Policy Planning Staff Files

Memorandum by the Deputy Director of the Office of European Affairs (Thompson) to the Director of the Policy Planning Staff (Kennan)1

top secret

In order to save time and to give you an independent judgment, I submit my comments on your paper, Factors Affecting the Nature of the United States Defense Arrangements in the Light of Soviet Policies. EE will submit comments separately.2

In general, this appears to me to be an excellent statement of the situation, and I believe about as far as we can go officially in estimating the likelihood of war.

Paragraph (h) on page 53 is now out of date and could be eliminated.

On page 7, the sentence in parenthesis under paragraph (c)4 is to [Page 293]my mind an extremely important point and deserves to stand on its own feet and not be related merely to Berlin or Vienna. I personally think there is more danger of war from the Soviet miscalculation than from any other cause.

The sentence at the top of page 105 is somewhat questionable in my mind, since nearly all of the essential Soviet services were transferred to the provinces during the war at one stage.

In the section on Atomic Weapons, I believe that the Soviet gambit, in the event they were about to manufacture a few bombs, would be to press us to accept their present proposition, namely, to outlaw the bomb and to destroy all stocks. This might have strong popular appeal and would be as difficult for us to resist as it would be fatal to accept.

If the paper is to be revised, it seems to me that mention should be made of the Atlantic Pact. The steps we are endeavoring to take to implement the Pact will surely increase the danger that the Russians may consider it advisable to strike before the steps can be effective. While this is a calculated risk we feel well worth taking, it is a factor which has developed since your paper was written.

While possibly not necessary in such a brief paper, mention might be made of the difficulties the Russians are experiencing in Eastern Europe because of the hope the peoples in these countries receive from our actions and from the progress being made in building up Western Europe.

Llewellyn E. Thompson
  1. In a memorandum of May 2 to Thompson, not printed, Kennan stated that before submitting document PPS 33 to Under Secretary Webb, he desired an appraisal of the paper from Thompson and “the people in the Russian Division”. (Policy Planning Staff Files) For text of PPS 33, June 23, 1948, printed as NSC 20/2 of August 25, 1948, see Foreign Relations, 1948, vol. i, Part 2, p. 615.
  2. See Bernhardt’s memorandum, infra.
  3. The paragraph under reference commented upon possible Soviet calculations regarding the forthcoming 1948 national elections.
  4. The sentence under reference read as follows:

    “In this connection there is always the possibility that the Soviet leaders may miscalculate the determination of this Government and its willingness to resort to force to protect the integrity of existing international agreements.”

  5. The reference here is to the sentence that began in the paragraph reading:

    “Russia has few cities to lose. Only Moscow and Leningrad could conceivably house the highly centralized administrative services of the Soviet Government for any length of time.”