S/S–NSC Files, Lot 63 D 351, NSC 114 Series

Memorandum by the Counselor (Bohlen)1

top secret

While I still more than ever hold to the view that it is futile and dangerous to attempt to indulge in metaphysical speculations on general Soviet intentions, after going over the present draft,2 I would suggest the following revisions in the event that it is decided by the Department that such speculation is necessary:

I would eliminate in toto the section preceding Part I. In virtually every line there is a strong reaffirmation of all the assumptions in the 68 series, including by specific quotation the thesis of “Kremlin design for world domination”, and in its closing paragraph it reasserts that this is the proper guide for the evaluation of future developments in the world.

Paragraphs 7 through 10 of Part I, which deal with best information or factual data, I would leave unchanged.

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Paragraphs 10 through 20 I would suggest eliminating, although some of those paragraphs contain language which I myself suggested. I think there are a number of contradictions—for example, implications in paragraphs 10 and 11 that the Soviet rulers would not risk the Soviet state for revolutionary gain and the statement that the Soviet system requires the dynamic extension of its authority. This latter statement implies that there are impulses other than revolutionary which require this expansion. The sentence in paragraph 11 to the effect that the chief reason why the Soviet regime would not undertake the risk to its maintenance of power in Russia because it would endanger the base for world revolution clearly seems to support the thesis that the raison d’être of the Soviet Union is to further world revolution, i.e., that their only interest in holding power in Russia is because it is the base of world revolution and not for its own sake.

I would substitute for these paragraphs, 10 through 20, the section beginning as follows:

“While the assumptions contained in NSC 68 and subsequent papers of the same series concerning the Soviet Union in its attitude and probable actions in the present world situation contain much that is sound, nevertheless, developments since April 1950 have perhaps pointed up sharply the difficulty, if not impossibility, of laying down certain fundamental principles as a guide to the interpretation of Soviet actions and basis for forecasts of future actions. It must be recognized that the attitude and actions of the Soviet Union in relation to Korea, which is unquestionably the most serious development in the world situation since the end of World War II, have not in every respect coincided with the hypotheses and analyses contained in the NSC 68 series. These discrepancies do not indicate that the given analyses were necessarily less faulty than any other generalized theses, but rather indicate the defect of an attempt to lay down in advance principles or rules which the Soviet Union could logically be expected to follow. Soviet actions in Korea and their subsequent attitude to the United States’ response to the challenge served to underline the extraordinarily pragmatic and opportunistic nature of Soviet policy and the absence of any fidelity to a blueprint, or even design. Such a conclusion by no means reduces the danger of the present period to the United States. On the contrary, it tends to make the danger more continuous since it enhances the possibility of general war arising through either a miscalculation on the part of either one of the principal powers of the world—the Soviet Union and the United States—or the equally great danger that local situations could so develop through a process of action and reaction as to render war in the eyes of either one of these two powers preferable to any alternative course open to either one.

It would appear sufficient for the justification of our military buildup, as rapidly as it can be done without serious damage to the economies of the free world, to accept as a basis certain unassailable facts concerning the Soviet Government and the areas of the world controlled or directed by it. Confronted by a heavily armed great power, which by its basic doctrine and the form of its state organization [Page 172] is implacably and unappeasably hostile to the United States and other free countries, no complicated analysis of ideological considerations is necessary to support the conclusion that the United States and its allies in elementary survival must develop adequate defensive strength—adequate in the sense of being able to hold essential positions against Soviet attack, while mobilizing to inflict a military defeat on the Soviet system. It is likewise obvious that the sooner this state of preparedness could be reached the better, from the point of view of security in the face of the Soviet bloc. The rate of tempo of our armament buildup should be more related to what the economies of the free world can support without retrogression and this should be the controlling factor rather than any timetable based upon probable Soviet intentions and capabilities.

It is axiomatic that when one group of powers seeks to close a dangerous disparity in its armed strength in relation to another group of powers, a period of danger by that factor alone is to be anticipated. The diplomatic arm of the United States should be utilized in this period in such a fashion as to minimize rather than intensify the danger of a general war resulting from a Soviet response to what they might regard as an increasing threat to their existence.”

I would then continue the remainder of Part I and paragraphs 22 through 37 could remain unchanged.

The statement in paragraph 39 that two or three years from now would justify the conclusion that the most critical and dangerous period had been passed is doubtful and may be in contradiction to the estimate of increase in Soviet atomic power and ability to deliver the bomb.

I have no special comments on Part II and I would leave it as it stands. Since it is, in effect, the main core of the paper and is, I think, sound, my first suggestion would be that this in itself, with a short introductory section, would be adequate as the part preliminary to the discussion of the actual programs.

Charles E. Bohlen
  1. Department of State Representative on the Senior Staff of the National Security Council.
  2. Reference is to a preliminary draft of report NSC 114/2, presumably that prepared by a drafting group and circulated to the Senior Staff of the National Security Council on September 21. The September 21 paper is not printed. For the partial text of NSC 114/2, “United States Programs for National Security,” October 12, see p. 182.