Khrushchev demands the return of West Berlin (1958)

On November 10th 1958 Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev addressed a Polish delegation in Moscow. In his speech, Khrushchev calls on the Western powers to relinquish West Berlin and promises to support any East German attempt to take West Berlin by force:

“The imperialists have turned the German question into an abiding source of international tension. The ruling circles of West Germany are doing everything to whip up military passions against the German Democratic Republic [East Germany], against the Polish People’s Republic, against all the socialist countries… We want to warn the leaders of the Federal Republic of Germany. The road followed by West Germany today is a road dangerous to peace in Europe and fatal to West Germany herself…

Let us recall what were the main undertakings that the parties to the Potsdam Agreement assumed with regard to their policy in Germany, what was the way that Potsdam indicated for the development of Germany. At that time, the members of the anti-Hitler coalition assumed clear-cut and definite undertakings: To extirpate German militarism, to prevent its resurgence once and for all, to do everything to prevent Germany from ever again threatening her neighbours or world peace.

The parties to the Potsdam Agreement also found it necessary to put an end to German fascism, to block its revival in Germany, to curb all fascist activities and propaganda…

And what do we have today, more than 13 years after the Potsdam Conference?…

By decision of the government of the Federal Republic of Germany, and naturally, with the approval of NATO powers, West Germany is building an army which the German militarists envisage as stronger than the armies of Britain and France. It is perhaps already stronger than the French army… The armed forces that are being recreated in West Germany are again headed by Nazi generals and admirals. The West German army is being trained in the spirit of the predatory aspirations of the Nazi Wehrmacht, in the spirit of revenge and hatred for the Soviet Union and other peaceable states. Moreover, the German militarists – with the blessing of the western powers, and primarily the United States – are receiving nuclear weapons. The Federal Republic already has American rockets which can be fitted with nuclear warheads.

Economically, West Germany is literally taking its West European allies by the throat. It is enough to note, for the sake of comparison, that in 1957, for instance, the Federal Republic produced 24,500,000 tons of steel, as opposed to 22 million in Britain and little more than 14 million in France. Financially, too, West Germany is today stronger than either Britain or France. Consider their gold and currency reserves, for instance. According to official figures, West Germany’s reserves amounted to over $5,600 million at the end of 1957, as compared with Britain’s $2,370 million and France’s $775 million dollars. All these economic resources of West Germany are being placed at the service of reviving German militarism.

The time has obviously arrived for the signatories of the Potsdam Agreement to renounce the remnants of the occupation regime in Berlin and thereby make it possible to create a normal situation in the capital of the German Democratic Republic. The Soviet Union, for its part, would hand over to the sovereign German Democratic Republic the functions in Berlin that are still exercised by Soviet agencies. This, I think, would be the correct thing to do.

Let the United States, France and Britain themselves build their relations with the German Democratic Republic; let them reach an agreement with it themselves if they are interested in any questions concerning Berlin. As for the Soviet Union, we shall sacredly honour our obligations as an ally of the German Democratic Republic – obligations which stem from the Warsaw Treaty and which we have repeatedly reaffirmed to the German Democratic Republic.

If any forces of aggression attack the German Democratic Republic, which is a fully fledged member of the Warsaw Treaty, we shall regard this as an attack on the Soviet Union, on all the Warsaw Treaty countries. We shall then rise in defence of the German Democratic Republic, and this will mean defence of the vital security interests of the Soviet Union, of the entire socialist camp, and of the cause of world peace.”