Disarmament Files, Lot 58 D 1331

Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State for United Nations Affairs (Hickerson) to the Director of the Policy Planning Staff (Nitze)

top secret

Subject: S/P Draft Memorandum on “Manner of Advancing Disarmament Proposals on the Basis of NSC 112”2

I have one major comment on the subject paper. I believe that it is inadvisable for the United States to take the position that it is necessary to come to an agreement on the treatment of Germany and Japan as a prior condition to United States participation in a general program for the regulation and reduction of armaments and armed forces. This concept is set forth throughout the draft paper, particularly on pages 3 and 5–10.

The reasons for my conclusion can be briefly stated as follows:

The purpose of developing United States proposals for a system of regulation, limitation and balanced reduction of armaments and armed forces is stated in NSC 112 as follows:

“The purpose of this study is the establishment of a foundation upon which positions may be built which would, if accepted by the Soviet Union, be acceptable to the United States or, if rejected by the Soviet Union, be advantageous to the United States and the Western powers for their propaganda value.”

Since there is not one chance in a thousand that the Soviet Union will accept the proposals, their chief purpose is certainly their propaganda value. By establishing conditions precedent in the ways advocated in the subject paper, we are surrendering the propaganda battle in the field of regulation of armaments to the Soviets, who will claim that we do not really wish to carry out the proposals we advocate speciously since we attach impossible conditions precedent to our proposals. The USSR will say, as they have in the past, that they have advocated and continue to press for simple and direct disarmament proposals without linking these to other problems.
The draft paper recognizes the risk of war in the next two years, while we are rebuilding our armed strength, but deprecates the possibility that the very fact of making proposals in the regulation of armaments field may lessen the risk of war during this period. I believe that we would gain substantially in terms of a negotiating device if we can make our proposals in such a way that the Soviets cannot summarily reject them because conditions precedent have been laid down before they can be considered.
NSC 112 postulates that there are definite advantages which the United States could realize from the disclosure of forces and armaments if, as seems unlikely, the USSR should accept the U.S. proposals. These advantages exist independent of prior conditions. Are they not sufficient to warrant the United States making the proposals without attaching prior conditions which give the USSR a perfect excuse for rejecting the proposals and for gaining propaganda advantages by so doing?

I suggest that a preferable formula for the relationship of German and Japanese peace treaties to the program of regulation of armaments would be along the following lines:

The field of regulation and control of armaments is one of many areas of conflict between the USSR and the West.
We cannot expect to carry out proposals which we may make in the armaments field without making progress in the other areas of tension between the Soviet Union and the West.
However, we should advance proposals for the regulation and control of armaments in such manner as to make clear that, while advanced separately, they are linked to simultaneous progress in other fields—notably the completion of peace treaties for Austria, Japan and a unified Germany.

  1. Consolidated collection of documentation in the Department of State on the regulation of armaments and disarmament for the years 1942–1962.
  2. The subject draft, dated July 26, is not printed. For a memorandum prepared by the Policy Planning Staff titled “Manner of Advancing Disarmament Proposals,” which was transmitted to British representatives on August 20, see p. 515.