PPS files, lot 64 D 563, “NSC 68 & 114”

Statement of Policy Drafted by the Director of the Policy Planning Staff (Nitze)1

top secret

Reappraisal of United States Objectives and Strategy for National Security


1. Reappraisal of United States objectives and strategy for national security reaffirms the basic purposes and policies of the NSC 20, 68 and 114 Series. The fundamental purpose of the United States remains as stated in NSC 68: to assure the integrity and vitality of our free society founded upon the dignity and worth of the individual. Pursuit of this fundamental purpose should continue to be through that general policy which seeks:

To develop throughout the free world positive appeals superior to those of communism;
Even at grave risk of general war, to block further expansion of Soviet power;
By all means short of general war to induce a retraction of the Kremlin’s control and influence, and so to foster the seeds of destruction within the Soviet system that the Kremlin is brought at least to the point of modifying its behavior to conform to generally accepted international standards.

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2. We continue to believe that the free world with its superior resources should be able to build and maintain for whatever length of time proves to be necessary such strength that the Soviet orbit will be unable to make substantial advances either physically or politically, and that if the free world acquires such strength, the internal contradictions of the Soviet totalitarian system will, with some positive assistance from us, cause that system gradually to weaken and decay. Therefore, provided the United States and its allies succeed in developing and maintaining an adequate level of over-all strength to prevent or win general war and to block further expansion of Soviet power, no specific time can be established by which the objectives set forth in paragraph 1c above must be achieved.

3. Although no fundamental departures from the conclusions of the NSC 20 and 68 Series are required, it is essential that we take into account certain factors that have acquired new significance since the adoption of these reports:

The United States and its major allies have responded to the perilous situation of 1950; they have responded collectively to the attack upon South Korea; they are improving the security position of Western Europe; they, and particularly the United States, have significantly improved their readiness for war. These efforts, though not yet complete, have already reenforced the deterrents to general war and reaffirmed the reasoning of NSC 68 by which both preventive war and isolation were rejected as courses of action.
There has also been a substantial further development of Soviet orbit strength since 1950. Modernization and expansion programs in the Soviet, satellite, and Chinese Communist armed forces are proceeding, supported by a rapidly growing economic and industrial capacity and by a high level of scientific and technical capability in selected fields of vital military importance. As a result of the developing atomic and possible thermonuclear capability of the USSR, the vulnerability of the United States to direct attack which is now serious, will in a few years assume critical proportions.

4. It must remain the objective of the free world to maintain such over-all strength as will (a) confront the Kremlin with the prospect that a Soviet attack would result in serious risk to the Soviet regime, (b) reduce the opportunities for local Soviet aggression and political warfare, and (c) permit the exploitation of rifts between the USSR and other communist states and between the satellite regimes and the peoples they are oppressing, thus possibly offering to certain satellite peoples the prospect of liberation without war. The United States should accordingly pursue with determination and constancy the courses of action set forth in the following paragraphs.

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Deterrent to General War

5. The United States should develop and maintain, in cooperation with its allies, a position of strength, flexibility and depth adequate to deter the Soviets from deliberately initiating general war and to discourage them from pursuing courses of action involving grave risk of general war.

6. To achieve such a deterrent, the United States should take the necessary measures to:

Develop the political unity of and encourage growth of strength and determination in the free world so as to deny the opportunity for the Soviets to undertake local aggression which might develop into general war.
Develop and retain, under all foreseeable conditions, the capability to deliver an offensive of sufficient power to inflict massive damage on the Soviet war-making capacity.
Assure ready defensive strength adequate to provide a reasonable initial defense and to ensure reasonable protection to the nation during the period of mobilization for ultimate victory.
Maintain the mobilization base (both military and industrial*) in the United States at a level which in the event of need will enable us to expand rapidly to full mobilization; and, consistent with the maintenance of a vital and democratic society, provide the means for protecting the mobilization base against covert attack and sabotage.

7. The United States should develop a substantially improved air and civil defense in the light of the capacity of the USSR to deliver an atomic and possible thermonuclear attack against the United States, in order to protect the American people and maintain their morale and thereby assure freedom of action to the U.S. Government, and to increase the capability of the country’s economic capacity to recover from such an attack. At the same time the American people must be brought to a recognition of the need to accept and live with a substantial degree of vulnerability without an undue concentration upon personal safety which would prevent the projection of our strength outward to the enemy.

Areas Outside the Soviet Orbit

8. A preliminary study of problems in the areas outside the Soviet orbit brings out two major causes of concern which indicate the need for a restudy and possible change of emphasis and redirection [Page 71]of certain of our efforts with respect to those areas. These causes of concern are:

The efforts which our major European allies, particularly the United Kingdom and France, are called upon to make (a) to fulfill their planned obligations to NATO and (b) to support their existing positions outside of Europe are, in the light of current U.S. assistance programs, beyond their present political and economic capacity to maintain;
The readily disposable outside strength of the United States and its allies, together with present indigenous political and military strength in areas on the periphery of the Soviet orbit, is insufficient to escape from the dilemma of having to choose, in the face of local aggression, between the eventual further expansion of Soviet power and general war.

