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

Draft Statement Submitted to the Senior Staff of the National Security Council by the Staff Assistants of the Senior Staff Steering Committee1

top secret

Reappraisal of United States Objectives and Strategy for National Security

Summary and General Conclusions

If the Soviet rulers should attain, in their judgment, the capability of defeating the United States or of so reducing its power potential [Page 74]as to render it permanently incapable of effectively challenging Soviet power and if they should come to believe that such action would not involve serious risk to the maintenance of their regime, they would probably deliberately initiate general war.
The Soviets might attack the West if they were convinced as a matter of fact, rather than theory, that an attack by the West was actually imminent.
Nor can it be excluded that if in the eyes of the Soviet leaders developments in the power balance appeared directly and imminently to threaten the security of the Soviet Union or areas under its control, they might feel compelled to force certain outstanding issues in such a way that the result might well be the outbreak of war without any deliberate intention on the part of the Soviet Union to bring about such an event.
War could come from communist action based on initial Soviet miscalculation of the free world’s interest in and reaction to the situation in some particular area.
War could come from a deadlocked situation in which basic interests of both parties are involved with an act of one side setting off an unwinding chain of action and reaction which neither side would be able fully to control.
In the absence of general war, the Soviet leadership will probably continue a pushing and probing exploitation of all weaknesses in the free world. This means that the Soviets can be expected to continue their efforts to consolidate and expand their influence in Asia; undermine U.S. leadership of the free world; break the unity of the West; prevent the integration of West Germany and Japan into the Western system; disrupt the economies and governmental effectiveness of our major continental European allies; and exploit the intemperate nationalism and political instability of the Middle East. Thus, there continues to be danger of such a progressive and cumulative loss of positions of importance to the U.S. (either as a result of deterioration within the free nations or of communist cold war actions or a process involving both) that the United States would eventually be reduced to an isolated and critically vulnerable position.
The strongest deterrent to general war will be the achievement and maintenance of such an over-all position of strength by [Page 75]the free world as will force the Soviets to recognize the undesirability of challenging it.
The Soviet orbit now has formidable military capabilities. It has succeeded in maintaining large and increasingly well-equipped Soviet armed forces, in expanding and improving the satellite armed and para-military forces, and in developing significant atomic, electronic and possibly BW and CW capabilities. The Soviet long-range air force is capable of atomic attack on the United States and might achieve surprise in the initial strike. The Soviets would be able to support extensive military operations of an offensive nature during the early phases of a general war.
The Soviet orbit is expanding its current production; it is also expanding its industrial, economic, and scientific potential. There are indications that these latter developments are long range in nature. The USSR has demonstrated a high level of scientific and technical capability in several vital military fields, notably nuclear energy, aircraft design and production, electronics and chemical warfare.
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 in Western Europe and in the Pacific; they, and particularly the United States have significantly improved their readiness for war.
The United States is increasing its atomic strength and may soon develop a thermonuclear weapon. There is, in fact, every indication that its present quantitative advantage in atomic weapons stockpile, in means of delivery and in the production of fissionable materials will be further increased. The U.S. is also developing an increasing variety of mass destruction weapons and methods for their delivery; well dispersed overseas bases are being established within range of the sources of Soviet political and industrial power.
The United States and other countries in the free world are engaged in a mobilization program which is designed both to facilitate any future shift to a war economy and to maintain an increased level of strength over an extended period. Moreover, the United States has the economic capacity to sustain a generally higher level of armament production than is contemplated by currently projected programs and is capable of accelerating the production of selected items within the framework of present programs. Such an increase in the level of armament production would, however, require a willingness in the United States and allied countries to accept an increased diversion of scarce materials and other resources to such production through more severe direct physical controls. In addition more vigorous price and credit controls [Page 76]and a heavier tax burden would be required in order to protect the economies of these nations.
In the light of the above, the United States and its allies hold it within their power to maintain a position of such strength, flexibility and depth as to make it very difficult for the Soviet leaders to believe that general war could be undertaken without grave risks to their regime.
