Policy Planning Staff Files1

Memorandum by the Deputy Under Secretary of State ( Rusk ) to the Counselor ( Kennan )

top secret

Subject: Draft Paper on International Control of Atomic Energy2

Following are my comments on the attached atomic energy paper. I apologize for the broad degree of concurrence because I believe that you need specific criticism rather than specific concurrence at this juncture.

[Page 9]
I agree that our present plan for the international control of atomic energy will never produce such control. I believe this because neither the Russians nor we would accept this plan. Our formal position of support and acceptance, realistically considered, is a colossal political gamble on our part.
One of the difficulties about the development of policy on atomic energy control is that it has fallen into the hands of experts who pretend to be talking technique when in fact they are talking politics. I have not been able to find a technical explanation of why the safeguards and controls of the present majority plan have to be what they are. When questioned, the technical people immediately wander off into politics.
I agree that the forum for further discussions of atomic energy control must somehow be changed and am inclined to agree that it needs treatment at a more senior governmental level. I see very serious objections to new bilateral discussions between ourselves and Russia on atomic energy control, unless such discussions resulted from consultation with and agreement by the United Kingdom, France and Canada. Otherwise, U.S.-Soviet discussions would have a most serious and demoralizing effect upon our common front. I doubt that these other countries would permit us to represent them in any way. The question may boil down, therefore, to whether we should have five or six of the Foreign Ministers discuss the question further.
Since our present plan has no prospect of producing international control, our present choice is between (1) no control and competition at whatever pace we can stand and (2) some other arrangement differing in important respects from our present plan. Therefore, I am inclined to urge most careful exploration of every possible modus vivendi which might give us time to go into the matter more fully.
I agree that the fundamental question for us is that posed at the bottom of page 21.3 I have a view on it but I do not believe that my view is relevant to the procedure by which we get a governmental decision on the question.
I agree that we should have an NSC clarification on the use of atomic weapons. An over-all strategic study which is now before the NSC staff may provide a vehicle for obtaining such clarification.
I think the “healthy instinct” of the public will probably agree that the risks of an imperfect system of international control will be smaller than the risks of no agreement at all—but I believe we should look at this one with extreme care since it is the kind of proposition on which we could easily go wrong.
In connection with page 38,4 it seems to me that the relation between the atom bomb and the cold war might be developed in somewhat more detail, particularly on the impact of the Russian possession of atomic weapons on the psychology of Europe.
By and large, I would agree with the main lines of the conclusions. These may require working out in more detail in order to see just what they need before they are accepted as a policy matter.
Lastly, I specifically agree with each of the “things to avoid” with which the paper concludes.
  1. Lot 64D563, files of the Policy Planning Staff of the Department of State, 1947–1953.
  2. The draft paper does not accompany the source text and has not been specifically identified. However, the paper in its final form (January 20) appears on p. 22.
  3. Reference is presumably to that portion of Kennan’s argument contained in the second paragraph of Part III of the memorandum of January 20, p. 29.
  4. Reference is to Part IV of the memorandum of January 20. See bracketed note, p. 31.