The growing synthesis of Cold War literature suggests that the origins of the East-West crisis were far more complex than generally believed. Both the orthodox version, which stresses Soviet aggrandizement, and the revisionist, with its emphasis on American economic imperialism, frequently overlook the crucial role played by the leaders of East and West in establishing the political atmosphere in which Cold War diplomacy took place. And that atmosphere, as the current Reagan-Gorbachev thaw suggests, usually dictated the pace and direction of the crucial events in postwar Europe.
The 1948—49 division of Germany is a good example. Often cited as the proximate cause of the Cold War, the fact is that throughout 1945 and 1946, when relations between Washington and Moscow progressively deteriorated, cooperation between the U.S. military government in Germany and its Russian counterpart remained remarkably cordial. When relations between the occupiers fell apart in 1947, it was not so much because of indigenous German issues but because the international atmosphere compelled it. In fact, General Lucius D. Clay, who was the U.S. military governor in Germany, believed that American policy-makers in Washington were being duped by hard-line British diplomats into taking unwarranted anti-Soviet positions.
George Kennan’s celebrated cable from Moscow pertaining to the sources of Soviet conduct (Feb. 22, 1946) is a useful case in point. When Kennan’s cable was circulated to American military commanders throughout the world, General Clay was appalled. Its negative tone, he said, simply did not conform to his daily experience in working with the Russians. As Ambassador Robert Murphy (Clay’s State Department deputy) informed Washington shortly afterward:
[General Clay] believes . . . that the [Kennan] telegram represents the British line and that it is evident that the British technique of needling our people over a period of months is bearing fruit. As you know, General Clay has regarded the responsibility entrusted to him to succeed in quadripartite government of Germany most seriously and conscientiously. An inventory of what has been accomplished in Germany he finds not too discouraging. He points out with a certain justice that while some Americans are prone and eager to blame the Soviet representatives for everything that is unhappy in the situation, an important portion of whatever blame there is clearly attaches to the French Government which thus far has done everything it could to sabotage [the Potsdam] agreements. Clay points out, and rightly so, that apart from an active interest in reparations, restitution and intelligence matters, the French have thus far not contributed one single solitary constructive idea or effort in the entire quadripartite management of Germany.
Murphy also pointed out that the British had long predicted that quadripartite government would fail, and that “the only solution lay in dividing Germany, probably at the Elbe.” Murphy even went so far as to suggest that the Soviet representatives in Germany could not be accused of violating the Potsdam Agreement.
Whatever secret cynicisms they may maintain, it has not been manifest in their negotiations or official action. On the contrary, they have been meticulous in their observance of the several principles of the Potsdam Agreement. . . . That their attitude toward the British and the French is permeated with distrust and suspicion, is, of course, obvious. It is also obvious that they know of British and French lack of faith in the four-power cooperative management of Germany. The fact of the matter is that there is foundation for the Soviet suspicion and distrust in this particular instance.
In contrast, Murphy said that the Soviet representatives “have gone out of their way repeatedly and throughout the months to be friendly with the Americans.”
In the eyes of many in U. S. military government, said Murphy, this reflected “a sincere [Russian] desire to be friendly with us and also a certain respect for the U.S.”
The Soviet representatives are not obtuse. They know that the American effort has made the Allied wheel go round here, and that it, would have stopped moving were it not for the American contribution.
Murphy took issue with Kennan’s disparagement of personal relations. He contended that the mutual respect between Eisenhower and Zhukov had made a definite imprint in Berlin. “Zhukov, Sokolovsky and Sobolev have told me in different times and in different ways that they sincerely want the friendship of Americans, that there will never be a war between the two countries, that they are grateful for what the United States has done for the Soviet Union, but that they simply do not trust the U.K. . . .”
Murphy concluded by noting that while the increasing appearance of tension between the U.S. and Soviet Union might aid the passage of the administration’s universal military training bill, “I would like to make it quite clear that in our local innocence [in Berlin] we have never and still do not believe for a minute in imminent Soviet aggression.”
In retrospect, it may appear odd that Murphy’s letter is not printed in the Foreign Relations of the United States series. Nevertheless, Murphy’s letter makes it abundantly clear that those closest to the Russian presence in Germany did not despair of Soviet cooperation. General Clay, in particular, saw no reason for alarm. And throughout 1946, the U.S. military in Germany continued to stress the importance of Great Power harmony.