The free world enjoys a very substantial superiority in basic productive potential over the Soviet orbit, but this superiority is not the sole measure of the relative ability to undertake large armament programs over an extended period in the absence of general war. The Soviet orbit, through its total control over the Soviet economy and population, can utilize a high proportion of the Soviet orbit resources and potential to achieve and maintain the present level of military preparedness. For the free world an adequate utilization of its resources and potential to counter the Soviet threat is far more difficult to achieve in the absence of general war.
Moreover, the increasingly destructive power that will be available to both sides makes it doubtful that time would be available to ensure the conversion of the economies to full war production. In planning the utilization of its resources in the absence of general war, therefore, the free world cannot give the same weight as heretofore to its heavy preponderance of productive capacity and economic potential as a determining factor in preventing or winning a general war.
Because of improved methods of delivery, in combination with increased atomic and possibly thermonuclear weapon stockpiles, the Soviet orbit will acquire during the next several years an increasing capability to damage critically the United States and its allies. Defensive counter-measures now in prospect probably cannot prevent the Soviet orbit from achieving such increasing capability, although such measures can certainly affect the rate of increase. The same reasoning would apply in general to the defensive position of the Soviet orbit. While continuing to take reasonable active and passive defensive measures, and to seek and explore new technological possibilities for feasible defense, the free world must probably accept a substantial degree of vulnerability and avoid undue concentration of resources on defense at the expense of measures necessary to project its strength outward to the enemy.
In Europe, Greece and Turkey, with their significant forces, are being successfully integrated in NATO; Greek-Turkish-Yugoslav military cooperation is beginning to develop; the juridical basis for Western German rearmament is being established; and Spain’s participation in Western defense plans is a developing prospect. However, our major European allies, particularly the UK and [Page 77]France, are encountering serious difficulties in seeking both to make a fully adequate contribution to the forces of NATO and to support their existing responsibilities outside Europe. The volume and timing in the delivery of U.S. assistance is a major factor in determining the size and timing of the effective force goals which can actually be achieved. On balance, the NATO commitments, and such additional declarations as those of the U.S. and its allies concerning Berlin, together with European efforts and U.S. assistance, have made it clear that military action by the USSR or its satellites would almost certainly lead to general war (except possibly in the case of Finland). It is therefore unlikely that the Soviet orbit will take military action there unless it is prepared to engage in general war.
Apart from the above problem of military capabilities, the Western European powers continue to be confronted with serious political, economic and social problems despite the great advances, with U.S. assistance, towards greater stability and cohesion. These problems have derived from economic conditions, political instability, neutralist tendencies, social tensions, and, in France and Italy, the continued existence of large and powerful Communist parties. Although genuine progress has been made, further efforts and U.S. assistance to the Western European countries will be required to overcome these adverse elements and to continue the progress towards political and social stability, economic integration, and collective defense in Western Europe.
Present and threatened communist aggression and subversion in the Far East and Middle East currently pose more immediate dangers to the free world position.
In the Middle East, efforts to maintain or enhance political stability have not succeeded. Recent developments in Iran, and to a lesser extent Egypt, have emphasized the danger that trends in this area may lead to the denial of the resources of this area to the free world’s security efforts and eventually to the loss of important countries to Communist control. Western military forces in the area are now limited, and the U.S. may soon have to give serious consideration to the problem of assuming additional responsibilities in the area.
In South Asia and the Far East, the inexperience of the present leadership and lack of a firm popular base hampers the ability of various countries to strengthen themselves internally and to cope with communist and extremist pressures. The continued rise of nationalism in these areas has created divisive conflicts. This nationalism represents a reaction against former or remaining colonial controls and creates weaknesses in the free world as a whole.
In Indochina, where the situation is most acute, an increase of strength has enabled the French Union forces to stand off the communists but has not brought them within sight of success.
Thus in the Middle and Far East, the USSR, by instigating direct or indirect aggression, can force the Western powers to choose among (a) suffering the loss of these areas by default, (b) fighting defensive local action for limited objectives, or (c) treating local aggression as a cause for general war. In the Middle and Far East we have not yet succeeded in developing aid programs with the degree of flexibility and relationship with political factors required to make them highly effective in producing stability. We must concentrate particularly on so designing our aid programs that they will contribute to the solution of critical problems in unstable areas which the use of allied military forces cannot solve.
Despite the vital interest of the free world, adequate measures to deal with a sudden worsening of situations in the Far and Middle East are not now in readiness under present programs, priorities and force levels. In the circumstances, the questions arise (a) whether these serious threats can be met by a redistribution of the free world’s effort presently programmed, or (b) whether consideration must be given to increasing the total effort, or (c) both.
