Under Secretary’s Meetings, Lot 53 D 250

Notes of the Meeting of the Under Secretary’s Advisory Committee at the Department of State, March 13, 1951 1

top secret

AC N–26

Present: U—Mr. WebbG—Mr. Matthews
S/P—Mr. Nitze
R—Mr. Armstrong
E—Mr. Thorp
S/S—Mr. McWilliams
L—Mr. Fisher2
S/S–S—Mr. Denney

Reassessment of the Possibilities of a General Agreement with the Soviets (no document)

Mr. Webb asked whether it would be possible for an overall political settlement to be made in the absence of an agreement on armaments. Mr. Nitze was of the opinion that both types of agreement were necessary. In response to a question by Mr. Fisher, Mr. Nitze reviewed briefly the proposal which he had discussed at the last AC meeting3 regarding certification and verification of conventional and atomic weapons.
Mr. Webb asked whether there was general agreement that if we proposed a mutual disclosure of information on conventional and [Page 454]atomic weapons that such disclosure would be more to the advantage of the U.S. than to the Soviet Union. He asked, particularly, whether our intelligence estimates concerning Soviet armaments are accurate. Mr. Armstrong thought that the range of accuracy in most fields was plus or minus 10–20 percent. He was of the opinion that we would gain far more than we would lose by disclosure, except perhaps in the field of atomic energy.
Mr. Webb asked whether we tended to overestimate Russian strength in conventional arms. Mr. Armstrong doubted that we were very much in error on our estimates since we have techniques for checking our estimates against what we know about the amounts of raw materials available to the Soviet economy. Mr. Nitze said that he was familiar with some examples where we have been able to check our intelligence estimates against known facts, and in important cases our estimates turned out to be too low. Mr. Nitze reported that Mr. Arneson was of the opinion that we would gain more by mutual disclosure of atomic weapons than the Soviets would.
Mr. Matthews asked whether the proposed inspection system would include the right to knowledge of methods of producing new weapons. Mr. Nitze said that we needed a whole set of criteria of inspection which would have to be worked out very carefully.
Mr. Webb asked whether there was not a pressing need for government-wide decision on the advisability of making a proposal to the Soviets embodying the idea of certification and verification of armaments. Mr. Nitze expressed the view of S/P that there was a need for such a decision.
There was a brief discussion as to the difficulties which might be encountered in setting up a workable inspection system. Mr. Webb pointed out the necessity for consulting with Congress before such a proposal could be made. In his opinion, the propaganda results which would accrue would be tremendous. Mr. Thorp said that it was not necessary to have a complete detailed plan worked out at the time of making the proposal, as long as we had carefully thought out what would be the principal consequences if accepted by the Soviets. Mr. Nitze said that Admiral Wooldridge and Frank Nash, Defense, seemed eager to get on with the work of devising such a proposal. He pointed out that it has already been decided that the U.S. would be willing to exchange information on conventional armaments and that the main thing requiring decision was in connection with disclosure of atomic armaments. He thought that if the Secretary were convinced of the wisdom of such a course, the government-wide position could be worked out within 30 days. Mr. Nitze said that a proposal something like this would seem to be necessary in order to be consistent with our present line of argument with respect to a CFM. Mr. Nitze reported that he and Mr. Matthews have raised the subject briefly with [Page 455]the Secretary and he is considering it. Mr. Fisher pointed out one danger in making the proposal in that the Soviets would probably be forced to agree as to the principle but would then haggle indefinitely over implementation. Mr. Webb pointed out the additional difficulty of getting Congressional assent to the disclosure of atomic energy information.4
There was general agreement that the effort should be made to get a government-wide decision in favor of making a proposal to the Soviets on certification and verification of existing conventional and atomic weapons.

[Here follows discussion of another subject.]

  1. Circulated as document AC N–26, March 15.
  2. Adrian S. Fisher, Legal Adviser.
  3. For the pertinent portion of the notes of the meeting of March 7, see p. 445.
  4. For documentation on disclosure of information, see pp. 685 ff.