Eisenhower Library, Eisenhower papers, Whitman file

Memorandum by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the Secretary of Defense (Wilson)1

top secret
  • Subject:
  • Negotiations with the Soviet Bloc
In their memorandum to you dated 3 May 1954, subject “Methods of Implementing and Enforcing the Disarmament Programme,”2 the Joint Chiefs of Staff stated that “… with respect to the matter of disarmament the Joint Chiefs of Staff consider it most unrealistic, based on the entire pattern of past Soviet conduct and the present international situation, to expect that any agreement which might be obtained vis-à-vis the USSR would be other [Page 681] than to the serious disadvantage of the security interests of the United States.”
Because of implications with respect to the vital security interests of the United States, the Joint Chiefs of Staff consider it appropriate that they convey to you at this time their views concerning certain broader aspects of the situation now confronting the United States and its Allies, for consideration in connection with the future application of basic national policy.
It is the conviction of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that the struggle of the Free World against the spread of Soviet-Communist domination of peoples and areas has now entered a precarious if not critical stage, characterized by continuing Communist expansion and military growth on the one hand and the emergence of divisive strains in the Free World coalition on the other. In their opinion, a continuation of the present trend might well, within an indeterminate but relatively short span of years, place the security of the United States in such jeopardy as to render it doubtful that any military establishment which our country could continue to support could be relied upon to defend our territory and our institutions in the years ahead. They feel that the threatening course of the cold war, recently brought into clearer focus by events in the Far East and by the Berlin and Geneva conferences, makes necessary a reappraisal, within the framework of current basic national policy, of the tactics which have been pursued by the United States in seeking to achieve its objective.
In the opinion of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Soviet tactics since World War II reflect certain basic tenets of Soviet doctrine and strategy; viz.:
In the struggle between Communism and the Free World there can be no true neutrals—the world is divided into two blocs, the Communist and their “enemies”.
The “Iron Curtain” is an essential measure of self-preservation of the Soviet regime and must be maintained as an impervious barrier to “enemy” attempts to penetrate it.
Perversion of truth and the device of the “Big Lie” are basic elements of Soviet propaganda technique.
There can be no harmonious existence until Communism has achieved and consolidated victory on a world scale.
Once taken under control, territory will not be relinquished, except by compulsion of force or threat of force (Greece, Iran).
Communist influence must be all-pervasive—to this end power vacuums (e.g., Korea in 1950) are to be abhorred, “enemy” weaknesses exploited, and the Soviet domain expanded by unrelenting efforts.
Expansion of the Soviet domain is to be accomplished by:
Subversion and local seizures of power by Communist parties (Czechoslovakia).
Action by armed forces other than Soviet forces (Albania, China, Korea, Indochina).
Armed action by Soviet forces (Baltic States, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Roumania).
Negotiations—(a) as an instrument to capitalize upon situations created by overt conflict (Potsdam, Panmunjom, Geneva), (b) as a substitute for armed struggle, to probe for divisive tendencies or other enemy weaknesses and to exploit them to Soviet advantage, or (c) as a device to prevent constructive action and to gain propaganda benefits.
Until the world struggle is finally decided, a state of tension is conducive to advancing Communist objectives; hence, achieving agreements merely for the purpose of relieving world tension would, from the Soviet standpoint, be self-defeating.
In negotiations, Soviet objectives are to be sought by:
Inflexible adherence to demands, even fantastic ones, coupled with resistance from the outset to counter-proposals;
Yielding to no substantive concessions; a concession by the “enemy” is to be treated merely as an indication that persistence in negotiation may extract further and perhaps greater advantages;
Disregarding any accepted code of ethics or any conception of honor in the conduct of negotiations or in the carrying out of any agreements which might flow from them.
Weighed in the aggregate, results achieved since 1945 would tend to convince the Soviet regime of the efficacy of its methods in pursuing its policy of expansion. Taking advantage of every weakness and contradiction, Soviet Communism during that period has amassed under its control some 800 millions of people, millions of square miles of territory, and vast material resources. With regard to negotiations, the results would tend to confirm the Soviet belief that rigid adherence to their demands will in the end extract Allied concessions—the ultimate persuasive factor being the latent threat of massive Soviet armed forces, which overshadows all international discussions and negotiations.
With specific regard to negotiations in the field of disarmament, the record of the United States since 1946 is one of persistent effort to find ways of easing the burden of armaments under appropriate safeguards and of lessening the threat of war. The USSR, on the other hand, while engaging in propaganda for the elimination of atomic weapons, has made only specious proposals regarding limitation of conventional armaments, although it maintains the largest conventional military establishment in the world. In the UN Disarmament Commission, the USSR has consistently refused to clarify its vague and ambiguous proposals or to discuss any plan other than its own.
Moral prerequisites recognized as fundamental to any effective and comprehensive system for the balanced reduction of all armaments and the international control of atomic energy are (a) an open world, and (b) good faith on the part of the participating powers. The continued existence of the Iron Curtain would make a mockery of any inspection system which might be devised and, if the record of past Soviet conduct with respect to solemn international agreements is a true index, Soviet bad faith, evasion, and outright violation would render any disarmament agreement sterile, except as a means to advance Soviet objectives.
Soviet and Soviet-Satellite violations of international treaties and agreements are too numerous to recite here and too well known to require documentation. In unbroken sequence from Yalta to Korea such treaties and agreements, even though achieved originally at a cost of major concessions by the Western Powers, have been evaded and perverted by the Communists to suit their own designs. In the opinion of the Joint Chiefs of Staff the instability of peace throughout the world is due, in large measure, to deliberate Soviet violations of its international pledges and treaty commitments. The Joint Chiefs of Staff find no cause for hope that, barring a basic change in the attitude of the Soviet regime, any future international agreement would be faithfully observed by the USSR or its Satellites.