In fact, the U. S. military enjoyed exceptionally good relations with the Russians. In June 1945, it had been Generals Eisenhower and Clay who had expedited American military withdrawal from the Soviet Zone, and Clay, who met regularly with the Russians on the Allied Control Council, had thus far (in mid-1946) not presented a single complaint to Washington concerning Soviet belligerency.
To the contrary. In June 1945 he wrote Assistant Secretary of War John J. McCloy that “with patience and understanding we will be able to work out central controls” with the Soviets. “I am just as apprehensive [Clay continued] over possible impatience and lack of understanding at home . . .as I am of our ability in the long run to work out many mutual problems of the Allied Control Council.”
Clay wrote to McCloy in a similar vein on Sept. 3, 1945, just as the Truman Administration was putting the final touches on its plan for establishing a peacetime draft. According to Clay:
. . . I am much encouraged by the general attitude and apparent desire, especially on the part of the Russians, to work with us in solving the various problems. I believe we are making real headway in breaking down their feelings of suspicion and distrust. I am hopeful that by the time conflicting views develop on major issues, we will understand and trust one another sufficiently to deal with the problems objectively and to work out sensible compromises of our views. (Italics added.)
As John Backer has pointed out, General Clay was attempting to pursue the policy of friendly cooperation with the Russians that stemmed from the wartime alliance. Thus, when he returned to Washington in November 1945, Clay reminded State Department officials that it was the French, not the Russians, who were blocking four-power government. When Clay asked H. Freeman Matthews whether the U.S. was prepared to bring pressure on France, Matthews demurred. Similarly, (according to General John Hilldring’s report of the meeting) Clay “took sharp issue with the point of view that it was the USSR which was failing to carry out the Berlin [Potsdam] Protocol.” Clay abruptly rejected James Riddelberger’s suggestion that reparations be used as a lever against the Soviets. According to Clay, the Russians favoured the creation of central administrative machinery for Germany, which the French continued to veto. In fact, General Clay “felt there was some merit to the Russian position that barriers to interzonal movement could only be removed after the establishment of central administrative machinery.”
Clay also believed at that time that the Russians “had gone further than the French in the introduction of democratic procedures in their zone”—an observation that apparently fell on deaf ears in Washington. As for the land reform in the Soviet zone, Clay reminded Washington that the Russians were “acting unilaterally in the absence of quadripartite agreement.” But then, he said, “so was the Commanding General, U.S. Forces, European Theater.” According to General Clay:
The entire record of the Control Council showed that the USSR was willing to cooperate with the other powers in operating Germany as a single political and economic unit. The USSR had blocked no more than one or two papers in the Control Council, which is more than can be said for the other members.
On such issues as the vesting and marshaling of German external assets, restitution, and reparations, the fact is that U.S. military government in Germany accepted the merit of Soviet arguments while the State Department, particularly at working levels below Secretary Byrnes, already was fashioning an Anglo-American common front which at the very least worked at cross purposes to quadripartite control.
A pertinent illustration involves the use of German patents and scientific data. On May 27, 1946, Clay protested a planned meeting of Western countries in London (organized by the State Department) to discuss German patents. The Soviet Union was to be excluded. But as Clay saw it:
If we are to adhere to the principles of quadripartite government of Germany, advance agreements among the Western powers add to our difficulties. . . . Patents belong to Germany as a whole. It would not appear that they could be made available under the Potsdam Protocol except under such conditions as would be agreed by quadripartite machinery.
Similarly, when the State Department sought to establish Radio Liberty in Munich in August, 1946 (broadcasting in Russian to the Soviet Union), Clay immediately protested. “I cannot agree,” he told Washington, “that the establishment of a broadcasting station in Germany to broadcast to the Soviet Union in the Russian language is in the spirit of quadripartite government.”
It is not surprising, therefore, that in July 1946 when General Eisenhower, then Army Chief of Staff, queried all military commanders “on the manner in which agreements had been carried out by the Soviets,” Clay replied that:
It is difficult to find major instances of Soviet failure to carry out agreements reached in quadripartite government of Germany. Our difficulties in this field arise not so much from failure to carry out agreements but rather from failure to agree on interpretations. . . . In most such instances, French unwillingness to enter into agreements relative to governing Germany as a whole makes it difficult to place blame on Soviets.
