The Berlin Crisis
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 19 Mar 1959, p. 274-283
Dewhurst, Brigadier Claude, Speaker
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Item Type
"The Berlin crisis cannot be considered in isolation. … It is, in fact one of the many boils—like Korea or Lebanon—attesting to the poor health of the world, arising out of East-West competition." Russia's world strategy and short-term objectives. The nature of Soviet policy. An analysis of the situation in Europe, particularly as regards Germany and Russia. Finding common ground with Russia: a reluctance to extend membership of the Atomic Club. The necessity for a dynamic and forward-thinking Western policy—"one that forces Russia to re-act for a change." A suggested fourfold policy.
Date of Original
19 Mar 1959
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Full Text
An Address by BRIGADIER CLAUDE DEWHURST, O.B.E. Author, Commentator and Intelligence Chief
Thursday, March 19, 1959
CHAIRMAN: The President, Lt.-Col. Bruce Legge.

LT. COL. LEGGE: This is a sad week for all Canadians because of the chilling suddenness of the untimely death of one of the Queen's chief Canadian Ministers, the Honourable Sidney Smith. Dr. Smith was for fifteen years an esteemed member of this Club, and only next Monday he was to have spoken to a special joint-meeting of the Canadian Club of Toronto and The Empire Club of Canada. As a mark of our respect, that meeting will be cancelled by both Clubs and no substitute speaker will be invited. I know that I speak for every member and friend of this Club when I say that all Canada has been bereaved by his passing. Until his death Sidney Smith laboured brilliantly to offer the world a wise and understanding foreign policy. Concerning the subject of his scheduled speech, he wrote to me on the third of March that, "The international scene has been changing so rapidly over the past few weeks that I am hesitant to commit myself to one particular emphasis or perspective now!" The site of the most rapid change was the divided island of Berlin where free men help their fettered brothers to escape from captivity at a miraculous rate, and our speaker today will deal with one of Dr. Smith's last problems, the Berlin crisis.

Brigadier Claude Dewhurst is an expert in military intelligence and foreign affairs. He joined the Regular Army in Britain in the year 1929 and remained in the service until 1954. During that time he served in Intelligence and Diplomatic work in 47 countries and in the process learned to speak five languages. For two years he was the Chief of the British Mission to the Soviet Marshal in East Germany and from his wide knowledge he will offer us an analysis of the Berlin crisis. Claude Dewhurst is a remarkable commentator who has mastered the problems of communicating his ideas by writing several books such as "The Soviets: What's Their Line?" and "Close Contact", in which he accurately foretold events in Russia and which became a best seller in five languages. According to U.S. News and World Report, this is "The most challenging writing in its class yet encountered". In addition, he is a convincing and engaging speaker who has travelled everywhere giving speeches and appearing on television and radio networks in Britain, Canada, and the United States. Brigadier Dewhurst is, therefore, a fervently eloquent exponent and a serious, practising student of politics and war.

The Berlin crisis is not just a new boil on the face of Europe, but the symptom of an old infection. As long ago as 1928 it was resolved at the 6th Congress of the Communist International that "The overthrow of capitalism is impossible without violence". No one really knows if there will be violence in Berlin, but we may all be certain that there will be a crisis because Engels dogmatically wrote in the early days of Communist doctrine that "A new revolution is possible only as a consequence of a new crisis and the Revolution is also as certain as the crisis".

Gentlemen, I am honoured to present to The Empire Club of Canada Brigadier Claude Dewhurst, who will describe for us the classic crisis as foreseen by the founding fathers of Communist theory, and which is now artistically manipulated by the Communists in "The Berlin Crisis".

BRIGADIER DEWHURST: The Berlin crisis cannot be considered in isolation. It is like a boil on the face of Europe demonstrating its poor bodily health. It is, in fact one of the many boils--like Korea or Lebanon--attesting to the poor health of the world, arising out of East-West competition. The poison, however, is initiated by Russia and is part and parcel of her world strategy. Her objectives, short term, are:

(a) To probe the weak spots of the world important to western survival, particularly those containing U.S. bases.

(b) To neutralize Europe as the possible scene of a future conflict.

