The original purpose of the missions was to maintain communication with the Supreme Command of the Soviet forces. When the Cold War broke out, espionage became the focus of their activities. But contracts were maintained even during times of dangerous tensions in the East-West confrontation. The missions were dissolved upon Germany's unification on October 3, 1990.
The three western Military Liaison Missions:
- USMLM - U.S. Military Liaison Mission Potsdam
- BRIXMIS - The British Commanders'-in-Chief Mission to the Soviet Froces in Germany
- MMFL - La Mission Militaire Francaise de Liaison
History of the Liaison Missions
When the defeat of Germany became obvious during World War 2, the three Allies (United States, Great Britian and the Soviet Union) formed the European Advisory Comission in London. Its purpose was to establish a legal basis for occupation and administration of Germany. France joined as the fourth allie later.
Several agreements were made in 1944/45. The basis for the Military Liaison Missions was the the Agreement on Control Machinery in Germany, signed on November 14, 1944. Part of the agreement was the accreditation of the military with the supreme command of the other occupation forces.
Implementation of the agreement was postponed as the soviets felt the regular meetings at the control council would provide enough communication. With increasing tensions between the Western Allies and the Soviet Union the need for Liaison Missions became imminent. The Soviet Union took the initiative as they wanted control over the reperations payments in the western zones of occupation, which also included payments to the Soviet Union.
The first agreement was signed between the Soviet Union and Great Britian 16 September, 1946 known as the Robertson-Malinin Agreement, after the two respective Chiefs of Staff. The British zone of occupation included the Ruhrgebiet which was the heart of Germanies heavy industry and was thus the most important zone for the Soviets to control. The agreement included 31 members for each Liaison Mission resulting in the British Mission being the largest of the three western missions.
In April 1947 agreements between the Soviet Union, France and the United States were made. They included 14 members for the American and 18 for the French mission. The Soviets wanted larger contingents in the US and French zone as well but the two powers declined the offer. While the three western missions were all based in Potsdam , the three soviet missions were located in the three western zones of occupation. The Soviet mission to the US Forces was based in Frankfurt am Main, to the French in Baden Baden and the Soviet mission in the British zone was first located in Bad Salzuflen and later moved to Bünde.
The missions were first tasked in the observation of implementation of the agreements made at the Potsdam Conference which included the disarming and demilitarization of Germany. Another task was the establishing of communication systems between the supreme commanders. The members of the missions enjoyed a de facto diplomatic status which would become priceless when the iron curtain dividing the western from the Soviet zone.
The missions' initial tasks were genuine liaison tasks. These included repatriation of Prisoners of War (PoW), location of allied service personnel graves, looking for Nazi war criminals and witnesses to Nazi atrocities as well as monitoring the distribution of food and fuel etc. In BRIXMIS' case, the intelligence gathering role was only authorised by the UK Government in 1948 during the period of the build up of the Berlin Blockade.
The MLMs were granted access to large areas of the Soviet Zone of Occupation. PRAs (Permanent Restricted Areas) arround military installations and TRAs (Temporary Restricted Areas) during military exercises were marked on special maps issued to the MLMs. The primary task of the MLMs became surveillance and reconaissance of the Soviet Forces on the ground and by air. The estimation of Soviet troop strength, observation of new equipment and military exercises became the daily routine. The Mission's role can't be over estimated as they were the first to tell a large maneuver from a buildup of troops which even could have resulted in a nuclear conflict.