Policy Planning Staff Files

Minutes of the Eighth Meeting of the Policy Planning Staff on the International Control of Atomic Energy

top secret


  • George Kennan
  • George Butler1
  • Robert Hooker Joseph Chase, U
  • Major General T. H. Landon, Joint Strategic Survey Committee, JCS
  • Dr. Vannevar Bush, President, Carnegie Institution
  • Carlton Savage
  • Harry Schwartz2

At the opening of the meeting, Mr. Kennan said that in our study of the international control of atomic energy we were endeavoring to determine whether we should continue to advocate the U.N. plan; whether we could accept an agreement whereby all nations would dispose of their bombs, and if one nation violated the agreement we would have a few months to get back into production before that nation could again produce bombs; or whether we could accept an international agreement relating both to atomic energy and to conventional armaments.

During the meeting Dr. Bush offered comment to the following effect:


The plan for the control of atomic energy, as set forth in the Acheson–Lilienthal Report, was not expected by its authors to be acceptable to the Russians because of the nature of their political system. However, the plan was supposed to constitute a solid base for the protection of U.S. interests.

We should adhere to the present majority U.N. plan and not withdraw it. We would not have security in an international agreement whereby all nations would dispose of their bombs and we would have a few months to get back into production if a nation violated the agreement.

Russia must choose her weapons for war. She can not devote tremendous resources to too many things such as a radar screen, submarines, atomic bombs, biological warfare, equipment for aerial warfare, and huge ground forces.
Biological warfare, which at one time seemed to be a real menace, does not now seem likely to be of major importance in case of war.
Improvement in methods of defense would have made conventional bombing obsolete, even if it had not been for the atomic bomb. As defensive methods improve, the stockpile of bombs has to be increased to get the same results previously possible with a smaller stockpile; and defensive measures are increasing rapidly.
General control of the air is no longer a possibility if the combatants are somewhere near equal in strength, due to the advance in defensive measures.
We cannot maintain national security without the atomic bomb in view of Russia’s marked superiority in conventional armaments.
Civilian defense of an extensive nature is not possible because of the huge cost. Practical measures are the training of personnel for caring for civilians in an atomic disaster, and arranging for a chain of command in government in case of an atomic disaster.
We must not get panicky because there has been an atomic explosion in Russia and we must make every effort to keep the public from becoming panicky.
In summary, it is possible that after a few years there may be a Russian government with which we can deal on atomic energy and related matters. Even if the present government in Russia is maintained, we should continue our adherence to the present U.N. plan for the control of atomic energy, and after a year or so the development of methods of detection may make it possible for us to have security with something less than the present U.N. plan.

  1. Deputy Director of the Policy Planning Staff.
  2. Executive Secretary of the Policy Planning Staff