Over the next several years, with the accumulation on both sides of atomic and other mass destruction weapons, the developing situation may present a continuing and possibly improved opportunity for Soviet expansion by the techniques of political warfare and local aggression if the fear and threat of general war paralyzes the free world’s reaction to such local aggression.
In the light of the present threats and foreseeable developments, as outlined above, it appears that the ability of the free world to maintain its position and progress toward its objectives will come increasingly to depend upon: (a) its capacity to stand firm against Soviet political warfare despite the threat of increasing Soviet atomic capabilities, (b) a greater capability and greater willingness than have been demonstrated to commit appropriate forces and material for limited objectives, and (c) its ability to develop greater stability in peripheral and other unstable areas.
Outside the Soviet orbit there exists a need for increased and more selective political warfare operations by the United States and its allies to combat:
The threat of local communist parties, which remains serious although the United States and its allies have demonstrated the ability to penetrate and weaken communist organizations and to reduce the communist potential for revolution and sabotage.
USSR propaganda directed with particular force against the United States.
In many parts of the world, distrust of the United States which weakens affirmative support for the purposes of the United States.
Against the Soviet orbit itself, by skillful execution, the United States and its allies can sap the morale of satellite leaders and encourage rifts between the USSR and the satellite countries, and over a period of years may gradually force the Kremlin to an increasing preoccupation with internal security. By appropriate economic measures, the U.S. and its allies can help to deprive the Soviet orbit of needed resources and retard the development of Soviet orbit military potential. It should be recognized, however, that these measures alone, however vigorously pursued, against the Soviet orbit, cannot be counted on drastically to reduce the threat which the Soviet system poses to the free world.
During the next few years, it is unlikely that meaningful agreements can be negotiated with the USSR, for the Kremlin will probably not feel that the power relationship obliges it to make significant concessions to the free world. This situation could change in the course of time, particularly if Germany and Japan were to be restored to strength and firmly aligned with the free world; but during the next several years the prospect for negotiation of lasting agreements is negligible, although specific agreements on a quid-pro-quo basis, such as an armistice in Korea, are not precluded. Nevertheless, development of a sound U.S. negotiating position in any question or dispute involving the USSR would help to convince the world of the validity and sincerity of our position and would serve as a political warfare weapon.
While recognizing the admitted strength of the Soviet world and the as yet undeveloped strength and obvious weaknesses of the free world, it appears clear that the free world has made progress toward building a power position which would be capable of (a) persuading the Soviets against a general war; (b) reducing the opportunities for local Soviet aggression and political warfare; and (c) exploiting rifts between the USSR and other communist states and between the several communist regimes and the peoples they are oppressing, and thus possibly offering to certain satellite peoples the prospect of liberation without war.
We therefore 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 significant advances in expanding its power, either geographically, or politically, and that if the free world develops such strength, the internal conflicts of the Soviet totalitarian system should, with positive effort from us, force [Page 80]a retraction of Soviet power and influence and eventually cause that system gradually to weaken and decay, although no time limit can be established by which these latter objectives must be achieved.
The building and maintenance of free world strength will, however, require a re-examination of the adequacy of current U.S. national security programs from the standpoint of size, relative priority, and allocation.2
  1. This draft statement was transmitted to the National Security Council for information and circulated as an appendix to NSC 135/1. For further information on the origins and drafting of this statement, see the editorial note, p. 56. The covering memorandum from Lay to the NSC Senior Staff dated Aug. 13 reads: “The enclosed draft conclusions on the subject, as tentatively agreed on by the Senior Staff on August 12, are transmitted herewith for final review by the Senior Staff at its meeting on Thursday, August 14, 1952 with a view to completion of a report for submission to the National Security Council.” A three-line summary of Senior Staff action at the meeting of Aug. 12 is in the S/PNSC files, lot 62 D 1, “Senior Staff, 1950–52.”
  2. At its meeting on Thursday afternoon, Aug. 14, the NSC Senior Staff reviewed and amended this draft statement and approved submission of the amended conclusions to the National Security Council for its information. At the same time, the Senior Staff directed the Staff Assistants “as a matter of urgency” to revise the source text in light of NSC 135/1 (infra), with the view to submission to the Council as an Annex to NSC 135/1. A copy of the Record of the Senior Staff meeting under reference is in the S/PNSC files, lot 61 D 167, “NSC 68–114–135”. The revised staff study circulated as the Annex to NSC 135/1 and dated Aug. 22 is printed on p. 89.