267. Paper Prepared in the Department of State1


The unconcealed anxiety of Soviet rulers to obtain a “relaxing” of tension with the Western world came about, we believe, not because of any change in their basic purposes but because of their own need, external and internal, for new policies.
Externally, the “tough” foreign policies of the Soviet Union were producing diminishing or counter-productive results. The ten years of cold war, including hot war in Korea, had been met by unity and resiliency on the part of the free nations. A final proof of the ineffectiveness of Soviet policies of hostility was the inability of the Soviet Union, by rough tactics, to block the consummation of the London–Paris Accords on Western European unity.
Internally, the Soviet Union faced a heavy task in seeking to maintain a vast military establishment, both in terms of footsoldiers and in terms of modern weapons and means of delivery. The burden can be appreciated when it is recalled that the industrial base of the Soviet Union is less than one-third of the United States and that its agricultural production is not keeping pace with its population growth. The Soviet leaders have been attempting to expand rapidly, even sensationally, their industrial base through vast capital expenditures. This has accentuated the diversion of economic effort away from consumers goods, manufactured and agricultural. This has not produced a crisis, but it was an economic distortion which could not be endured indefinitely. Apparently, Soviet policies needed to be adjusted to what the West, two years earlier, had defined as the need for a “long haul” basis. There has been cumulative evidence that Soviet leaders would like at least a temporary period when they could meet more fully the craving of their people for better living conditions.
When Soviet opposition to the London–Paris Accords became doomed to failure, the Soviet leaders took in rapid succession a series of steps which doubtless had been prepared well in advance for possible use in this contingency. These steps were listed by Molotov in his San Francisco speech of June 22, 1955; and included notably the signature of the Austrian Treaty, the pilgrimage to Belgrade to make peace with Tito, the invitation to Adenauer, the May tenth disarmament [Page 552] proposals, and the offer to Japan to conclude a peace treaty. Also, all Soviet officials concertedly altered their social demeanor to one of apparent cordiality toward others.
These moves were designed to meet, and did measurably meet, the Western demand for “deeds” as a prerequisite to a meeting at the “summit”—a meeting which Sir Winston Churchill had suggested two years earlier (May 1953) and which had caught the public imagination.2
It was foreseen by the United States that the Geneva “Summit” conference would create a new atmosphere, barring a complete failure which was, of course, not desired. In a memorandum of July 6, 1955, the Secretary of State listed “Soviet Goals at Geneva” and put as their presumed first goal “An appearance that the West concede the Soviet rulers a moral and social equality”.3 He added “The Soviet will probably make considerable gains in this respect”. We accepted this consequence with our eyes open. We knew that it would create problems, but less problems than to refuse to confer. We also foresaw that the meeting could be made to create opportunities.
Geneva has certainly created problems for the free nations. For eight years they have been held together largely by a cement compounded of fear and a sense of moral superiority. Now the fear is diminished and the moral demarcation is somewhat blurred. There is some bewilderment among leaders and peoples of the free nations as to what happened at Geneva, and as to how to adjust to the new situation.

It is the view of the United States that nothing that has yet occurred justifies the free world relaxing its vigilance or substantially altering its programs for collective security. The strength sought has never been excessive and the unity sought has never been aggressive.

We must assume that the Soviet leaders consider their recent change of policy to be an application of the classic Communist maneuver known as “zig zag”, i.e., resort to “tactics of retreat” “to buy off a powerful enemy and gain a respite” (Stalin). We must not be caught by any such maneuver.

On the other hand, it is possible that what the Soviet rulers design as a maneuver may in fact assume the force of an irreversible trend. Our own conduct should be to encourage that to happen, without at the same time setting up, on our side, an irreversible trend toward accommodation which would expose us to grave danger if the [Page 553] Soviets pursue covertly, or later resume overtly, their aggressive designs.

Thus, within carefully controlled limits, we shall pursue the policy of reciprocating the present Soviet attitude and demeanor, and of according the Soviet leaders a certain relaxation which they want. But we shall not now alter our basic programs, and we shall strive for some of the things which we want in the interest of international order and justice.

