153. Statement of Policy by the National Security Council1

NSC 5524/1



Basic U.S. Approach

1. Inherent in the basic U.S. approach to Four-Power negotiations must be the realization that “despite the talk of coexistence, the Communist powers will continue strenuous efforts to weaken and disrupt free world strength and unity and to expand the area of their control, principally by subversion (including the support of insurrection), while avoiding involvement of the main sources of Communist power. This strategy will probably present the free world with its most serious challenge and greatest danger in the next few years.” (NSC 5501, paragraph 19.2)

2. The existing U.S. national strategy requires that U.S. policies “be designed to affect the conduct of the Communist regimes, especially that of the USSR, in ways that further U.S. security interests and to encourage tendencies that lead these regimes to abandon expansionist policies. In pursuing this general strategy, our effort should be directed to:

  • “a. Deterring further Communist aggression, and preventing the occurrence of total war so far as compatible with U.S. security.
  • “b. Maintaining and developing in the free world the mutuality of interest and common purpose, and the necessary will, strength and stability, to face the Soviet-Communist threat and to provide constructive and attractive alternatives to Communism, which sustain the hope and confidence of free peoples.
  • “c. Supplementing a and b above by other actions designed to foster changes in the character and policies of the Soviet-Communist bloc regimes:
    • “(1) By influencing them and their peoples toward the choice of those alternative lines of action which, while in [Page 288] their national interests, do not conflict with the security interests of the U.S.; and
    • “(2) By exploiting differences between such regimes, and their other vulnerabilities, in ways consistent with this general strategy.” (NSC 5501, paragraph 26.)

3. In pursuing this strategy during the forthcoming negotiations, the U.S. must “give to the Communist regimes a clear conception of the true U.S. and free world purposes and uncompromising determination to resist Communist aggressive moves,” even if cloaked in the guise of a peace offensive. (NSC 5501, paragraph 48.)

4. The U.S. should be ready to negotiate with the USSR whenever it clearly appears that U.S. security interests will be served thereby. (NSC 5501, paragraph 49.)

Current Soviet Actions

5. Since the foregoing statement of U.S. basic strategy was approved, the USSR has made a number of moves which reveal a change in Soviet tactics and may demonstrate increased flexibility in the conduct of its foreign policy:

Conclusion of the Austrian State Treaty on terms more favorable to Austria.
Submission of an omnibus proposal covering disarmament, troop withdrawals and bases.
The visit of the highest Soviet officials to Yugoslavia.
Soviet acceptance of a “Summit” meeting without the inclusion of Communist China.
The invitation to Chancellor Adenauer to come to Moscow to negotiate the establishment of diplomatic relations with the Bonn Government.
The initiation by the USSR of negotiations with Japan looking toward the normalization of relations between the two countries.

Estimate of Soviet Intent

6. On balance, the Soviet leaders may estimate that there is at present no critical threat to their security, and that there may be renewed opportunities for Communist expansion by means short of general war. They might estimate that Western power and unity are vulnerable to Soviet political action, and may become increasingly so. Therefore, the Soviet leaders may believe that they can rely primarily upon political means, and in some cases military action by local forces, to carry on their struggle against the non-Communist world.

7. It is possible that Soviet diplomacy during the period of this estimate will not be directed toward a general settlement between the USSR and the West. It may continue to combine moves intended to ease international tensions with other moves which increase such [Page 289] tensions, and with political warfare pressures calculated to play upon the non-Communist world’s fear of war.

Five Hypotheses

8. There are at least five hypotheses which can be advanced to explain current Soviet policy toward the pending series of diplomatic interchanges with the West. They are:

The USSR has no real willingness to alter previous positions in any substantial respect, but is engaged solely in diplomatic and propaganda maneuvers, having particularly in mind the present 2–3 year period of marked Soviet military disadvantage.
The USSR, in order better to exploit the situation in the Far East, wishes to bring about an immediate easing of tensions in other areas.
The USSR considers that the present time affords an opportunity for flexible exploration of the possibilities of settling selected outstanding issues and reserves its decision as to ensuing moves and attitudes pending the outcome of these negotiations.
The USSR has decided to bring about a substantial and prolonged reduction in international tensions and is willing to alter previous negotiating positions appreciably to this end.
Since the death of Stalin, competition for power within the ruling circles of the Soviet regime has resulted in a confused situation tending to produce compromises rather than clear direction of Soviet foreign policy.