Clay repeated his message two weeks later to Assistant Secretary of War for Air Stuart Symington, then on a global inspection of U.S. forces. As Symington later reported to President Truman: “It was from General Clay in Berlin [that we heard] the first counter thinking to the heavy anti-Russian sentiment characteristic [of administration policy].” According to Symington:
Clay felt that the Russian story was not being reported accurately. He said there were incidents of arrests and detentions [in the Soviet zone], but that there were comparable incidents of Americans picking up Russians and holding them over a period; that it was to be regretted the [news] stories were on a purely unilateral basis; that in the American zone we had arrested, imprisoned and killed far more Russians than they had Americans.
Symington went on to say that “Clay felt the Russians antagonized the old school diplomats, because they were rude and did not have social graces. “For example, if you ask them a question on the phone which is embarrassing, they click off. But it is only their way,” said Clay, “and they are improving.”” Secretary Symington reported that Clay also worried that the American, British, and French interpreters in Berlin were hostile to the Russians. “”They come in [to quadripartite conferences] prejudiced, and may well reflect such prejudice in their interpreting.”“
Symington told Truman that Clay felt “it was a mistake not to have carried out the policies of General Eisenhower; i.e., to have our zone open to the Russians.” In Clay’s view “it irritated [the Russians] because of their knowledge of the change in policy, but, and more important, when it went into effect last December , it stiffened the attitude of all American personnel against the Russians.”
Clay told Symington he thought that “the situation was far from hopeless and could be worked out.” When Symington queried Clay as to how he “correlated this thinking with Mr. [John Foster] Dulles’ statement that the Russians felt their ideology could not live in a world which contained capitalist countries,” Clay replied forthrightly that:
If things go on this way, a scrap with Russia is inevitable. I am one who believes we can get to know them, and they can get to know us. I believe we can, over a period, work out the prevention of that war which so many people think inevitable.
By the summer of 1946, General Clay was growing increasingly alarmed at the anti-Soviet line emanating from Washington. On July 25, he wrote to his former finance adviser, Joseph Dodge, then with MacArthur in Japan. Said Clay, “While I appreciate the great difficulties involved in working with the Russians, I still refuse to be a pessimist and I am apprehensive that the old “red scare” is receiving too much emphasis at home these days.”
The point is that insofar as Germany was concerned the Cold War was neither inevitable nor inherent in U.S.-Soviet relations. Certainly it was not sought by those in command of U.S. military government. Indeed, an interesting gauge of the standards of political propriety that motivated America’s overseas’ command is illustrated by General Clay’s response to advice from Washington that he intervene in forthcoming Berlin elections on behalf of non-Communist parties. To Clay, such intervention was unthinkable. “If we did this,” he said, “military government would have clearly violated its announced principles of political neutrality and such action . . . would prove a step backward in teaching democracy.”
In a refreshing glimpse of an older and perhaps simpler America, Clay advised the War Department that:
We have created a reasonably healthy political atmosphere in our zone in which there is little evidence of Communist gains. It is my view that the direct support of political parties by military government would harm our political gains and would do little to retard the development of the Socialist Unity Party and its efforts in Berlin.
Clay, whose father, Alexander Stephens Clay, had been a three-term United States Senator from Georgia, then put the matter into context. After all, he told Washington, the measures about which some persons in the State Department “have become most excited are not too different from election measures sometimes pursued in large cities in democratic countries.”
So long as James Byrnes remained Secretary of State, Clay’s position in Germany was secure. During the Second World War, Clay had served as Byrnes’ deputy in the Office of War Mobilization and Reconversion, and the relation between them was warm and close. Like Clay, Byrnes, whose attitude in dealing with the Russians was one of pragmatic compromise, genuinely believed that cooperation with the Soviet Union was possible. As Byrnes stated on his return from the Paris Conference of Foreign Ministers in October, 1946:
The development of a sympathetic understanding between the Soviet Union and the United States is the paramount task of statesmanship.
Throughout his tenure as secretary of state, Byrnes felt he had always been able to work with the Soviets. At the Potsdam Conference, when Truman and Admiral Leahy had despaired of the outcome, Byrnes put together a last-minute deal temporarily settling the reparations question in exchange for the Oder/Neisse frontier for Poland.
At the Moscow Conference of Foreign Ministers in December 1945, Byrnes had come close to restoring wartime amity. Procedures for drafting the Balkan peace treaties were approved; the Soviet Union endorsed the U.S.-U.K.-Canadian proposal for a United Nations Atomic Energy Commission; an Allied Council for Japan was created; Stalin consented to the presence of U.S. troops in China, and provision was made for the unification of Korea. The only issue which was not resolved was that of troop withdrawals from Iran.