It is the latter in which we are mainly interested today. Russia cannot, and must not, tolerate a war being fought on her own Continent--Europe--for she is a part of that continent, and the fire that starts in Europe can, and almost certainly will, spread to her homeland--particularly now, in the day of nuclear fall-out, and (more ominously) germ warfare and plague. Soviet Russia's great strength, and Communism's best battleground, is slow interior subversion leading to sudden national insurrection. This is the traditional role she would like to be left to pursue in Europe, and which NATO prevents her using. Behind such insurrections stands, of course, the Red Army. Its threat, not its use, is--again--the traditional role. She would, in fact, rather that it were not used. She has done very well so far in the world without using it, working by proxy and intimidation. She is furious to find herself check-mated in Europe.

Once Europe is in her hands (not physically, but by the dictation of threat) she can devote herself to the next step of knocking the U.S. out of the East's economic markets. Without European and Eastern markets she is confident that the United States will "wither away"--thus very neatly turning the quotation over to her enemies. She will, in fact, be able to force a recession on America from which it cannot recover for lack of resiliency in world markets, which won't at that time exist.

Don't think this is fanciful. It is eminently, if cold-bloodedly, practical. Soviet policy has always been thus. Moreover, with her European former allies afraid to vote against Russia, and with Eastern countries in her economic orbit, America will lose its vote--hold on the U.N. and will be forced to withdraw from it, leaving it to Russia's leadership; or be defeated on major issues to Russia's advantage.

Russia is petrified of Germany. She virtually lost the last war. With huge contingents distracted on the Western front, and with a madman as Commander-in-Chief, the German armies were still only 14 miles from Moscow after capturing millions of Russian soldiers. She was finally saved by the weather and by the Lease-Lend of capitalism. She has not forgotten this. You have to know the Russians pretty well before you realise the extent of their inferiority complex before the Germans. The Germans equally despise the Russians, of course. I had the unique opportunity when I was head of the Military Mission in East Germany, accredited to the Soviet Commanders-in-Chief for two years, of observing the East German army. The units I saw were either quite hopeless and inefficient, performing the minimum duties demanded; or else they were so efficient, so smart, so well-disciplined as to wholly outclass and outshine the Soviet's garrison troops. The Russians were aware of, and resented, both attitudes, for both bespoke a hatred of the temporary occupying force. And, of course, the Russians can no more trust the East German Army than they can the armies of any other satellite. As an example, I can tell you that the East German Air Force is bottled up in extreme eastern airfields and is issued with enough gas for training locally but not enough for crossing the western frontier. And no commander has a map which goes further westward than his own boundaries--beyond that being blank.

The Russians are as aware as we are of Germany's military tradition and German inventiveness--the ones who invented the rocket, amongst other things. She knows that the West German Army will, by 1961, be fully streamlined and issued with nuclear weapons. She knows, too, that such an army could well interfere on two counts--trouble in Eastern Germany, and for a recapture of those provinces allotted to Poland by the Potsdam agreement. West Germany might, in such a case, be the proxy of "American Imperialism", copying Russia by interfering by armament and encouragement rather than directly. East Germany is, too, a very valuable ally for Russia--hard-working and rich. Yet it is unstable, and it is West Germany which makes her unstable.

Thus, for many reasons, Russia must act right now to forestall future unpleasantness. Can one blame her in seizing on the ready-made card of Berlin for playing her hand? Khrushchev is a gambler, and only a fool would leave so good a card unplayed. He said just that recently at a diplomatic reception in Moscow.

Anything that happens in East Germany affects adjacent satellites. If only East Germany could be recognized and her neighbours lose hope of any eventual release or liberation by the West, then indeed Moscow would be happy and free to go fishing in other muddy waters. If, moreover, the West could be persuaded by some means or other, of agreeing to a denuclearized or demilitarized zone, thus creating a further buffer to intervention and conceding to Russia a further insulation, then things would be just fine--for the Kremlin, of course.

Those who recommend disarmament, recognition of East Germany, disengagement from Berlin and a denuclearized zone "in the interests of avoiding friction" (as the so-called Canadian Peace Congress advertises) are merely playing Moscow's game of removing the main cause of unrest and instability in her fear-held Empire. Why should we? She will only move on into another area to exhort equal concessions in return for Soviet withdrawal from Middle Eastern affairs--an area in which she has no vital interest whatever, but from which we derive our life-blood and motivating power; or in return for a Moscow denouncement of all Communist parties throughout the world which aim at the overthrow of local government; or in return for full collaboration and participation in the Eastern Mutual Aid programme. Then, and only then, should we wish to "avoid friction" in Europe by conceding points to East Germany.

