John F. Kennedy had acknowledged in a speech on July 25, 1961, that the United States could hope to defend only West Berliners and West Germans; to attempt to stand up for East Germans would result only in an embarrassing downfall. Accordingly, the administration made polite protests at length via the usual channels, but without fervour, even though it was a violation of the postwar Potsdam Agreements, which gave the United Kingdom, France and the United States a say over the administration of the whole of Berlin. Indeed, a few months after the barbed wire was erected, the U.S. government informed the Soviet government that it accepted the Wall as "a fact of international life" and would not challenge it by force.
The East German government claimed that the Wall was an "anti-Fascist protective rampart" ("antifaschistischer Schutzwall") intended to dissuade aggression from the West. Another official justification were the activities of western agents in Eastern Europe. A yet different explanation was that West Berliners were buying out state-subsidized goods in East Berlin. Most of these positions were, however, viewed with skepticism even in East Germany, even more so since most of the time, the border was only closed for citizens of East Germany travelling to the West, but not for residents of West Berlin travelling to the East. The construction of the Wall had caused considerable hardship to families divided by it, and the view that the Wall was mainly a means of preventing the citizens of East Germany from entering West Berlin or fleeing was widely accepted.