The United States does not acquiesce in the present power position of the Soviet Union in Europe or in those policies of the Soviet Union which have made Soviet rule justifiably feared and hated in most of the world. There are gross international injustices which need to be corrected. Human freedoms need to be restored in the vast areas where they are now denied. Soviet military threats and subversive efforts still create an intolerable sense of insecurity and a diversion of effort from creative purposes. Particularly to be noted are: the unnatural partition of Germany now in its second decade; the denial of a truly independent national existence to the satellite states, many with a long, proud record of national existence; the subjugation of hundreds of millions of people to what, by our standards, are slave labor conditions; and the subversive activities promoted through the underground apparatus of International Communism.

The spirit which the United States contributed to produce at Geneva is designed to promote a change in these conditions by depriving the Soviet leaders of the former “security” excuses for their present policies and by affording them a slight foretaste of the better life their nation can lead if it follows more decent policies.

As the risk of war has diminished, so have become downgraded the security reasons which are the pretext for the Russians holding on to East Germany and maintaining a tight rule over the satellite countries. Also, we believe that the relaxing of tension resulting from Geneva should bring the Soviet-ruled people to expect, and to receive, consumer goods representing a much higher percentage of the product of their labor.


It will be the policy of the United States in coming months to emphasize these aspects of Geneva and, particularly at the October Conference of Foreign Ministers, to test the willingness of the Soviet leaders to move toward the unification of Germany and the elimination of barriers which now serve to deprive the Soviet bloc countries of normal contacts with the outside world. Both of these matters will be on the agenda of the Foreign Ministers Conference.

Also, both at the Foreign Ministers Meeting and at the United Nations, we shall press for such reciprocal inspection procedures as will greatly reduce the risk of surprise attack and lay the basis for ending the build-up of armaments. We regard the President’s proposal [Page 554] for aerial inspection as not merely imaginative but thoroughly realistic.

We shall also watch closely for signs of evolution in the satellites toward greater independence. Both the President and the Secretary of State at Geneva told Bulganin and Khrushchev that the satellite states would be watched as a barometer of Soviet real intentions. We shall also observe closely the activities of International Communism to see whether the tempo is reduced.

We shall seek to bring the Soviet leadership to the realization that our government and people will expect some developments along these lines, and that their failure to occur will inevitably undermine the atmosphere generated at Geneva and lead to revival of the old state of distrust and tension.

We believe that the Soviet leaders will not want this reversion and that they will pay some appreciable price to avoid it. Just how much they will pay or how soon they will pay it, remains to be seen. The October Foreign Ministers Conference will provide one significant opportunity to gain insight as to this.
In sum, we do not consider that relaxation of tension and a more peaceful atmosphere permit us either to scrap programs for individual and collective self-defense, or to tolerate covert aggression and to sanctify the injustices of the status quo. Rather the spirit of Geneva means an opportunity for peaceful change which will dispel fear and remedy injustices. Therefore, if the atmosphere of Geneva is perverted by the Soviet leaders either into a cover for covert aggression or into an excuse for perpetuating present injustices, then that atmosphere cannot continue.
We believe that the initiative for peace, security and justice, which was seized by the Western Powers at Geneva in July, particularly by President Eisenhower, can be and should be maintained by resourcefully implementing the broad policy here outlined.
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 396.1–GE/8–1755. Confidential. No drafting information is given on the source text. According to a memorandum of conversation by Dulles, dated August 15, this paper grew out of a meeting with Streibert and Allen Dulles at which the Secretary expounded his views on the significance of Geneva and post-Geneva policy. (Eisenhower Library, Dulles Papers, Meetings with the President) It was discussed and approved by the President on August 15 and sent to all U.S. posts and to interested agencies within the U.S. Government on the same day.
  2. For text of Prime Minister Churchill’s proposal, made to the House of Commons, May 11, 1953, see H.C. Debs., 5th series, vol. 515, cols. 883–898.
  3. This memorandum listed nine goals which the Soviet Union would try to achieve at the Summit Conference. (Eisenhower Library, Dulles Papers, International File)