In June 1945 the four Allied Commanders agreed that western forces should retire from overrun Saxony and Thuringia in return for occupational status in Berlin. At Potsdam this agreement was ratified and parts of East Germany were handed over to Poland. If Russia denounces the 4-Power agreement, then we should re-occupy Saxony and Thuringia, or award them to West Germany. If she denounces the Potsdam agreement, then Silesia must be handed back to Germany by Poland. She can't be allowed to have it both ways.

Leaving things as they are, in fact, suits us very well. No West German really wants re-unification that badly. It's the same sort of misconception as when people imagined that all Cypriots wanted to become part of Greece. I said at the time (my last talk here) that they didn't, and they haven't now got it in the final run. It would be an economic drain on West Germany, and a political thorn for a long time. It's true, too, what the Russians say--that Berlin is a focus of dissatisfaction and a vantage point (they call it a point of espionage) for the West. It's the centre of Military Missions to East Germany, who discover a great deal. It's the headquarters of the Free Lawyers Association who watch on legal misdemeanours in the East Zone, report them to the world, and send personal warning to the guilty judges. It's the screening point of over 200,000 persons who desert their Soviet masters every year. It's the headquarters of a powerful U.S. radio transmitter, and a lot else. Yet the Russians offer no concession to get us out. They are just angry that they signed an agreement which is now to their disadvantage, and they want to repudiate the signature. We cannot allow them to do so, otherwise they can do the same elsewhere.

On the other hand, it is no use being adamant about the matter, and awaiting the 'D' day set by Khrushchev, for, as I have said, he has a strong card to play. There must, seemingly, be some way out. Thinking along this trend I recently wrote personally to two men who have my great admiration, under whom I worked, and who know more about Russia and the Germans than (I think) anyone alive. One is an Under-Secretary of State in London and the other is a brilliant former Ambassador to Moscow. I cannot give their names, for I have not that permission. But both replied in almost identical terms, and I read an extract from one of the letters: "I believe that the Allies have taken the correct line--no 'whittling' away of our legal rights. I believe the Russian moves constitute probing tactics, used by Krushchev as regards the Near East and Far East in 1958 ... our only course is to stand 100% firm. K. has failed so far in the Near East and Far East; he keeps on approaching the brink and then retreating. And this 'damp-squib' situation is no doubt annoying the Army who are calling for results. But neither K., nor the Army, nor anyone in Russia ... wants war. So I am not particularly worried about Berlin--but I should be very perturbed indeed if we started to 'appease' in any shape or form. I am sure that, with all your experience on Russian psychology, you would agree that the only way to treat those people in to be strong, and, perhaps, above all, consistent".

That is expert British opinion, and that, too, is Mr. Dulles' opinion. We cannot challenge it unless we have greater knowledge ourselves.

If we cannot deal with Berlin in isolation, then, we must deal with it within the framework of all Germany. We have, however, little to concede except Europe's safety. And, as negotiations progress, the Russians can goad talks into acceleration by signing a unilateral treaty with the East Germans, and by allowing them to shoot down "accidentally" an unarmed allied aircraft, to panic negotiations.

Have we any common ground with the Russians to give us hope?

There is one thing we have in common with Russia, and that is a reluctance to extend membership of the Atomic Club i.e. allies who possess, by allotment or invention, hydrogen warheads. What, for instance, might have happened to the world a short time back if Egypt had had the atomic weapon when being chased, in ignominious retreat, from the borders of Israel? Would Nasser have refrained from using his most powerful weapon against the Jews? Russia is much more fearful of allotting such weapons to her unreliable satellite armies than we are of handing them to the West German army. She would like to limit the membership, and their testing by the owning powers, by just signing their outlawry on a piece of paper. That would be all right if the world knew from the past good experience that it could fully trust the word of Communists. But experience has taught it just the opposite. Thus we have got to insist on inspection; inspection that must be both mobile and free. For two years I held a pass, signed personally by the Soviet Commander-in-Chief of all forces in Eastern Germany, allowing me to go wherever I liked, without let or hindrance. But could I do so? Indeed, not. I was followed, hampered, physically obstructed, forbidden to enter ever-increasing secret and defended zones, and reduced to near impotence. That is the Communist way. They are hereditarily suspicious--pathologically so. Their suggestion of inspection teams composed entirely, or chiefly, of local nationals is absurd. So is the idea of static posts seeking permission before undertaking inspection journeys. So is the veto by participating powers. Fortunately, it will not be at all long before rockets, satellites and the like will gather, by infra-red photography, all that we want. But that is beside the point. Again, it is not very important to discover where atomic tests are taking place when it is almost impossible to ascertain where far more deadly weapons, germ and bacteria, are being manufactured and tested. It is a question of confidence. Have we confidence to disarm and to inspect disarmament? Evidently, not yet. And it is not our fault.