The five hypotheses are not mutually exclusive in their entirety. In all likelihood, the complex pattern of Soviet motivations and objectives contains some elements of all five.

Soviet Objectives

9. The USSR continues to hold (a) the ultimate triumph of Communism as a firm conviction and a long-term goal and (b) the maintenance of the security of the regime as its overriding objective. Until the USSR clearly demonstrates otherwise, the U.S. should continue to assume that the USSR is attempting to achieve the following objectives which are not necessarily inconsistent with any of the above hypotheses:

Prevention of the effective rearming of Germany as a member of NATO.
Withdrawal of U.S. advanced bases from the Eastern Hemisphere.
Relaxation of East-West trade barriers.

Additional Soviet objectives which will likely be pursued simultaneously include:

To effect a degree of disarmament including the outlawing of nuclear weapons under conditions favorable to the Communists.
To isolate the U.S. from its allies and from the uncommitted free world states in order to render them incapable of decisive action by fostering and exploiting dissensions within and among them.
To detach Japan from the sphere of Western influence and encourage its closer association with the Sino-Soviet Bloc, to bring Communist China into the UN, and otherwise weaken the free world position in Asia.

Attitudes and Policies of U.S. European Allies

10. The UK, French, and West German governments have given clear evidence that they intend to stand firm against any Soviet initiative which would weaken the West’s position of strength and promote dissension within the alliance. However, these governments are influenced by popular pressures for a reduction of tension and some form of East-West settlement and by their own concern over the risks of nuclear war to explore all reasonable avenues toward a settlement of East-West issues. Conceivably this pressure could create a dilemma and give rise to frictions between the U.S. and its allies in negotiating with the USSR.

U.S. Objectives

11. In the light of the above, no change is required in the basic U.S. objectives and national strategy set forth in NSC 5501. Accordingly, the U.S. should without relaxation continue the steady development of strength, confidence and military readiness, including mobilization programs, in the U.S. and the free world coalition. At the same time the U.S. should seek advantageous settlements of outstanding issues. The U.S. should recognize that not all elements of strength in its position vis-à-vis the Soviet Bloc are static. While U.S. power and leadership are essential to free world strength, our overall position depends in considerable measure upon the continued support of allied governments and people. Also desirable is a reasonable posture in the eyes of the uncommitted nations. Inasmuch as the West is negotiating from strength, the U.S. position with respect to solutions it may propose or consider, and indeed the U.S. posture in all negotiations, should be such as to result in an improvement in the over-all U.S. security position in Europe, whether through an absolute weakening of the Soviet position, through an increase in allied strength, unity and determination, or through a lessening in the future risk of large-scale war.

12. With respect to Europe, the U.S. should seek, in cooperation with its European allies, to hold to the following objectives which are particularly pertinent to any negotiations with the USSR:

The retraction of Soviet power from Central and Eastern Europe, and ultimate freedom of the satellites from Soviet domination; as initial steps, (1) the withdrawal of Soviet forces from East [Page 291] Germany, Poland, Hungary, and Rumania, and (2) the increased accessibility of the satellites to information and influence from the free world.
A united Germany based on free elections, free to align itself as it chooses, and in fact choosing to join NATO.
A suitable German contribution to Western defense and maintenance of U.S. and allied forces in Germany to the degree and for the time required to foster Franco-German reconciliation and to protect the security interests of the U.S. and its allies, including Germany.
The continued strengthening of NATO, politically, economically and militarily.
Changes in Soviet policies in directions more compatible with U.S. and NATO security interests (to the degree that the U.S. can contribute to this end by pressure, influence or negotiation).
The establishment, ultimately, in Europe of arrangements which will insure, consistent with U.S. security interests, the lasting security and close mutual association of its peoples within the largest area feasible,
U.S. participation in the defense of free Europe at least so long as a measurable threat to the peace and security of Europe exists.
Consistent with the above, a decrease in the danger of the outbreak of general war through incident or miscalculation.

