PPS Files, Lot 64 D 563

Memorandum by Mr. Robert P. Joyce to the Director of the Policy Planning Staff (Nitze)1

top secret

Subject: “A National Strategy for the Soviet Union”

I attach hereto the text of an address made last week to the National War College by Admiral L. C. Stevens.2 I think that you will want to read what Stevens has to say and all members of S/P as well.

Stevens returned from Moscow less than one year ago. He was for almost three years Naval Attaché to the American Embassy. He is a [Page 43] student of not only communism and the Soviet Union but also of Russia and the Russians. He is presently with the JCS and one of his more important duties is to act as Consultant to OPC of CIA.

Admiral Stevens in his address considers Soviet capabilities, intentions and strategy.

A few quotations will give you some of the flavor of Stevens’ carefully thought out and prepared analysis:

  • “When I first went to Russia, three and a half years ago, I believed that there was a general tendency to under-rate its capabilities . . . . I ended up with the firm conviction that we vastly over-rate them . . . .”
  • “The sum total of our estimates is not consistent with what I have experienced in Russia, and I believe that it comes from piling incorrect assumptions and inferences one on another . . . . The seriousness of an under-estimate is obvious, so it is extremely difficult to curb the tendency to err on the safe side. I know of no remedy other than living in Russia for the unconscious substitute of American conditions and criteria for Russian ones.”
  • “In my opinion, the national strategy of the Soviet Union not only would not contemplate any global war of her own choosing under the conditions that now obtain in the world as long as the West continues to demonstrate that the basic communist philosophy is false. [sic]”
  • “The essential need of bolshevism is to hold the one great base they have captured and whose control they have most consolidated. The risk of losing it is too great, and there will be no planned war on the part of the Soviets so long as there are other ways of making progress toward their goal or until the odds of eventual victory are much more in their favor . . . . A military solution is viewed by them in a different perspective than it is in America where military thinking is a powerful force . . . . and the goal of a communist world controlled by a single part is not identical with the worldwide expansion of the Soviet Union.”
  • “Even after 30 years of absolute control, education and propaganda, there is reason to believe that large numbers of Russians are not sold on the regime. The Party has much reason not to trust their expanded mass armies when exposed to other influence abroad.”
  • “The only circumstance which would seriously tempt them to such a move (preventive war against the West) is the possession of such a stock pile of atomic bombs that they could be sure of effectively eliminating the United States at a single blow and this circumstance seems to me to be extremely unlikely of arising for many years.”
  • “We are an impatient people, always desirous of getting annoying things over with so we can go about our normal affairs. The spirit of ‘get the boys home by Christmas’ is very typical to us. The virtues of patience appeal much more naturally to the Soviets . . . . Our view is apt to be short-ranged and theirs long-ranged. One characteristic of the long-range view is that it is under a lesser compulsion of taking risks.”
  • “Unless the West itself initiates a war, which would be devastating on both sides . . . . it seems probable that for many, many years we shall be confronted with much the same sort of dangerous uneasy world in which we now live.”
  • “I do not believe that there is a specific Soviet plan that governs the future any more than there is a plan for the initiation of global war on any specific date.”
  • “I do not believe that open war will be chosen (by the Soviets) as a, solution until all other means of achieving the ultimate goal have failed . . . .”

The above quotations out of context do not, of course, provide the full impact of Stevens’ reasoning and the speech should be read in full. I understand that this speech has caused quite a stir in certain military circles and in particular in the Air Corps.

Robert P. Joyce
  1. Joyce was a member of the Policy Planning Staff, Department of State. On February 2, he transmitted a copy of this memorandum to W. Averell Harriman, Special Assistant to the President. On February 21, Theodore Tannenwald of Harriman’s office transmitted the document to Charles Murphy, Special Counsel to the President, for the White House files. (Truman Library, President’s Secretary’s File, PSF–General)
  2. The text of the address (delivered January 25) is not printed.