I am not going to deal with what might happen, or should happen, in regard to Berlin; for whatever I predicted would assuredly prove wrong in the next few months. But I do want to deal, in ending this talk, with the crying necessity for a dynamic and forward-thinking Western policy--one that forces Russia to re-act for a change. Safeguarding the 'status quo' is no policy. If we do not want communism to succeed, we must, on the positive side, wish to see our own way of life triumph. Based on what we know of Russia in recent months, our policy should be fourfold:

(a) Set up a Cold War Headquarters in Europe alongside NATO. Russia can altogether forego the use of 'warm' forces if she goes on winning the Cold War. A Cold War Headquarters (under a nicer name, of course, for Russia called hers the Comintern) could attract the brains, donations and services of all those who believe that we could, by well co-ordinated and forceful propaganda, and by clever psychological warfare, prevent Russia from sealing up her fear-dominated European Empire--until such time, of course, as it became greatly to her advantage to have us decease from our activity, by which time she would be ready to make sound concessions. Slightly-armed NATO is no 'King' in the poker game now playing--it's a throw-away. If Russia is paying over $100 million a year, as she is, to jam existing radio stations (the most powerful of which is privately financed Radio Free Europe at Munich), she is giving proof already of how fearful she is of her armour being pierced. We can make the defensive effort on her part for more expensive if we will. And the inclusion of psychological warfare, at which the West is so very adept when a hot war progresses, could greatly increase her woes. Are we not at war to justify such measures? And is the Cold War going to our advantage--or otherwise? I leave you to be the judge.
(b) Accelerate the movement towards a United Europe--not only economically, but politically as well. With a population of 300,000,000; with natural resources in iron, steel and other resources almost to rival Russia's; with the genius and inventive background to much of the world's progress; with a tradition of Socialism (neither Communist nor Capitalist). This could, indeed, be the Third Force to keep Russia and America apart. Until such time as the stratification of society, increase in privilege, rising standard of living and increasing independence of thought and idea on the one hand; and governmental restraint and direction of unwieldy private corporations and unions on the other, brings the two creeds closer together.
(c) Intensify economic aid to backward countries by devoting sums on the scale of the Marshall Plan to Near and Far Eastern countries. Russia's economy in creases, we are told, 6% per annum, ours at 3%. We do not, in fact, need a greater acceleration at all for internal purposes--Russia does, and for a long time to come. Let us compete with Russia and devote the resultant surpluses, under government supervision, to countries which need them badly. And dynamically, not just as a duty. Let Canada 'adopt' India--that mass of 300 million which, by the side it takes, can decide if the world is to be Communist or not. It will cost far, far more than the $2 per head which this population is giving to the Colombo Plan--about which few know, and less seem to care. It will even cost more than the "Arrow" aircraft we have recently discarded. But what a more worthy reward! Help to the backward doesn't become obsolescent. Its dividends, on the contrary, grow incommensurately.
(d) Seek how to use our greatest instrument--that of organized religion. The Pope is trying to set the example. Who is trying to forget their preposterous little differences and re-unite our churches? And with whom would we march? With 836 million (yes) Christians, and with 1,790 million whose religious beliefs may not be precisely ours, but who have faiths founded upon the basic primitive human ethics from which Christianity was derived.

The policies I have outlined may seem too grandiose. But the propagation of Communism is done on a grandiose scale. It is evangelistic, and there are many ready to die for its dynamic purpose. We cannot win by nationalisms, rivalries, fears and half-measures. Let Berlin be the beginning of our learning

THANKS OF THE MEETING were expressed by Brigadier W. S. Rutherford.

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The Berlin Crisis

"The Berlin crisis cannot be considered in isolation. … It is, in fact one of the many boils—like Korea or Lebanon—attesting to the poor health of the world, arising out of East-West competition." Russia's world strategy and short-term objectives. The nature of Soviet policy. An analysis of the situation in Europe, particularly as regards Germany and Russia. Finding common ground with Russia: a reluctance to extend membership of the Atomic Club. The necessity for a dynamic and forward-thinking Western policy—"one that forces Russia to re-act for a change." A suggested fourfold policy.