14. Potomac Cable From the United States Information Agency1

No. 139


There is considerable interest abroad in the process of reassessment now under way in Washington. The significance of that process is worth clarifying, for the world has witnessed only two such thoroughgoing changes of U.S. Administration in nearly three decades.

The new Administration is conducting a general reassessment of its foreign policies in the light of the awareness that this is an era of great change. The world today is undergoing basic changes of a depth and scope and velocity which make this period a major turning-point in history. The Administration believes the central issue in foreign policy is to associate the United States constructively with an epoch of inevitable change. The U.S., with its friends, must decide on their mutual and realistic aspirations for the future.

In many cases the current reassessment will confirm the validity of previous decisions, enabling the Government to continue their application with confidence. In other cases, reassessment will disclose the need for a shift of emphases. In every case the constant of U.S. foreign policy is the aspirations of the American people. Under the democratic system, foreign policy could not long be at variance with those aspirations. Fundamental to all policy, domestic and foreign, are the national [Page 50] strength and growth adequate to that degree of American leadership in [is] change itself which circumstances may require.

The United States is determined to explore new solutions and, instead of belaboring old problems, to view these in fresh perspective. The U.S. hopes its determination is matched in Moscow.

A prime difficulty is the unwillingness of the Soviets to achieve settlements on any terms but their own. Both the U.S. and the USSR face major problems beyond their direct control. One such problem is the prospective proliferation of nuclear weapons to even more countries than now possess them. There is some feeling in Washington that the Soviets may incline toward some specific progress in the realm of arms control. But no progress is possible unless they change their views on inspection designed to assure compliance with agreed control measures.

Another major problem of interest both to the U.S. and the USSR is the rising power and belligerence of Communist China, a have-not country with a vast and growing population and a historical record of imperialist expansion. Peiping poses a major threat to Southeast Asia, coveting the land and resources of that area. The immediate threat is against Laos, and the United States would react vigorously if Peiping placed military pressure on Laos. In the long run, the problem for the non-Communist world will be to contain Chinese Communist aggressiveness and to seek a way to help reduce Communist China’s internal pressures.

There are other problems toward the solution of which new and more effective approaches are needed. These include the urgent and mounting requirements of newly emerging nations for developmental assistance, and the orientation of long-established friendly alliances to fresh and complex challenges. It is on such problems that the current reassessment in Washington is focusing.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 306, Office of Plans, General Subject Files, 1949–1970, Entry UD WW 382, Box 117, MASTER COPIES—Jan–Jun 1961. Unclassified. Drafted by Halsema and Pauker; cleared by Burris; approved by Halsema. Pauker initialed for Burris. Sent via Wireless File.