PPS Files, Lot 64 D 563
Memorandum by Mr. Henry Koch, Member of the Policy Planning Staff, to the Deputy Director of the Staff (Ferguson)
Subject: Review of U.S. Programs for International Security
The discussions our Staff has been having with Chip Bohlen seem to me to have been especially productive in clarifying our thinking with respect to certain aspects of Soviet intentions. My understanding of Chip’s position is that he does not challenge the conclusion of NSC 114/1 that it is essential for the free world to strengthen its defenses and obtain a more adequate military posture, but questions the validity of the present reasoning of our Government concerning Soviet intentions. Although I am quite certain that the drafters of NSC 68 in thinking about Soviet “design” did not envision a carefully laid out blueprint covering a time-table for future acts of aggression in various parts of the world, it is nonetheless apparent that many government officials here in Washington are now acting as if the Kremlin had such a time-table and were relentlessly pursuing a predetermined course toward world domination. My inclinations are that even though it may be necessary for the administration to over-simplify Soviet intentions in appealing to Congress and the people for support of the defense program, it is nonetheless important that we in the Department and on the National Security Council do not become “hoisted by our own petard”. We do not want to find ourselves in the position of the gambler at the race track who spread rumors about the excellent chances of a [Page 167] broken-down nag in order to improve the odds on the horse which he considered the likely winner who at the last moment, influenced by the clamors of the crowd who had been stimulated by his own propaganda, shifted his bet from the winner to the nag who crossed the finish-line last.
In the analysis of Soviet intentions there is general agreement that the Soviets will move into political vacuums and positions of weakness to achieve positions of strength where the risk is not great. The difference of opinion arises from the judgment as to whether the Kremlin is fundamentally interested in protecting its home base or in pursuing a course to world domination. Chip believes in the former view and points as evidence to Stalin’s refusal to put the Communist international movement ahead of the development of socialism within the Soviet Union. I am not too certain whether or not it is a profitable exercise to sort out the two because the Kremlin might believe that as the military strength of the free world expands and the Soviet Union tends to become surrounded by a ring of steel (U.S. air bases) it might be necessary for it to strike at the center of power that is forging the ring of steel lest they lose the power to implement their objectives and ultimately have to submit to the will of a foreign power. Then the threat to the U.S. would be equal under either of the two alternatives.
In any event in analyzing Soviet intentions I believe it is imperative to highlight (1) the Kremlin’s suspicious nature and fear of attacks against itself and its home base; (2) the cautious nature and character of the present Soviet leaders; and (3) the doctrine of ebb and flow in Communist theory which allows the Kremlin to pursue its aims if necessary slowly and to reverse its policies when met with strenuous opposition. In examining Part I of the October 1 report currently being prepared under the leadership of CIA, care should be taken to ensure that these aspects are brought out sufficiently.
There appeared to be general agreement in our discussions with Chip that there was a great danger that accidents or miscalculations might develop unexpectedly into a global war. Chip pointed out several examples of serious miscalculations made by the Kremlin, e.g., the Finnish War, the Hitler Alliance. There are two sides however to this coin and we might be the ones to make miscalculations which might bring on a general war, e.g., U.S. air bases abroad, admission of Turkey to NATO or large-scale German rearmament.
In analyzing the problems connected with relative atomic capabilities, our discussions with Chip so far have not clarified in any marked degree my understanding concerning Soviet action at such time as it achieves the ability to deliver a hundred atom bombs on selected U.S. targets. We tend to say that the Kremlin would not willfully start a global war unless it believed the Soviets ultimately would win such a war. That means the USSR would want to be assured that it [Page 168] could knock out US industrial capacity upon which the free world depends to conduct a global war. However, would the Russians accept the risk of global war if they believed they could not ward off a retaliatory atomic attack which would destroy the home base of the Kremlin? Can in fact a dictatorship which relies on the secret police to retain itself in power take the risk of having its elaborate apparatus destroyed at home? Can the Kremlin move to, say, Berlin or Paris and maintain control of the Communist international movement and its own people? We must have an answer to these questions before we can predict with any assurance whether or not the Soviets will launch a global war at such time as they obtain the power to deliver a decisive blow to the United States. If these questions cannot be answered, the most that can be concluded is that the Soviets might embark on a global war.
In appraising the adequacy of the U.S. programs, it is essential to have clearly in mind whether our assumptions are based on the estimate that the Soviets will or might launch a global war under the above conditions in view of the fact that current intelligence estimates conclude that Soviet atomic capabilities will achieve the degree of readiness needed for such an attack by June 30, 1953. If we were certain that the attack were coming by such a close target date, we would have no choice but to go to full mobilization at once and to knock the heads of NATO nations together to obtain far greater results. On the other hand, if we concluded that the Soviets would not necessarily go to war at the target date then a selective approach to rearmament would be in order and we would not want to push our Allies too far. Of course the complicating factor is that we are not dealing in absolutes but rather in relatives. Thus as we increase our defensive strength, we are in fact postponing the date at which the Soviets would have the atomic capability of inflicting serious damage to the United States. Current studies being undertaken to estimate U.S. vulnerability will be most valuable in formulating U.S. judgment on this most urgent problem.
The matter of selective rearmament is not in fact a new concept. It seems to me that the military have been doing this very thing for the last several years. I therefore believe that the real problem is not to decide whether or not we should embark on selective rearmament, but whether we should (1) go to full mobilization at once, or (2) concentrate on creating a condition of greater military readiness at the expense of establishing a mobilization base if the two could not be accomplished concurrently. By a condition of readiness, I include a stockpile of military hardware commensurate with Soviet stockpiles of similar items as well as the construction of more fighter intercepters, larger radar warning net, bomb shelters, underground factories, dispersal of industry and government agencies and the like.[Page 169]
I would like to recommend that we take advantage of Chip’s singular knowledge of Russia and the Kremlin in order to try to crystallize our views on whether or not the Kremlin would launch a global war with the knowledge that their own base would be devastated even though their expectation of final victory were high. The answer to this question would determine whether or not we should go to full mobilization at once.
I also believe that we should analyze further those courses of action which the free world may take which might be regarded by the Kremlin as such a serious threat to the security of the Soviet Union that it would embark on a global war even though ultimate victory may be in doubt.