By Henry J. Taylor
Behind the scenes in Berlin the switch of Soviet Marshal Ivan S. Konev, a glum gnome, was preceded by a rare piece of Kremlin hanky-panky. It was more unusual for them to tamper with a little-known agreement than we may realize, and the pact itself seldom meets public eye.
In the strange flip-flops typical of Soviet diplomatic gymnastics, Konev took a pass at this for a few days; then backed away. This document is designated officially as the Huebner-Malinin agreement of April 5, 1947.
IT ESTABLISHED an American patrol in East Germany, based in Potsdam, and a Russian patrol in West Germany, based in Frankfurt. When Russia required us to return Russians who were among German prisoners of war, many chose suicide. The Red search for stray soldiers was relentless, and although this and similar purposes are long outlived the patrols remain in operation to this day.
The American group is known as the U. S. Military Liaison Mission. By the rights it extends, our far-ranging group tours all over East Germany, while theirs moves around West Germany.
Each contingent is limited to 14 persons. Ours contains 10 officers and four enlisted men from the U. S. Army, Navy and Air Force. They are in uniform, fan out through East Germany in brightly marked military cars and make it a point to show the American Flag.
EVERY NOW and then in these past 15 years the Soviet commander has clamped down a temporary "off limits" restriction on where they can go. Generally this restriction last one or two days, although it has lasted as long as 12.
These "off limits" specifications sometimes cover as much as half of East Germany, and there are permanently restricted areas as well. But our competent, trained observers do go in and out of Dresden, Leipzig, Rostock and major Communist-controlled urban centers with great frequency and roam the countryside while we here often think of the area behind the Berlin Wall as hardly penetrated.
THIS UNIT is a living symbol to East Germans that America--including the American Army--has not forgotten them in their captivity. To us, in turn, the advantages of the operation are obvious, and very important. Even during the Berlin blockade and our counterattack by the airlift, which lasted well over a year, the Soviet did not molest this patrol.
Naturally, we did not molest theirs; for our ability to move around East Germany is much more valuable to us than their freedom in the Western area where they have many other facilities for observation, anyway.
Unknown to our public (but, of course, known to the Kremlin) information from our unit has been invaluable during each of the most severe East Germany crises we have faced.
Konev's action in raising questions about these observers with U. S. Gen. Bruce C. Clarke is not unprecedented, but it has happened a few times. Then the back-away has been similar, and the same fog of mystery about Soviet performance rolls in once more.
THEY KNOW that anything we might do that weakened our guard in any respect, including atomic inspection or even such a relatively small matter as the East German patrol, would be a retreat. The Reds are utter realists about themselves. Behind their words they watch to see if we are intelligent or if we are frightened.
For they expect us to know the fable of the wolves who offered to make peace with the sheep would send away their dogs. And they expect us to know what becomes of the sheep.
A private, not for profit organization
Copyright © 1999-2001 USMLMA, Inc. All rights reserved