But Byrnes’ optimism on dealing with the Soviets was not shared in Washington. President Truman and many of his immediate advisers believed Byrnes was on the threshold of a policy of dangerous appeasement. In the face of such criticism, Byrnes resorted to public diplomacy over the issue of Iran in the spring of 1946 and generally struck a more belligerent pose. The Paris Conference of Foreign Ministers ended in July virtually without issue and was succeeded by the equally unproductive 21-nation Paris Peace Conference.
The end of 1946 brought no dramatic change in Germany. The American and British zones of occupation were fused for economic purposes only; and Clay continued to be more concerned about French intransigence than Communist expansion. At the governmental level, Secretary Byrnes reached agreement with the Soviet Union and successfully completed the peace treaties for the former German satellites. In fact, Byrnes was guardedly optimistic for the future of U.S.-Soviet cooperation. Because of his success, Time magazine named Byrnes “Man of the Year,” and in a speech on Jan. 11, 1947, Byrnes stated that:
Today I am happy to say I am more confident than at any time since VJ. Day that we can achieve a just peace by cooperative effort if we persist with firmness in the right as God gives us the power to see the right.
Byrnes believed the successful conclusion of the satellite treaties offered promise of a rapid peace treaty for Austria; even in the far more complicated case of Germany, he saw hope. The German discussions, he said, “will start under much more favorable circumstances than seemed possible until last month.” Byrnes concluded by reminding his audience that “Nations, like individuals, must respect one another’s differences.”
But Byrnes already was on his way out as secretary of state. On Jan. 20, 1947, virtually at the height of his success, President Truman preemptorily announced Byrnes’ resignation as secretary of state and said that General George C. Marshall would succeed him. With Byrnes resignation, American policy toward the Soviet Union changed abruptly. For, unlike Byrnes, President Truman had long discounted the possibility of reaching substantive agreement with the Soviet Union. Confronted with a threatened British pullout in the eastern Mediterranean, he seized the opportunity to proclaim the Truman Doctrine—a formal declaration that the wartime alliance between the United States and the Soviet Union had ended. The President wrote to his daughter Margaret immediately afterwards,
I knew at Potsdam that there is no difference in totalitarian or police states, call them what you will, Nazi, Fascist, Communist or Argentine Republics . . . .
The attempt of Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, et al. , to fool the world and the American Crackpot Association, represented by Jos. Davies, Henry Wallace, Claude Pepper and the actors and artists of immoral Greenwich Village, is just like Hitler’s and Mussolini’s so-called socialist states.
Your Pop had to tell the world just that in polite language.
But as George Elsey (then a White House assistant) protested to presidential speech writer Clark Clifford, “there has been no overt action in the immediate past by the U.S.S.R. which serves as an adequate pretext for [such an] “All-out” speech.” Like Lyndon Johnson at the time of the Tonkin Gulf incident, it would appear that President Truman had sought to proclaim his own “get tough” policy toward the Soviet Union for some time and seized on the first opportunity. Yet by portraying Soviet-American differences as a clash between two mutually irreconcilable ideologies, Truman and Clifford trapped themselves in an escalating cycle of rhetoric which significantly limited U.S. alternatives in dealing with Moscow.
By contrast, throughout his tenure Secretary Byrnes had refused to accept the simple dichotomy postulated by his successors. He could never bring himself to endorse the “Truman Doctrine,” and in his first speech after leaving office in 1947 Byrnes went out of his way to deny that conflict with the Soviet Union was inevitable. “On the contrary,” Byrnes said, “I believe we can make peace and we can keep the peace.”
We have made it clear to the Soviet Union that it cannot dictate the terms of peace. We must also realize the United States cannot dictate the terms of peace.
The Truman Doctrine was announced while General Marshall was in Moscow at the Conference of Foreign Ministers. Certainly it did not improve the chances for reaching agreement with the Soviet Union (Germany was the principal issue under discussion), but it could scarcely have embarrassed Marshall, for, as Dean Acheson reports, the speech Truman delivered had been approved by Marshall before his departure for Moscow.
