PPS Files, Lot 64 D 563

Memorandum by the Deputy Director of the Policy Planning Staff (Ferguson) to the Secretary of State

top secret

Re: Comparison of U.K. and U.S. Working Papers on Disarmament Proposals

The British on August 9 handed the Department an Aide-Mémoire which described an accompanying committee report on the subject of proposals with respect to the regulation and reduction of armaments.1 The report deals with many of the same points that were dealt with in the report of the U.S. Working Group.2 The principal differences are the following:

The focus of the British study was on programs applicable only to the Big Four or the Big Four plus Communist China. As a result of this limitation the British concluded that the only feasible proposal was one that balanced the total personnel of the armed forces of the U.K., France and the U.S. against those of the U.S.S.R. and Communist China, and they suggested a total limitation of three million on each side. By excluding the other countries of Europe, Japan, the Commonwealth, and other areas of potential military significance, the British greatly increased the difficulty of the problem and came to what appears to be a highly unrealistic conclusion. In fact, their conclusion has many of the same defects which we considered to be present in the agenda item proposed by the U.S.S.R. in Paris which was aimed at the reduction of armaments among the Big Four.3
The other principal difference in the views expressed in the U.S. and U.K. papers relates to disclosure and verification. In their Aide [Page 512] Mémoire and in the attached report, the conclusion is stated that a comprehensive system of inspection “would be unacceptable to the U.K. since it would involve an undue degree of interference in national life and the disclosure of secret industrial processes.” In meetings of the U.N. the British have repeatedly resisted proposals which would involve adequate inspection, although on each previous occasion they have finally joined with us in insisting upon adequate inspection. In fact, in the British Aide-Mémoire itself they asked our renewed assurance (which has been given them) that atomic weapons would be brought under international control pursuant to the U.S. plan, which of course involves infinitely more detailed inspection than would be contemplated in the case of most other weapons. It has been the view of the State and Defense Departments that the disclosure and verification aspects of our position were those on which we should concentrate in any discussions in the U.N. in order to expose the unwillingness of the Soviet Union to permit real disclosure and verification and in order to avoid prolonged and futile negotiations on the other aspects of our position which might lull the West into a false sense of hope and a lessening of our defense effort.
On a number of points the British and U.S. thinking has been along somewhat parallel lines. For example, the British have recognized that within any over-all numerical limitation on forces each country would have to have a considerable latitude in determining the nature of the forces which it wished to retain or create. The British report, however, does not seem to have dealt with the question of paramilitary and police forces as one of the principal problems that would be met. With respect to the necessity of carrying out any program by stages, the British investigated this matter as we did, but seem to reject the idea on the ground that the difficulties of disclosure and the “over-all levels of effectives” made the approach unsuitable.
The U.K. reluctantly concluded that for propaganda purposes it might be necessary to put forward some proposal for the limitation of armaments, and suggested the formula of a parity as between the U.K., U.S., France on the one side and the U.S.S.R. and Communist China on the other, together with provision of adequate safeguards, which the British did not specify beyond saying that the first step would be the mutual inspection of basic training establishments.
In their Aide-Mémoire, the British have stated that they still have under consideration the manner and timing of the public presentation of disarmament proposals and there is attached a brief memorandum which indicates our general thinking on this subject which can be given to them.4 Our memorandum does not specify any particular [Page 513]occasion on which the proposals would be advanced, but points out the necessity of bringing home to the public the political problems, other than those in the armaments field, between the West and the U.S.S.R. on which concurrent progress will be required. It points out that we cannot control the determination whether the disarmament question will be raised in the U.N. General Assembly this fall; it is safe to assume the Soviets will raise it. The memorandum also suggests that the tactic in the U.N. should be to emphasize the disclosure and verification aspects of the program as a propaganda device to prevent the Russians from engaging us in negotiations on the regulation and reduction aspects of the program unless they have indicated their serious desire to arrive at an agreement.

John H. Ferguson
  1. For the British Aide-Mémoire and committee report, see p. 501.
  2. The report of the Working Group is contained in document NSC 112, July 6, p. 477.
  3. For documentation on the Four-Power Exploratory Talks held at Paris, March 5-June 21, 1951, see vol. iii, pp. 1086 ff.
  4. The attachment does not accompany the source text. For the memorandum titled “Manner of Advancing Disarmament Proposals” which was transmitted to the British on August 20, see p. 515.