Germany and European Security

U.S. Position on German Unification


13. The U.S. should take as its basic policy on a German settlement the following, which is consistent with existing policy (NSC 160/13): (a) that an all-German government should be formed on the basis of free elections; (b) that this government should freely negotiate a peace treaty with the allied powers of World War II; (c) that the new united Germany should be free to choose its own alignment and to rearm, and thus to join and make an appropriate contribution to NATO. The U.S. should continue to support the Berlin conference proposals (Eden Plan4) in their essential substance though not necessarily in all details. The U.S. should also seek to assure that present arrangements based on the Federal Republic’s adherence to NATO and its contribution thereto are not prejudiced by Soviet or other blocking tactics during the process outlined above.

14. The above policy carries the risk that a united Germany might choose not to join NATO. This risk, which appears to be small, and which the U.S. should seek to reduce, is one which the U.S. must take. The U.S. should continue to support the Federal Republic [Page 292] in its opposition to the neutralization of Germany and in its intention to fulfill its NATO obligations. If, at some future time, the risk that a united Germany might choose non-commitment should become greater, the U.S. would have to devise policies to meet that situation.

15. In addition to the above positions based on existing policy, the U.S. should be prepared to consider and possibly to advance additional proposals concerning European security, certain aspects of which are discussed in the following paragraphs. Failure of the U.S. to consider at an appropriate time such additional proposals would increase the risks of adverse reaction in many important segments of European public opinion, especially in Germany, and thus the risks of a slowdown in actual West German rearmament and of Soviet success in tempting the Germans with unity offers of their own or in dividing the U.S. from its NATO allies. Such additional proposals may provide the means for progress toward the important U.S. objective of retracting Soviet power in Eastern Europe. The U.S. should make clear, however, that it is willing to consider them not as separate proposals, but only as part of a settlement which includes the essence of the Eden Plan. Furthermore, the U.S. must judge their validity in relation to possible agreement on general disarmament, the status of the satellites and free world security. In any event, no local European arrangement would be acceptable which would result in a net diminution of Western strength vis-à-vis the Soviet Bloc.

Security Arrangements

16. The U.S. should be prepared to consider, as part of a settlement including the establishment of a free, united Germany, various possible elements of European regional security arrangements. The selection of any of these elements or combination thereof and their inclusion in any Western proposal require continuing examination by the U.S., as well as agreement on the part of the Western governments. The U.S. should under no circumstances agree to any European security arrangement which involves express or implied acceptance of Soviet domination of the satellites as legitimate or permanent, or compromises the effectiveness of NATO, or which prevents the establishment of a free, united Germany.

Armaments Limitations

17. The U.S. should: (a) be ready to approve appropriate application to a united Germany of any general scheme for limitation and control of armaments that might be agreed upon; (b) favor the extension of the WEU system of arms limitation and control to a united Germany, excluding the USSR from this system; and (c) favor establishment [Page 293] of limitations and controls in Eastern Europe in connection with a united Germany.

Demilitarized Zone

18. The U.S. could accept the concept that a demilitarized zone be established as part of the settlement establishing German unity, providing the Western military position in Europe is not thereby jeopardized and Germany is not precluded from effectively rearming. The terms of demilitarization should be such as to permit measures necessary for internal security and participation of the inhabitants of the zone in military service elsewhere.

Withdrawal of Soviet and Western Forces

19. a. The U.S. should not at this stage make any proposal which includes the withdrawal of all foreign forces from a united Germany. If such a proposal is advanced by others, the U.S. should be prepared to consider it, but should accept it only on condition that the proposal had the support of our major European allies, including the Federal Republic. In considering such a proposal, the U.S. should also bear in mind the desirability of obtaining the following, as desirable conditions:

The relocation of Western allied forces in satisfactory positions in NATO countries contiguous to Germany would be politically and financially feasible both for the U.S. and for the NATO countries concerned, with satisfactory long-term commitments on the part of the latter.
The alignment of united Germany with NATO was virtually certain.
The USSR would withdraw its forces from Germany to the USSR and would not increase its forces in Poland or station forces in Czechoslovakia.
Execution of the proposal could be so timed, phased and safeguarded that there would be no weakening of NATO’s relative military position, allied forces would not be withdrawn until comparable German units to replace them were available.

b. In conjunction with the unification of Germany and the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Eastern Germany, the U.S. might consider a withdrawal of Western allied forces to specified areas in the Western part of Germany in return for compensatory withdrawals of Soviet forces from the satellites. The U.S. should promptly study possible proposals of this nature, including what Soviet withdrawals would be acceptable as compensatory.

c. The U.S. should stand firmly with its allies against any proposal for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Europe so long as required by the security interests of the U.S. and its allies, and for fostering Franco-German reconciliation. If the Soviets should agree on general disarmament and on other matters that would change the [Page 294] whole outlook in Europe, this would call for reassessment of the assumptions underlying our present European policy.

