PPS Files, Lot 64 D 563

Memorandum by Messrs. John H. Ferguson 1 and Robert W. Tufts of the Policy Planning Staff

top secret

A Theoretical Examination of Future Soviet Action

The Politburo is, of course, constantly examining the opportunities in the world situation. Granting that it does not operate according to a fixed timetable and a fixed master plan and granting that no final decisions are taken until the moment for action has arrived and a final review is made, it must also, we assume, project the possible development of the world situation and make tentative decisions as to future courses of action.

This memorandum suggests that its analysis may indicate to the Politburo the possibility that 1951 may be the year in which to fulminate the world crisis. Whether the conditions which would convert this tentative conclusion to a firm decision are in fact realized will depend on its success in exploiting present opportunities and on the actions and reactions of other governments.

The theory on which this evaluation might be based is set forth below. In our view, the theory conforms to the logic of the situation and finds some support in external evidence.

The theory and the argument in support of it, as it might be presented by its advocates in the Politburo, are as follows:

The massive fact which confronts the Soviet Union is the mobilization of strength at the center in the U.S. The budget just presented to the Congress2 calls for a defense effort equal to the total annual product of the U.S.S.R.

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The deterrents to the Soviet Union to date have been the atomic striking power of the U.S. and the U.S. industrial potential together with the potential of Europe and the Commonwealth. As the potential of the non-Soviet world is converted to actual strength, the chances of eventual Russian victory in a war between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. decline, and it is therefore during the period of building up such strength that action by the Soviet Union is essential.

The response of the U.S. and the U.N. to the invasion of South Korea by the North Koreans was to some extent surprising and has complicated the relations between the U.S.S.R. and Communist China. The present situation, however, provides the U.S.S.R. with certain advantages which can be realized. It is true that Chinese intervention in Korea has made it more difficult for the Soviet Union to exercise direct control in that area and in Manchuria, but the necessity of Chinese reliance on Soviet assistance can accomplish the same purpose by forcing indirect Soviet control on the Chinese Communists in these areas and throughout Asia. As long as the Chinese Communists are heavily engaged in military actions in the Far East which are resisted by the U.S. and other non-Soviet powers, reliance upon the Soviet Union as a source of military supply and economic aid will prevent a Tito-ist defection by the Chinese Communists. The Soviet Union does not want to see the U.S. on the mainland of Asia in any substantial way, but it is not to the disadvantage of the Soviet Union to seek to maintain conditions in the Far East which prolong hostilities and delay the creation of stable internal conditions in China.

The Soviet Union should try to focus the attention of the U.S. on the Far East because it is in that area that U.S. strength can be engaged with the least likelihood of the necessity of utilizing Soviet forces, and it is there that U.S. involvement will create the most serious divisive influences in the western alliance. If the preponderance of the growing U.S. strength can be channelled into the Pacific-Asiatic area during the period before U.S. capacity is adequate for successful employment to more than one theater of operations, such strength will be dissipated on inconclusive Asiatic adventures and its absence in Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean will serve the additional purpose of leaving the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East exposed and of increasing neutralism and flabbiness in Western Europe.

In short, during the period of build up of U.S. strength the Soviet Union must divert the effect of such strength as much as possible away from Europe and the Mediterranean in order to secure for the Soviet Union the maximum possible freedom of action in that theater, which is the essential prize and ingredient in an ultimate armed contest between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R.

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But it is not enough during the period of the U.S. build up of strength to tie down the increments of this strength in the Far East, since the enormous potential of the U.S. will shortly be converted into actual capacity sufficient for more than one theater and large enough to threaten ultimate victory for the U.S.S.R. In fact, where the U.S. potential is close to realization it may be enough to deny to the Soviet Union the ability to secure quickly and utilize effectively the potential of Western Europe. It is therefore essential to acquire Western Europe as speedily as possible.

Military action against Germany, where U.S. troops are stationed, would immediately involve the U.S.S.R. itself in war and would subject it to an atomic strike. An attack against Iran or Finland would involve use of Soviet forces. But action by the Eastern European satellites against Yugoslavia might not have either of these results. In any case, if the Soviet Union chooses or is forced to move against Western Europe, the invasion of Yugoslavia would be necessary. If the U.S. does not react totally to the invasion of Yugoslavia, this action would secure the Eastern Mediterranean flank and neutralize all the substantial ground forces on that part of the perimeter of the Soviet Union now available to the West. If the U.S. did react totally, nothing would have been lost, since the Soviet armies could then proceed with the occupation of all of the European continent and an attempt to neutralize or conquer the British Isles. The Soviet Union must be prepared to take both steps, but the second would depend on U.S. reaction when Yugoslavia was invaded. Should the U.S. and Western Europe merely give the Yugoslavs a small amount of air and naval support, Tito’s forces would only be able to hold certain mountain areas, and the disastrous consequences of the presence of the Soviet empire on the shores of the Adriatic as well as the Elbe would effectively paralyze the infant defense efforts in Western Europe. With the western alliance thus torn by dissension over U.S. action in the Far East and by the traumatic paralysis in Western Europe, the Soviet Union would have little difficulty in forcing the continental European states into an accommodation and away from their Western orientation.

The Soviet Union must interpret the build up of strength in the U.S. and Western Europe as an effort to create forces for the destruction of the Soviet Empire. It therefore must anticipate a war between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. and an atomic strike on the Soviet Union itself. Since it is impossible to prevent the conversion of the U.S. potential into actuality, as much as possible of the rest of the non-Soviet world must be detached from the western alliance and utilized as a source of additional strength by the Soviet Union. If all Eurasia can be secured by the U.S.S.R. without war with the U.S., the shift in the power equation would be so great that even the U.S. potential [Page 40] would not endanger ultimate victory for the U.S.S.R. In any case, the Soviet Union must attempt to shift the power equation before the U.S. build-up is completed, and if the process causes a U.S.–U.S.S.R. war, then it is better to have that war now before U.S. strength has increased to the point to which it might be able to delay the utilization by the U.S.S.R. of the European potential, or even deny large parts of this potential to the U.S.S.R.

Probably within the next year and certainly within the next two years, the strategy of the Soviet Union must be to make a series of moves all over the world. It must first assure the continued and increasing involvement of the U.S. in the Far East where no decision is possible, and second, during such involvement, the Soviet Union must neutralize and/or destroy the Yugoslav-Greek-Turkish forces on its flank and acquire the rest of Europe. In the European aspect of this strategy, the first move should be the invasion of Yugoslavia, and if that brings forth a total reaction from the U.S., the military conquest of the rest of Europe must be planned for simultaneous accomplishment.

  1. Deputy Director of the Policy Planning Staff.
  2. For the President’s Annual Budget Message to the Congress: Fiscal Year 1952, January 15, 1951, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Harry S. Truman, 1951 (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1965), pp 61–106.