9. In light of the above, the United States should:

Reexamine the amounts and allocations of resources to various areas in terms of kind, quantity and priority, to determine (1) whether a general increase in the level of programs is required to deal with the several threats; (2) whether the present balance between military assistance and the various types of economic assistance is appropriate; and (3) whether the allocations as between areas are in proper relationship to the importance to the general program of our European allies and to the threats facing the United States in the Far East and the Middle East.
Make the necessary preparation to be increasingly able to commit military forces, as appropriate and in cooperation with its allies, in support of its objectives in specific geographic areas. At the same time the United States should encourage and as appropriate assist in the development of indigenous forces and regional defense arrangements capable of bearing an increasing share of responsibility for resisting local communist aggression. When forces are committed to combat a local aggression, the action should whenever possible be of sufficient strength and scope to effect a decision favorable to the United States.

Areas Within the Soviet Orbit

10. Where operations can be conducted on terms which may result in a relative decrease in Soviet power without involving unacceptable risks, the United States should pursue and as practicable intensify positive political, economic, propaganda, and paramilitary operations against the Soviet orbit, particularly those operations designed to weaken Kremlin control over the satellites. However, we should not over-estimate the effectiveness of the activities we can pursue within the Soviet orbit, and should proceed with caution and a careful weighing of the risks in pressing upon what the Kremlin probably regards as its vital interests.

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Political Warfare

11. Both within and without the Soviet orbit the United States should conduct political warfare operations as an integral part of its over-all strategy. However, we should recognize that, barring extraordinary opportunities for exploitation such as the death of Stalin might provide, such operations cannot be depended upon to reduce drastically the basic threat which the Soviet system poses for the free world.

Public Support

12. The United States should undertake systematically and consistently a program of clarifying to the American public and to other peoples of the free world the complex problems of the free world in meeting the Soviet threat, the nature of that threat, the strength and resources the free world possesses to meet that threat, and, to the extent possible, the reasoning behind the general lines of policy and action described herein, in order to secure that public understanding and support which is essential to the success of our policies and actions.


13. The United States, in cooperation with its allies, should develop a sound negotiating position vis-à-vis the USSR and should be prepared to enter into any negotiations with the Soviet Union which offer promise of achieving modi-vivendi, or which, for other reasons, appear to be desirable. On the other hand, we should recognize that only enforceable agreements are meaningful and that the major contributions of negotiation in the foreseeable future may be to convince the world of the validity and sincerity of our position and to serve as a political warfare weapon.

Mobilization Policy

14. The United States should continue to pursue a policy of limited mobilization designed to develop and maintain a favorable power position without resort to an armament effort that would disrupt the economies of the free nations and thus undermine the vitality and integrity of free society. Such a power position should be sufficient to (1) maximize the chance that general war will be indefinitely postponed, (2) provide an effective counter to local aggression in key peripheral areas, and (3) provide the basis for winning a general war should it occur.

15. It continues to be impracticable to fix a tentative D-day by which our preparations for war should be at their peak, although there are estimated time periods within which measures must be taken to reduce or eliminate vulnerabilities of a critical nature.

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16. The adequacy of currently projected mobilization goals is a question separate from that of the soundness of the concept of limited mobilization. Appraisal of the present goals must be accomplished on a continuing basis as the various programs are fulfilled and in light of changes in the world situation. The rapid growth of the Soviet atomic capability, the prospect for our continued heavy commitment in Korea, the serious threat to Southeast Asia, the danger of further deterioration of the situations in Iran and Egypt, the grave implications of further Soviet efforts to force the Western powers out of Berlin—all of these portents underline the risks we run in adhering to the policy of “stretch-out” and to presently programmed force levels.

17. Recognizing the risks involved in adhering to the policy of “stetch-out” and to presently programmed force levels, in the light of the situation facing us, the United States should:

Accelerate the production of selected military end-items under present programs.
Place continued high emphasis upon scientific and technical programs in fields of military applications and give careful consideration to the desirability of substantial new programs and changes of emphasis in research and development.
In proper balance with the programs developed in connection with the reexamination called for in paragraph 9 above, consider raising the goals of military production now contemplated. An acceleration and upward adjustment of our national defense programs as a whole are well within our capacity and can be accomplished without serious adverse effects on the U.S. economy.

  1. The source text is accompanied by a covering memorandum from Nitze to Acheson, July 30, copies to Matthews, Bruce, and Bohlen, which reads: “Pursuant to the suggestions made in the meeting yesterday morning, I have revised the Statement of Policy in the following manner. Mr. Bohlen has read this and thinks it is all right.” No record of the meeting under reference has been found in Department of State files. A handwritten notation on the covering memorandum reads: “This seems good to me. D[ean] A[cheson].” A notation on the text printed here reads: “Revision of Lay’s Office Memo of July 28, 1952.” The document under reference cannot be identified further. However, a memorandum from Lay to the NSC Senior Staff of July 29, enclosing a draft statement of policy by the NSC Staff Assistants of the Steering Committee Members entitled “Reappraisal of United States Objectives and Strategy for National Security” is in S/PNSC files, lot 61 D 167, NSC 68–114–135 Series.
  2. The concept of industrial mobilization base includes not only readiness of adequate facilities, manpower, and materials (in active, stand-by, or readily convertible status) for military end-item production at wartime levels, but also existence of industrial facilities and the over-all economic capacity needed to facilitate and support planned wartime levels of military end-item output. (ODM proposal) [Footnote in the source text.]