U.S. Position in the Event of a Continuance of Two Germanies

(The following paragraphs are consistent with existing policy)


20. If no agreement on unification is possible in the forthcoming negotiations, two Germanies will continue to exist. The U.S. should, in that event, manifest clearly its intent to continue to work for German unity and for a basic settlement in Europe. Accordingly, it should favor continuation of the process of negotiations toward this end. It should also favor practical steps toward unity which may be desired by the Federal Republic and are consonant with U.S. objectives, and should seek to avoid taking or endorsing positions which treat as permanent the division of Germany or accord the East German regime equal status with the Federal Republic. In judging possible proposals the U.S. will have to take account of the degree of support they enlist in Germany and Western Europe as reasonable steps toward a German settlement and a more stable modus vivendi with the USSR.

Security Arrangements

21. The U.S. should be prepared to reaffirm its adherence to the declaration issued at London in September, 1954, regarding the Federal Republic’s pledge not to use force to change the status quo.5 It could also consider a pledge by the major powers to refuse military assistance to any government which had recourse to force in violation of the principles of the UN Charter.


22. The U.S. should maintain and attempt to improve the free world position in Berlin in a manner consistent with NSC 5404/1.6


23. The U.S. should oppose any Soviet proposal for the neutralization of the two Germanies.

Armaments Limitations

24. It seems unlikely that any scheme of armaments limitations restricted to the two German states would be in keeping with U.S. objectives. However, in the event of a general disarmament agreement, [Page 295] the U.S. should support the application of the terms of such an agreement to the two German states under conditions that adequately safeguarded Western security interests.

Withdrawal of Soviet and Western Forces

25. The West will probably be confronted with Soviet proposals for the early withdrawal of foreign forces from Germany or for their reduction to token contingents, within the context of a continuance of a divided Germany. In present circumstances the U.S. should not agree to such withdrawal. It is believed that our Western allies will support the U.S. position. To offset the possibility that the Soviets might make political capital out of a negative response, the U.S. should insist on the consideration of such withdrawals only in the context of a program for a united Germany.

Status of the Soviet Satellites

26. Existing policy (NSC 1747) sets as an ultimate objective the elimination of Soviet control over the satellites. This objective is to be pursued by “appropriate means short of military force”, including “if possible, negotiation with the USSR”.

27. The U.S. must maintain the position that Soviet control of the satellites is one of the principal causes of world tension and is incompatible both with lasting conditions of peace and with the basic principles of freedom and self-determination. The U.S. should publicly assert this position, possibly with specific demands for withdrawal of Soviet forces, for free elections in the satellites, and for increased accessibility of the satellites to information and influence from the free world, invoking the provisions of relevant international agreements as applicable. Any demands for withdrawal of Soviet forces from the satellites could best be approached through (a) German unification, which should be accompanied by withdrawal of Soviet forces from East Germany and Poland; and (b) the coming into force of the Austrian state treaty, which should be accompanied by withdrawal of Soviet forces from Hungary and Rumania as well as from Eastern Austria.

28. In any negotiations the U.S. should seek every opportunity to weaken or break the Soviet grip on part or all of the satellite area. While making clear its view that a stable peace in Europe requires the restoration of national independence to the satellites, the U.S. should preserve flexibility of means in the pursuit of this objective. The U.S. must avoid in all circumstances any action that even appears to indicate any abandonment of this objective.

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The International Communist Movement

29. The U.S. should make use of the issue of Soviet manipulation of Communist parties and other activities in the free world, whenever it proves advantageous to do so. No agreement with the USSR is likely on the subject, nor would an agreement be worth much, as the history of such accords in the past will show Moscow has always taken refuge in the position that the Soviet government has no responsibility for or connections with the Communist parties of other nations.

