PPS Files, Lot 64 d 563

Memorandum Prepared by the Policy Planning Staff 1

top secret

Manner of Advancing Disarmament Proposals

general considerations

1. The outstanding issues in Europe between the West and the Soviet Union include such specific political questions as Germany and Austria, withdrawal of military forces to the Soviet borders, as well as general causes of tension, and it has been felt for some time that the range of these issues necessitates the development of broad proposals with respect to armed forces and armaments in order to place the possible settlement of specific political issues in the proper context.

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2. Further, there is a need to make clear to the American people and to the peoples of Western countries generally that their governments have in mind a sound and reasonable approach to the problem of the regulation of armed forces and armaments as one element in a broad program to ease tensions. This can be useful both to forestall Utopian and otherwise less sound approaches to the armaments problem and to encourage confidence that governments of the West are thinking and planning ahead for better times.

3. The West needs time to build its defenses. It is therefore vital to prevent the Kremlin from making up its mind that a general war at an early date is its best hope. This calls not only for a program of strength but for keeping open the processes of negotiation and, in serious vein, holding out to the Kremlin a program for easing tensions, in other words, holding out an alternative to war. Armaments proposals are a necessary element in such a program.

4. The Western countries do not have control of whether the question of disarmament will be raised at the General Assembly of the United Nations this fall. The Soviet Union has already chosen disarmament as the central theme of its peace campaign. We can expect that we will be faced by a very real propaganda problem, in which the advantage will go to those who have an affirmative position to which to rally other delegations.

5. Proposals for the regulation, control and balanced reduction of armed forces and armaments must be so handled that the continued creation of military strength in the West will not be jeopardized. Until the strength of the West has been increased sufficiently to overcome the disparity in armed forces which now exists, it is unlikely that the Soviet Union would be prepared to consider seriously any proposals with respect to the regulation of armed forces and armaments. However, the obvious danger is that if broad disarmament proposals are advanced by us now the Soviet Union will try to discuss them in isolation from other issues, and seek to use a series of highlighted, prolonged, and futile negotiations to delay or prevent the continuation of the military programs of the West. We shall have to advance our proposals in such a way as to avoid this trap.

6. Proposals with respect to armaments should be advanced in such a fashion that the American people and those of other Western countries are fully aware that the armaments proposals are intimately related to progress on the concurrent settlement of other political issues, including the completion of generally accepted treaties for Austria, Japan and a unified Germany, the cessation of hostilities in Korea (in the event they are continuing), the unification of Korea, the cessation of subversive intervention, withdrawal of military forces to the Soviet borders, cessation of obstructive policies in the United Nations, freedom of movement of goods, persons and ideas. It would not be appropriate [Page 517]at this stage to make the settlement of any one of these issues a precondition for the settlement of the others, but rather to establish the fact that we are willing to move forward on the various issues in a manner not to imperil the security of the West, but that in this process we may find that the conclusion and implementation of some agreements will depend upon good will in negotiating and implementing others.

7. Our armaments proposals should be advanced in such a way that discussion would have to begin on an aspect of the problem which will test the sincerity and seriousness of the Soviet Union, and in such a way that agreement on that aspect would be the precondition for discussion of other aspects.

The problem of disclosure and verification would provide this initial aspect and would be appropriate for discussion either in a CFM or UN forum. While our armaments proposals would be initially advanced as a whole, we would present for discussion sufficiently precise and detailed proposals on the mechanisms of disclosure and verification to test exactly how far the Soviet Union will seriously go in this direction.

There would be obvious advantages in concentrating at this stage on disclosure and verification. We would be safeguarded against highlighted and prolonged armaments negotiations on the reduction and control aspects, which might very well lull the West into believing there was some immediate prospect of relief from the armaments build-up. We would have chosen an aspect of the armaments problem on which the Soviet Union is at a clear disadvantage from the propaganda point of view, and where the West would have a clear advantage. It would give us the opportunity to focus on the lifting of the Iron Curtain on armaments matters as the prerequisite to further progress on the problem.

  1. A marginal notation on the source text reads as follows: “(Based on D. Fosdick memo of 8/16/51 ‘Manner of Advancing Disarmament Proposals on the Basis of NSC 112’—excised version for handing to British Ambassador 8–20– 1951.)” The memorandum of August 16 by Dorothy Fosdick, member of the Policy Planning Staff, is not printed. (PPS Files, Lot 64 D 563) For NSC 112, July 6, see p. 477.