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Disengagement Revisited

Courtesy Reuters

IT has long been clear that the post-blockade arrangements governing the city of Berlin were unstable and provisional. The recent Soviet move in the Berlin situation is a clear signal that, from the standpoint of Moscow's interests, time has now run out.

The reasons are not hard to perceive. The type of obedience and conformity which are required for the successful imposition of the kind of rule favored by Moscow demands that every possibility and hope of an alternative be denied the subject people. So long as a free Berlin exists, this denial cannot be exerted against the people of Eastern Germany, and the effort to impose on them a régime of the Soviet pattern must, accordingly, remain only partially successful. In Moscow's eyes this constitutes a real danger. It weakens throughout Eastern Europe that belief in the unalterable success of Communist purposes which constitutes the center of the Communist political appeal. It prejudices any further political success in Germany itself. It could, in certain circumstances, have consequences threatening to the security of Soviet rule at home.

Obviously, Moscow was not disposed to tolerate any longer than necessary a situation so unfavorable to her own interests. So long as there seemed some possibility that the situation might eventually be alleviated as a result of negotiations in the wider sphere of German unification and troop withdrawal--by agreements, that is, acceptable to Soviet interests on a broader scale--a grudging patience could be shown. As it became apparent, however, that prospects for agreement along these lines were deteriorating, that the division of the continent was tending to deepen and congeal, and that this was being accepted in the West with considerable equanimity, if not with actual relief, the basis for this patience became exhausted. Nothing remained for Moscow but to tackle the problem of eliminating Western support for the free people of Berlin or to endure for an indefinite further period a state of affairs which it must have found almost intolerably frustrating.

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