March 14, 2016

1949. The Soviets Decide to Remain in Germany

No Hope for Withdrawal
Red Army soldiers stand before Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, 1945 (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Frankfurt

February 23, 1949

The significant news in Germany this morning comes from the Russians.

Taking the occasion of the 31st anniversary of the formation of the Red Army, the Soviet military newspaper, Taglische Rundschau, announces that Russian military occupation forces will remain in Germany as long as Britain, France, and America maintain troops here.

This statement would appear to put an end to reports and rumors that the USSR might follow the pattern they established in Korea: pulling out their troops and leaving behind a well-armed and organized communist native government.

The Rundschau, of course, places the blame on the Western Powers. "The Soviet Union has repeatedly offered to negotiate a peace treaty and for the withdrawal of occupation forces from Germany," the newspaper says. "But these requests have been ignored. Therefore the Soviet Union is forced to leave occupation troops in Germany."

In Berlin, a series of ceremonies are underway at the big Russian war memorial in the Tiergarten, just over the Russian sector border in British territory. Since early this morning, Russian generals and other military and civilian authorities have been marching through Brandenburg Gate to lay wreaths on the monument.

The Communist-controlled press is having a field day describing the Russian army as an "army of peace" while vilifying the American and British forces as the tools of imperialism.

However, despite all of the hard words, the Russian commandant, Marshal Sokolovsky, has invited the three Western military commanders to a Red Army day reception at his headquarters in Potsdam. Apparently the Berlin blockade will be relaxed just a little bit for the high Western brass.

The British commander, General Robertson, says that he can't attend, but will send a deputy. General Clay has made no announcement yet whether he will attend.

Spring weather has come to southern Germany. I traveled through the rich Bavarian farm country yesterday. Fertilizers are going into the ground, and in some places spring plowing has begun.

However, once again the effects of the past war hit hard as you drove past farm after farm. The plowing is mostly primitive, with cows providing the pulling power and children with sticks and ropes forcing the cows to work.

And the field work yesterday was done entirely by women—grandmothers and young girls. The war left very little manpower for German agriculture.

This is Bill Downs in Frankfurt. Now back to CBS in New York.
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

February 24, 1949

Two important moves from the Eastern side of Russia's Iron Curtain indicate today that Communist policy is taking a new tack in Germany.

The announcement yesterday that Russian occupation troops will remain in Germany as long as the Western Powers maintain forces here is the newest guidepost in Soviet policy. Diplomatic officials have been speculating over the past six months that the USSR may have been preparing to withdraw its occupation troops, in the pattern of this action in Korea, where the Russians left behind a strong native Communist government.

However, yesterday's announcement would appear to put an end to this thinking. For many weeks Communist propaganda has been making its major appeal for German support on the basis that Russian occupation troops would be sent home if the Germans supported Soviet policy.

Abandonment of this propaganda line, according to authorities, might also be a sign of the complete failure of Russian occupation policy to draw any substantial support from the Germans—that the Russians recognize they would be unable to set up a strong Communist administration to be trusted to run East Germany similar to the government now running Northern Korea.

The second move in this new Communist line is a much more subtle approach. The Communist-dominated Socialist Unity Party of East Berlin has approached the political parties of the West with a three-part program for the unification and the settlement of the Berlin crisis.

This complicated plan calls for the withdrawal of all occupation troops to the German borders, leaving only the four-power garrisoning of Berlin intact. The second phase would be the writing of a constitution and formation of a government for all Germany under consultation and observation of all four Western Powers. When this constitution and government were approved, then only diplomatic representatives would remain in the Berlin capital of the new Germany.

Occupation troops would remain on border garrisons to guarantee security measures against German re-militarization.

American military government officials regard the proposal as another Communist maneuver to block formation of a democratic German government in the West.

This is Bill Downs in Berlin. Now back to CBS in New York.