30. For propaganda purposes, it may be desirable publicly to tax the Soviet leaders with their responsibility for this obstacle to international relaxation and normal relations, and to keep them on the defensive. In any case, it will be desirable to let the Soviet leaders know, privately or publicly, that the U.S. will regard their actual conduct on this issue as a test of their intentions.

East-West Trade

Existing Policy

31. Though the basic and traditional U.S. policy is to foster expanding trade and intercourse between all nations, the imposition of restrictions on East-West trade, both unilaterally and multilaterally, has been required as a defense against the aggressive policies of the Soviet Bloc. Moreover, the economic policies of the Soviet Union, including its goal of Bloc autarchy, its trading practices and the paucity of acceptable quantities and qualities of export commodities, are the principal barriers to increased trade with the European Soviet Bloc in all commodities except the small number of strategic items still subject to multilateral control by the Western Powers.

Proposed Policy

32. a. Whenever the U.S. considers that its interests would be advanced, it should consider enlarging trade with the European Soviet Bloc on a commercial basis in items not considered by it to be strategic. To this end, the U.S. might agree to adopt a more liberal policy in licensing U.S. commercial exports in conjunction with demonstrated Soviet willingness to expand East-West trade in non-strategic goods.

b. Any reduction in any of the multilateral controls which the U.S. might consider, would only be in return for Soviet concessions resulting in net improvement in U.S. security, taking into account (1) the negative attitude of our allies toward the continued maintenance of existing control levels, (2) the desirability of maintaining allied [Page 297] unity, and (3) the danger that any such action would lead to allied pressure for further relaxation of controls even on embargoed items.

c. Any reduction of the multilateral control of embargoed items now in effect should be made only in the context of major Soviet concessions, resulting in marked improvement in the relative security position of the U.S. which would more than offset any contribution such reduction in controls would make to the war potential of the Soviet Bloc.

d. In no event should the U.S. reduce or eliminate the embargo on arms, ammunition, implements of war, atomic energy materials, or advance prototypes of strategic items.

e. The U.S. should not, at this time, be prepared to discuss trade with Communist China, but should recognize that reductions under paragraphs b and c, above (1) will tend to increase pressures for reductions in CHINCOM controls, (2) will enable Chinese acquisitions indirectly through the USSR, and (3) will to that degree reduce the value of trade controls as a trading point in any later negotiations with Communist China.

(Note: Significant reductions in trade controls may require revision of the Battle Act in order to allow continued assistance to our allies.)


33. The current position of the U.S. with respect to U.S. policy on control of armaments is contained in NSC Action No. 1419.8

Far Eastern Issues

34. The U.S. should continue to oppose expanding any four power talks to include Communist China on the grounds (a) that such talks spring from the obligations of the four powers with respect to Germany and Europe; (b) that no such comparable obligations exist with respect to the Far East; and (c) that in any case the current major Far Eastern problems directly concern other nations, including the Republic of China, besides the five. The U.S. would continue to hold to the view that solution of Far Eastern problems is more likely to result from de facto programs and informal approaches than through formalized procedures.

35. In addition, the U.S. should consider what its position should be on the broader question of methods of settling Far Eastern issues, and their relation to the settlement of European or general questions. The U.S. must ensure that in any settlement of European problems [Page 298] the strength, will and determination of the free world which can be brought to bear in Asia are not impaired.

  1. Source: Department of State, S/SNSC Files: Lot 63 D 351, NSC 5524 Series. Secret. NSC 5524 consists of a cover page; a note by Executive Secretary Lay, dated July 11, stating that it had been adopted by the NSC at its 254th meeting on July 7 (see Document 150) and approved by the President on July 11; and a table of contents, none printed.
  2. Scheduled for publication in a forthcoming Foreign Relations volume.
  3. Dated August 17, 1953, Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, vol. vii, Part 1, p. 510.
  4. For text of the Eden Plan, see ibid., p. 1177.
  5. For documentation on the London Nine-Power Conference and the declaration under reference here, see ibid., vol. v, Part 2, pp. 1294 ff.
  6. NSC 5404/1, January 25, 1954, is not printed. The Financial Appendix to NSC 5404/1 is printed ibid., vol. vii, Part 2, p. 1390.
  7. For text, see ibid., vol. viii, p. 110.
  8. Not printed. (Department of State, S/PNSC Files: Lot 62 D 1)