354. Memorandum of the Discussion at the 265th Meeting of the National Security Council, Washington, November 10, 19551

[Here follow a list of participants and discussion of item 1 on an unrelated matter.]

2. Significant World Developments Affecting U.S. Security

Secretary Hoover said that the National Security Council would undoubtedly be interested in an exchange of communications between the President and the Secretary of State with respect to developments at the Geneva Foreign Ministers Conference. Secretary Dulles had addressed a message to the President on November 82 after Molotov’s devastating speech rejecting the Western proposals for German reunification and European security. Secretary Dulles had informed the President that Molotov’s speech was utterly cynical and constituted a flagrant breach of the agreements on this subject reached at the Heads-of-Government Conference at Geneva last July. Moreover, in view of Molotov’s stand on this agenda item, Secretary Dulles had expressed grave doubts whether significant progress could be achieved on the other agenda items. In his reply to Secretary Dulles,3 the President said that he believed that the Soviets were engaged in actions of complete duplicity, and expressed complete confidence in the position which Secretary Dulles was taking at Geneva. Secretary Hoover added that he had seen the President yesterday and had reported to Secretary Dulles what the President had said to him at this time.4 Among the points the President made was one to the [Page 748] effect that the Soviets obviously regarded East Germany as the key to their entire satellite structure. Furthermore, the President had said that while we could not trust the Soviets, on the other hand we must not say that we are through and walk out on the Conference.

Secretary Hoover concluded with a brief outline of Secretary Dulles’ reply5 to the President’s message of confidence, but expressed his pessimism on the likelihood of any additional progress on the remaining two agenda items. Secretary Hoover added that while the planes which were to bring the U.S. Delegation home had originally been scheduled to come to Geneva on Saturday, they were now scheduled to arrive on Wednesday of next week.

The Vice President asked Secretary Wilson if he had any impressions of the Foreign Ministers Conference which he would like to outline at this time. Secretary Wilson said that the most encouraging feature observed by him while at Geneva was the remarkable teamwork of the three Western Foreign Ministers. He added that it was personally very clear to him that the Western proposals to the Soviet Union on German reunification and European security were of such a nature that the Soviets could not afford to buy them from their own point of view.

The Vice President commented that if the present Geneva Foreign Ministers Conference proved to be a “bust”, public opinion in the United States, and hopefully elsewhere in the world, was going to have a pretty good idea of which power was responsible for the bust.

The Director of Central Intelligence said he would like to draw attention to a historical parallel to the statement of Molotov finally rejecting the Western proposals for German reunification. If one harked back to the early days of the Marshall Plan, one would recall that Molotov made a devastating statement designed to prevent the cooperation in the Marshall Plan of any of the Soviet Bloc countries. If one compares this earlier statement with the tone and temper of Molotov’s statement yesterday, it becomes clear that in each case the underlying problem was the same. In short, the Soviet Union dared not take any course of action which threatened its hold on its satellites.

Secretary Wilson wondered if Molotov was going to be made the goat for the Russian failure at Geneva. Mr. Allen Dulles said that in any case he believed that the Russians now regarded Molotov as expendable.

Mr. Dulles then said he wished to refer to the most recent nuclear test in the Soviet Union. On November 6 a large nuclear air-burst explosion had occurred. Its precise location was still being [Page 749] checked, but preliminary indications suggested that it had occurred in an area considerably to the east of the regular Soviet atomic proving ground at Semi-Palatinsk. While by no means all the evidence was in, the explosion was judged to be quite large, 500 KT or larger. There was no sure evidence as yet as to whether or not it was a thermonuclear explosion, but it appeared to be the second largest bomb exploded by the Soviets. If agreeable to the Council, it was proposed to have Admiral Strauss make a brief announcement this evening.

Secretary Hoover said that the proposed announcement had been cleared with Secretary Dulles, but the latter had desired to be sure that the British received 24 hours advance notice of the fact that the U.S. was making this announcement. Admiral Strauss said that such advance notice had been provided to the British, and that they had agreed to the announcement.

Mr. Dulles went on to point out that because of the peculiarities of the location in which the explosion seems to have occurred—namely, in wild and inaccessible country—it was possible that the explosion indicated some kind of guided missile. It was too early to be sure.

The National Security Council:

Noted and discussed oral reports by the Acting Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense on developments with respect to the Foreign Ministers meeting at Geneva, and the Near East.
Noted and discussed an oral briefing by the Director of Central Intelligence on the subject, with specific reference to Molotov’s most recent speech at Geneva with respect to German reunification and European security; a new Soviet nuclear test; and the Philippine elections.

[Here follows discussion of items 3 and 4, Berlin and atomic energy.]

S. Everett Gleason
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records. Top Secret. Drafted on November 11.
  2. See Document 342.
  3. See Document 343.
  4. Hoover transmitted the following report to Dulles in Tedul 73 to Geneva, November 10:

    “The President said he was very greatly depressed by Molotov’s performance of yesterday. I suggested that in the past they had often acted tough and then, when the airplanes were waiting, had softened up a bit. He agreed, saying ‘you can’t trust them when they are talking nice and you can’t trust them when they are talking tough’. He made the point that, based on Molotov’s speech alone, we should be careful not to say ‘We are through’ and walk out.

    “I pointed out that obviously the Soviet concern must to a great extent involve the reactions of the German people, and a desire to impress them with the idea that the Western powers could be of no help in gaining reunification. The President agreed and felt further that ‘if East Germany gets independence as a free nation the pull on the other satellites would be tremendous. The Soviets regard East Germany as the keystone of their satellite army.’

    “The President several times expressed admiration of and complete confidence in your handling of the conference.” (Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 60 D 627, CF 620)

  5. Supra.