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Journal of Cold War Studies 8.2 (2006) 159-161

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Christof Münger, Kennedy, die Berliner Mauer und die Kubakrise: Die westliche Allianz in der Zerreissprobe, 1961-63. Paderborn, Germany: Schöningh, 2003. 404 pp. $39.00.

Drawing on documents from twelve archives in the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany, Christof Münger uses a multilateral approach in his meticulous, 400-page analysis of one of the major Cold War-era crises within the Western bloc. The book's strength lies in Münger's in-depth knowledge of the four national perspectives. This is the first book we have had that looks at the Berlin crisis of 1961-1963 from a truly multilateral angle.

Münger concludes that for all four countries national interests took priority over forging a common Western policy (pp. 376-379). To illustrate Washington's "selective" and "manipulative" consultations with its allies, he lists the debriefings in Europe after John F. Kennedy's summit with Nikita Khrushchev in Vienna in June 1961. Describing the meetings that U.S. officials held with West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and French President Charles de Gaulle, Münger argues that Washington concealed the Soviet ultimatum on Berlin and thus played down the outbreak of a renewed crisis (pp. 81-84). Yet, the charge of U.S. non-consultation seems harsh, considering that U.S. Secretary of State Dean Rusk visited the Council of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Paris on 5 June 1961 and informed U.S. allies in detail about the Kennedy-Khrushchev exchanges on the Berlin question.

Münger characterizes Kennedy's famous Berlin speech of 25 July 1961 not as a "declaration of war" (as Khrushchev described it) but as a fallback position limiting possible U.S. military means to the defense of three "Essentials." Kennedy also clearly signaled the Western countries' readiness to enter negotiations with the Soviet Union and to recognize legitimate Soviet security interests in Central Europe (p. 92). Münger's complex analysis of the evolving U.S.-Soviet exploratory talks offers fascinating details confirming his main thesis that the Berlin crisis deepened the split of the West into two camps, an Anglo-Saxon duo favoring a détente with Moscow versus a Franco-German bloc strongly opposed to negotiations with the Soviet Union. The [End Page 159] Kennedy administration sent copies of the records of Rusk's September 1961 talks with Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko only to the British, not to the French or the Germans (p. 119).

When bilateral Anglo-American efforts to bring Bonn and Paris into line collapsed because of de Gaulle's obstinacy, Adenauer cleverly used the growing tensions between Washington and Paris for his own purposes. His efforts were facilitated by de Gaulle's proposal to equip West Germany with nuclear weapons, a proposal that antagonized Washington because it depicted France rather than the United States as the main security guarantor to West Germany (pp. 136ff.).

Münger also looks in detail at the new U.S. negotiating position in early 1962, which both London and Moscow interpreted as a major step toward détente. He convincingly argues that U.S. concessions in April 1962 led to the end of previous Soviet disruptive action in Western air corridors (p. 151). Although Bonn had previously given Washington a green light to alter the bargaining position, Adenauer sabotaged movement toward U.S.-Soviet accommodation by deliberately leaking the U.S. proposal to the press, a disclosure that provoked tension between Washington and Bonn.

The increasingly troubled relationship between Washington and Paris, and the growing friction between Washington and Bonn, gave rise to a Franco-German bloc in 1962, a process that Münger analyzes in detail (pp. 180-190). When examining the Cuban missile crisis, he shows that the Kennedy administration's lack of consultation with Bonn and Paris stood in marked contrast to its efforts to keep Great Britain closely apprised of developments via the British ambassador to Washington and the "Mac...