A number of measures by which the Soviets could offer evidence of their good faith have been suggested by the President and other allied statesmen, notably Mr. Churchill. These measures need not be restated in detail here, but if the Soviets were to take the following actions, or even some of them, such could be accepted as a demonstration of a basic change of attitude on the part of the regime, offering hope of a peaceful settlement of world issues:
Free the million or more German and Japanese prisoners they now hold;
Release the Satellite nations and allow them the free choice of their own form of government;
Show a willingness to conclude just peace treaties with Germany and Austria;
Cease fomenting and supporting civil war and armed aggression, as in Indochina, Malaya, and Korea;
Discontinue the campaign of subversion and hate against the non-Cominform world;
Withdraw their military forces to the borders of the USSR;
Remove the Iron Curtain and permit ordinary entry and travel on equal terms with other nations;
Faithfully observe and support the provisions of the United Nations Charter.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff consider that the Soviets will hold steadfastly to their objective of world domination and will not be disposed to make substantive concessions in the course of international negotiations, even on a quid pro quo basis, unless and until they have been convinced that failure to achieve lasting solutions of major issues will involve grave risks to the maintenance of their regime. The Joint Chiefs of Staff consider further that until the United States and its Allies, by means of positive actions, confront the USSR with the risks which might attend such a failure, the Soviet regime will remain unconvinced of the possible consequences.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff are strongly of the opinion that until a suitable climate for negotiations has been brought about, it will be not only fruitless but hazardous for the United States to continue its efforts to arrive at solutions to world problems through the normal processes of negotiation with the USSR. In the face of extravagant and persistent Soviet demands, our principal Allies, possibly impelled by a mounting fear of Soviet atomic capability, have shown an increasing disposition to seek agreements at whatever cost, apparently without adequate realization of the vital Western security interests at stake, or in disregard of those interests. Further, once joint negotiations have been undertaken, the United States is placed under strong compulsion to join in making substantive and unwarranted concessions to the Soviets in the interest of showing some degree of progress toward reaching agreement and of preserving a facade of Allied solidarity. Negotiation under such conditions—irresolution on the part of our Allies coupled with Soviet inflexibility—holds no promise of an outcome favorable to United States or over-all Allied security interests. It should not be concluded that the Joint Chiefs of Staff would advocate that the United States undertake to attain its objectives without benefit of allies. Rather, they feel that there is a pressing necessity that our Allies be brought to view the world situation in the same light and with the same urgency as does the United States.
Basic United States policy, as set forth in NSC 162/2, recognizes the time limitation within which conditions must be created by the United States and the Free World coalition such as to permit the Soviet-Communist threat to be met with resolution, to the end that satisfactory and enduring arrangements for co-existence can be negotiated. The engulfment of a large segment of the world and its people by the Soviets has been accomplished during the period in which the United States first held a monopoly and then a significant superiority in atomic weapons and in the means for their delivery. It may properly be assumed that, unless the Soviet attitude is altered by outside influences, the aggressive and [Page 685] irresponsible tactics pursued with success by the Soviets thus far will be only a prelude to the proportions which such tactics will attain once the present atomic superiority of the United States has been neutralized—a condition which is expected to be reached within the latter part of the period FY 1956–59. (See Joint Chiefs of Staff memorandum dated 21 May 1954, subject, “Estimate of the Military Posture Throughout the Free World, FY 1956 Through FY 1.959”.)3 The obvious conclusion, therefore, is that if the Western nations hope to reach timely and lasting settlements vis-à-vis the USSR, they must proceed now to formulate their just demands and then steadfastly to press for their consummation while the United States still holds atomic superiority. Basic for that purpose is the development of political solidarity and staunch unity of purpose among our Allies to the point where they will not only join in the determination of measures vital to the common security but will resolutely support those measures when the need arises. The alternative is to compromise United States and Western security interests by permitting the lowest common denominator of the coalition to determine the level and scope of our actions in pursuit of our objectives.
Based on their analysis, from the military point of view, of the situation now confronting the United States and its Allies, the Joint Chiefs of Staff have arrived at the following conclusions:
Until the USSR, by positive action, demonstrates a basic change of attitude by some such actions as those listed in paragraph 9 above, the United States should refrain from further attempts through negotiations to arrive at agreements with the USSR on the subjects of disarmament, atomic energy or any other of the world issues, and should so inform the USSR officially and repeatedly, publicly releasing each such announcement.
The United States should recognize now, and should seek to persuade its Allies, that time limitations dictate the necessity of confronting the Soviets with unmistakable evidence of an unyielding determination to halt further Communist expansion, and of convincing them that aggression will be met with counteraction which, inherently, will hold grave risks to the maintenance of their regime;
The United States should take all reasonable measures to increase political solidarity and staunch determination among its Allies recognizing, however, that U.S. security interests may require, on occasion, United States action which not all of our Allies would endorse or be willing to join.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff recommend that: [Page 686]
The foregoing views be made available to the National Security Council for consideration in the application of basic national policy;
These views be given consideration in the formulation of the Department of Defense position with respect to the interdepartmental review of United States disarmament policy now in progress.
For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
Arthur Radford

Joint Chiefs of Staff
  1. Copies to the Assistant Chief of Staff, G–3, Department of Defense; the Secretary to the Chief of Naval Operations; the Director of Plans, U.S. Air Force; and the Director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. A notation on the source text reads: “(JCS—Approved as amended 23 June 1954)”. A copy of this memorandum is also in S/SNSC files, lot 63 D 351, NSC 5422.
  2. The memorandum under reference cannot be further identified.
  3. Annex 2 to NSC 5422, p. 672.