General Clay had accompanied Marshall to Moscow but did not remain for the conclusion of the conference. He was distressed at the militancy which surrounded Marshall and concerned that a pro-French, anti-Russian orientation had become dominant in U.S. policy. Clay was especially fearful of the consequences of such a policy in Germany, and returned to Berlin after the second week of the conference prepared to resign his post. Said Clay:
I wanted to be back in Berlin, where, if I called a press conference, people would listen, and my resignation would have some impact. I was worried that Marshall and Dulles (who was then in his “French phase”) were going to submerge our interests to those of France . . .and I was determined to prevent it.
The new rigidity of American foreign policy, combined with the dismal failure of the Moscow conference, caused Clay to be morose. As he wrote to his former wartime associate, Walter Brown of South Carolina:
I was, of course, shocked when Justice Byrnes resigned and am afraid I have not had the same heart for my work since. This was particularly true of Moscow, and after being there for two weeks I asked and received permission to return to my duties here in Germany. Believe it or not, I am still trying to practise the type and kind of democracy which we all believed in and with real hopes for its success if America is patient and truly prepared to support such a program. (Italics added.)
Differences between Clay and Washington mounted in 1947 as Clay stressed the economic problems confronting Germany while Washington appeared more concerned with fashioning an anti-Soviet Alliance. The issue came to a head in July 1947 when Clay asked to be replaced as military governor. “I feel that State Department wants a negative personality in Germany,” he telexed Assistant Secretary of War Howard Petersen.
As you know, I can carry out policy whole-heartedly or not at all and there is no question left in my mind but that my views relative to Germany do not coincide with present policies . . . . Request orders calling me back for coal conference [scheduled to be held in Washington] which also authorizes shipment of personal belongings.
General Eisenhower, who was then Army Chief of Staff, and a close personal friend, intervened to remind Clay that as soldiers they could not quit “simply because things sometimes go at sixes and sevens.” National policy was set in Washington, said Eisenhower, and Washington viewed the situation with the Soviet Union as critical.
Clay responded as a good soldier. He would not rock the boat, especially when his old friend cautioned otherwise. “It is true that we here cannot be aware of critical international situations if we are not kept informed,” he replied to Eisenhower—a rather curious observation for the man in daily contact with the Russians. Clay said he realized “that broad policy must be set in Washington.” “If you think that my departure would be running out on the job and failing in my obligation, that is enough to keep me here.”
For more than two years General Clay had operated under the belief that his task in Germany was to achieve effective four-power government. Like Byrnes, he believed in being firm but correct with the Russians, and he still thought that such a policy would succeed. But Washington, it was now clear, placed a higher premium on the anti-Soviet alliance and, with it, Germany’s division.
With the direction of march changed, it is not surprising that the situation in Germany deteriorated quickly. The London Conference of Foreign Ministers, meeting in December 1947, collapsed in an impasse over Germany. Secretary Marshall terminated the session abruptly—blaming Soviet obstructionism—and plunged forthwith into extensive bilateral talks with Britain pertaining to the economic and political organization of the Western zones.
In January 1948, the State Department moved abruptly to take over complete responsibility for the occupation of Germany. Without bothering to inform Clay beforehand, Marshall announced that State would assume control on July 1, 1948. While the Department of the Army had been advocating such a move for some time, the abrupt form of Marshall’s announcement further suggests that relations between General Clay and the administration had eroded considerably since Byrne’s departure.
To succeed Clay, Marshall chose Walter Bedell Smith, the U.S. ambassador in Moscow and longtime Marshall intimate who would doubtless give American policy in Germany the hard-line focus Washington desired. Smith had been turned down as temperamentally unsuited for the German post by Secretary Stimson in 1945, and it is doubtful that General Smith had become more malleable since then. This time it was former Secretary Byrnes who intervened with his friends in the U.S. Senate (appointment as military governor required Senate confirmation) to block the move, and the planned State Department takeover did not occur until late 1949, following creation of the West German government, when John J. McCloy became U.S. high commissioner.
In February 1948, while Congress debated additional funding for the Marshall Plan, Czechoslovakia receded further behind the Iron Curtain as the non-Communist members of government abruptly resigned. But, as George Kennan has noted, such a move changed very little and should have been anticipated.
