The recently concluded Soviet -West German treaty may have appeared to Chancellor Willi Brandt as the ultimate achievement in a foreign policy aimed at detente in the East.
The recently concluded Soviet -West German treaty may have appeared to Chancellor Willi Brandt as the ultimate achievement in a foreign policy aimed at detente in the East. But in purely practical terms there is little change, particularly in Berlin. Berlin is the problem of the four powers, and the dispute over the status of Berlin and the right of Western access to the city continues to be a sore thumb in East-West relations.
Ever since the partition of Germany into two separate entities in 1949, the city of Berlin has been a thermometer for East-West tension. The constant harassing of the city and its population, which followed the blockade of 1948, reached a new climax on the 13th August 1961 with the construction of a massive strip of concrete and barbed wire dividing Berlin - the Berlin wall. This measure, vital for the economy of the Eastern part of Germany, succeeded in reducing to an inconsequential trickle the flood of East German refugees, which by that time had reached a total of 2 millions.
Now, the "island in the red sea" has a more hum-drum existence and its preoccupations are to expand industry, attract tourists and new residents, and to enjoy life. But the inhabitants can never forget their unique situation.
Motorists leaving West Berlin are subjected to delays of varying length by the East German border guards, depending on the political atmosphere of the moment. Motorists have to fill out visa applications, wait for approval and then undergo thorough searches of their car before they can proceed. Mirrors on wheels assure guards that no refugees are clinging underneath the chassis.
An improvement in the Berlin problem now seems possible. The Soviet-West Germany treaty, so important to the Soviet economy, has little chance of ratification by Bonn unless next month's meeting of the Berlin 4-Power control commission comes up with concessions by the Soviets regarding Berlin. Bonn and the Western powers want complete clarification of the status of Berlin and the organisation of traffic to and from West Berlin, and they want it in the form of a treaty.