ex-
cept perhaps from freedom itself. It would not be free from the ever
present danger of Communist domination. No one, certainly not the
two million West Berliners, can ignore the cold fact that Berlin is
surrounded by many divisions of Soviet and Eastern German troops
and by territory governed by authorities dedicated to eliminating free-
dom from the area.
Now a matter of principle-the United States cannot accept the
asserted right of any government to break, by itself, solemn agree-
ments to which we, with others, are parties. But in -the Berlin situa-
tion, both free people and principle are at stake.
'What, then, are the fundamental choices we have in this situation2?
First, of course, there is the choice which the Soviet rulers them-
selves would like us to make. They hope that we can be frightened
into abdicating our rights-which are indeed responsibilities-to help
establish a just and peaceful solution to the German problem  rights
which American and Allied soldiers purchased with their lives.
We have no intention of forgetting our rights or of deserting a free
people. Soviet rulers should remember that free men have, before
this, died- for so-called "scraps of paper" which represented duty
honor and freedom.
The shirking of our responsibilities would solve no problems for
us. First, it would mean the end of all hopes for a Germany under
government of German choosing. It would raise among our friends
the most serious doubts about the validity of all the international
agreements and commitments we have made with them in every quar-
ter of the globe. One result would be to undermine the mutual con6-
fidence upon which our entire system of collective security is founded.
This, the Soviets would greet as a great victory over the West.
Obviously, this choice is unacceptable to us.
The second choice which the Soviets have compelled us to face, is
the possibility of war.
Certainly, the American and Western peoples do not, want war.
The whole world knows this. Global conflict under modern condi-
tions could mean the destruction of civilization. The Soviet rulers,
themselves, are well aware of this fact.
But all history has taught us the grim lesson that no nation has ever
been successful in avoiding the terrors of war by refusing to defend
its rights-by attempting to placate aggression.

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