On the heels of events in Prague, Lt. Gen. S. J. Chamberlain, Director of Army Intelligence, visited Clay in Berlin. Chamberlain impressed on Clay the pitiful state of readiness of U.S. forces, the fact that major military appropriations were pending before Congress, and the need to galvanize public support for substantial American rearmament. Accordingly, on March 5, 1948, at Chamberlain’s request, Clay dispatched a TOP SECRET cable to Washington to assist the Army chiefs in their testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee the following week. As is now well known, Clay’s famous March 5th cable sent shock waves through Washington. According to Walter Millis, editor of the Forrestal Diaries, it “fell with the force of a blockbuster bomb.” Secretary of Defense Forrestal copied the cable verbatim in his diary, and Millis relates that it caused “intense alarm among those who were aware of it.” Certainly, its impact was profound. But the important point is that insofar as General Clay was concerned the cable was not triggered by any change in the Berlin situation. It was tailored to fit the needs of the American military in congressional testimony. And as Michael Howard has pointed out, “This was not to be the last occasion on which the American military were to try to influence congressional opinion by an inflated estimate of Soviet intentions and capabilities, but it may well have been the first and most significant.”
Clay’s cable, which was sent directly to Chamberlain, and not through normal command channels, reads as follows:
For many months, based on logical analysis, I have felt and held that war was unlikely for at least ten years. Within the last few weeks, I have felt a sudden change in Soviet attitudes which I cannot define but which now gives me a feeling that it may come with dramatic suddenness. I cannot support this change in my own thinking with any data or outward evidence in relationships other than to describe it as a feeling of a new tenseness in every Soviet individual with whom we have official relations. I am unable to submit any official report in the absence of supporting data but my feeling is real. You may advise the chief of staff [Bradley] of this for what it is worth if you feel it is advisable,
In fairness to General Clay, it must be recognized that he did not envisage how the cable would be used, or what its effect would be. His intent was to assist the Army leadership before Congress; it was not to create a war hysteria in the country. In fact, Clay was appalled when its contents were leaked to the Saturday Evening Post. “The revelation of such cablegram,” he advised General Bradley, “is not helpful and in fact discloses viewpoint of responsible commander out of context with many parallel reports.”
Clay was scarcely a political neophyte and should have anticipated what effect his March 5th message would have. On the other hand, as he himself has pointed out, his official cables to Washington throughout this period stressed the improbability of war with the Soviet Union. And Clay simply could not conceive that his superiors would accept the cable to Chamberlain (which was deliberately not sent through command channels) and ignore his calm official assessments. But, of course, those in command in Washington—Truman, General Marshall, and Secretary Forrestal—as well as many working in the State Department, Defense, and the intelligence community, firmly believed the Soviet Union was intent on war, and Clay’s unofficial cable confirmed this. Indeed, precisely because of General Clay’s more sober official analyses as well as his prior commitment to cooperating with the Soviets, the impact of his cable to Chamberlain was even greater than it might have been.
Without proceeding further into a step-by-step rendition of the Berlin crises of 1948—49, I believe it is true—as George Kennan has suggested—that Soviet actions in Berlin (and Czechoslovakia) were defensive reactions to the success of the Marshall Plan and Western efforts to create a separate West German government. Contrary to the orthodox Cold War literature about the Berlin blockade—including Clay’s own Decision in Germany— the fact is that the Soviet Union blundered into the blockade in response to a particular set of circumstances, and not, as the traditional mythology tells us, as part of a global conspiracy or master plan laid carefully in advance.
General Clay, in particular, discounted Soviet intentions to go to war throughout the blockade. On July 25, he judiciously told Washington, “I do not expect armed conflict. . . . If Soviets go to war, it will not be because of Berlin currency issue [the pretext for the blockade], but only because they believe this is the right time. In such case, they would use currency issue as an excuse. I regard this probability as rather remote . . . .
Clay’s refusal to withdraw American dependents from Berlin (the Department of the Army continually pressed such a move), and especially his proposal to move through to Berlin along the autobahn, reflected his longstanding appreciation that the Soviet Union genuinely did not want war. Indeed, in this context, General Clay’s suggestion to test the blockade with an armored column was based on a cautious, sound judgment of Soviet intent. Unlike Washington, Clay had not yet formed a preconceived opinion of Soviet expansionism. Thus where Washington tended to see each new Soviet gambit as a step leading inexorably to hostile confrontation—and to continually stress the exposed military position of Berlin (Marshall, Bradley, and Bedell Smith were particularly guilty of this)—Clay rested his case on three years of firsthand experience in dealing with the Russians in Germany. The Soviets simply did not want war, and never did, and Clay knew it.