Memorandum of Conversation, by the Director of the Policy Planning Staff (Nitze)


Subject: Senator Flanders’ Correspondence with the President on Disarmament

Participants: Senator Flanders
Secretary Acheson
Mr. John Hickerson
Mr. Paul Nitze

Senator Flanders opened the conversation by stating that his group believed that the United States was now putting by far its main weight on the horse of military strength and very little on the horse of disarmament. They felt that the horse of disarmament should be the primary one—that only if the world truly believed that the United States stood wholeheartedly for peace and total disarmament would we have a chance of victory in the struggle in which we were engaged.

The Secretary and Mr. Nitze brought out the point that both horses were of importance. In the period from 1945–1949 we had put primary weight on the horse of disarmament and insufficient weight on the horse of building strength. They emphasized our original demobilization after the war, our atomic energy proposals, and our proposals on conventional armaments. They brought out that the U.S.S.R. had kept [Page 468]building its strength, had rejected our proposals, and that by 1950 it became clear that we had put too little emphasis on the horse of strength and that we had to push vigorously to bring it back into line again.

Senator Flanders said that people were much less clear in their minds now than they were two years ago; that the problems which faced them were much more difficult than in time of war; that in time of war they could foresee some reasonably short-term way out of their sacrifices; that now they were being asked to make sacrifices with no foreseeable solution; that it was necessary to hold out for them a clear concept, such as total disarmament with U.N. forces superior to those of any country.

The Secretary and Mr. Nitze agreed that the problem was serious and asked whether the solution which was held out to the people should not be one which met the test of being reasonably possible of accomplishment. There was some discussion of the world government implications of Senator Flanders’ proposal, the difficulty we would have in living with such a solution unless the political reconditions [preconditions] had been achieved, the difficulty of contemplating U.S.S.R. acceptance of any proposal such as Senator Flanders suggested, and the question of its effectiveness from the propaganda viewpoint.

Mr. Hickerson referred to the first point in Senator Flanders’ proposal—the lifting of the iron curtain—and all agreed that it was the necessary first step in making inspection possible and therefore an essential prerequisite to any program for disarmament. There followed a discussion of Niels Bohr’s proposal for “openness”.1

The Secretary commented on Senator Flanders’ statement that we had said “no” to the Soviet proposal to include the reduction and control of armed forces in the agenda at Paris,2 and pointed out that the press had gotten the situation exactly reversed. The Soviets were saying “no” to our proposal that the agenda include an item on the reduction and control of armaments by changing the wording to limit the proposal to the four major powers and substituting the words “armed forces” for “armaments”.

Senator Flanders said that he desired to work with the Administration on the subject of his proposals; that he wanted to see the President as suggested in the President’s letter to him; that the Steering Committee of his group, consisting of Senator McMahon, Representative [Page 469]Herter and Representative Battle3 were working on a resolution; that they would prefer to go ahead in agreement with the Administration, but that they might want to go further than the Administration was prepared to go.

The Secretary said that the State Department was actively considering positions it might wish to take in the possible Conference of Foreign Ministers on the subject of the control and limitation of armaments, and suggested that as this work progressed it might be advisable to have discussions between Senator Flanders and the other members of his Steering Committee and the State Department to discuss further a possible resolution on the subject of disarmament.

  1. Dr. Niels Bohr, Danish physicist, advocated a system of free exchange of ideas and information among nations. For documentation on his proposals, see Foreign Relations, 1948, vol. i, Part 1, pp. 311 ff. and ibid., 1950, vol. i, pp. 1 ff.
  2. Reference is to the exploratory talks at Paris which opened on March 5 and adjourned on June 21 without an agreement being reached on an agenda for a conference of Foreign Ministers. For documentation on this subject, see vol. iii, pp. 1086 ff.
  3. Senator Brien McMahon of Connecticut, Chairman of the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy; Representative Christian A. Herter of Massachusetts, Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee; and Representative Laurie C. Battle of Alabama, Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.