39. National Intelligence Estimate1

NIE 100–7–55



The focus of this estimate is primarily on prospective trends in the global power struggle between the Bloc and the Free World over the next several years. Any such global projection is necessarily highly speculative. Among other things it cannot, as an intelligence estimate, take full account of US policies, which will have a great impact and will doubtless be altered somewhat if only in response to such trends as those projected herein.


I. The Current World Situation

The salient feature of the present global situation is a change in the character of the East-West conflict. Three factors appear to have brought about this change: the growing number and destructiveness of nuclear weapons, the growth of Western strength and unity in response to the postwar Communist threat, and (at least partly as a result) the subsequent shift in Bloc tactics. The change in the external manifestations of Bloc behavior has been extensive, but the activities of the international Soviet network of subversion and espionage continue at a high level, the USSR has made no major concessions of substance, and we see no evidence of any alteration in basic Soviet objectives.
In the immediate postwar period the Kremlim aimed at capitalizing on the war-weariness of the non-Communist world to consolidate and expand Communist influence and power. To this end, the USSR generally showed itself under Stalin’s leadership uncompromising in negotiation, abusive in propaganda, and aggressive in action. It was soon joined by Communist China. Eventually, however, the Soviet and Chinese conduct brought forth a vigorous Western reaction, developed under US leadership. Full mobilization of Free World counterstrength was precluded by wide variations among Free World [Page 132]countries in the degree of their concern over the Communist threat, and by their preoccupation with internal problems, colonial issues, or other disputes. Nevertheless, there was an increasing tendency toward division of the world into two armed and hostile camps.
The Shift In Soviet Policy. The increase in Free World will and ability to resist led to narrowing of opportunities for Bloc expansionism and a growing risk that local military aggression would lead to general war, which the Soviet leaders apparently desired to avoid. Faced with a world situation increasingly inhospitable to their aims, the Soviet leaders began to seek a way to restore their maneuverability short of the alternative extremes of war or of accommodation at unacceptable cost. Especially since early 1955, these leaders have become less openly belligerent in their attitudes and have made a series of conciliatory gestures. They ceased the USSR’s long standing procrastination on an Austrian peace treaty, indicated apparent willingness to accept some important aspects of the Western position on disarmament, reduced the hostility of their propaganda, and substantially increased Soviet contacts with the West. The USSR at the “Summit” Conference2 and since has sought more or less consistently to convince the Free World that is is possible to establish conditions of “mutual trust.”
A complex of factors probably shaped the new Soviet policy. The immediate impetus was probably supplied by the prospective rearmament of West Germany, which appeared to be finally confirmed by the ratification of the Paris Accords in February 1955. However, influencing in a more general way all Soviet policy considerations must be a realization of the destructive power of nuclear weapons and the fact that at present US nuclear capabilities greatly exceed those of the USSR. At least as long as this gap exists the Soviet leaders will almost certainly wish to minimize the risks of general war. Also in the background of Soviet policy-making may be the mounting economic burden of the military establishment, especially manifest in the increasing costs of new weapons systems. Further large annual increases in military expenditures would in time force the USSR to pay a price in reduction of the high rate of economic growth which has always been a basic Soviet aim. The Soviet leaders may believe that a period of relaxed international tensions would permit spreading the increasing cost of their military establishment over a longer period of time.
The death of Stalin was probably also a factor since it allowed his successors to exercise greater flexibility. The collective nature of the new leadership probably made it more responsive to the variety of [Page 133]pressures pointing toward a new policy. Finally, the new Soviet leaders probably concluded that a reduction in international tensions, if achieved, would promote the opening of rifts in the Western coalition, bring about a decline in the Western defense effort, and thus offer profitable new opportunities for Communist political action.3
But while the USSR clearly desires a less tense relationship with the Western Powers, it apparently seeks to achieve this on the basis of the territorial status quo, at least in Europe, and without any settlements which would impair the Soviet power position. The Soviet leaders have been intransigeant on Germany, and have rejected even discussion of the status of the European Satellites or of international Communism. The Free and Communist Worlds are still far apart on main issues, except possibly on some phases of the disarmament questions.
Communist China has adopted a course generally similar to that of the USSR. At the Bandung Conference4 Peiping stepped up its policy of wooing its fellow Asian states. While steadily reinforcing its military threat in the Taiwan Strait area and firmly reiterating its claims to Taiwan, Peiping also apparently believes that for the present it is necessary to move toward its objectives by political action.
Meanwhile, Peiping and Moscow are turning to a new cold war offensive, involving for the first time the use of military and economic aid to non-Communist countries. Particularly notable is their new emphasis on the highly vulnerable areas of South Asia and the Middle East. The Bloc is offering expanded trade and economic and technical assistance, often on highly favorable terms, to a numbers of countries. Most recently it has made arms available to Egypt and is offering them to Syria and Saudi Arabia as well as to Austria and Finland.
The Free World Reaction. The Free World’s reaction to the shift in Bloc policy must be considered against the background of growing concern over the devastating consequences of all-out nuclear war. The most important effect of growing nuclear capabilities is to diminish the willingness of most governments and peoples to incur risks of war. This has led in turn to growing public pressures for a reduction of cold war tensions, for negotiations toward East-West settlements, and for some form of disarmament.
Against this background the shift in Bloc conduct has already had a marked impact on the non-Communist world. It has inspired widespread belief that the likelihood of general war has lessened, and hope that a lasting East-West détente can be arranged. This atmosphere has also reduced the incentive for Free World countries to submerge [Page 134]their differences in the face of a common threat; such disputes as that over Cyprus have taken on extra intensity. Throughout the Free World, there is greater willingness to accept Soviet offers of trade and aid and to normalize relations with the Bloc. Austria has accepted a policy of neutrality, and Yugoslavia has opted for a flexible “middle position” between East and West. Egypt and other Arab states are receptive to Bloc arms aid, which aggravates the explosive Arab-Israeli situation.
Meanwhile nationalist agitation in the remaining colonial areas continues to create frictions between the European powers and their former dependencies in Asia, and even among the Western Powers themselves. [1 sentence (22 words) not declassified]

II. Trends in the Balance of Military and Economic Power

The coming period will almost certainly be characterized by a continuing build-up of Bloc economic strength and, except possibly in the event of effective arms limitations, of Bloc military capabilities. There is no indication that the USSR and Communist China are likely to abandon their objective of rapidly narrowing the gaps between their own and Western power. Though the economies of the Western countries remain subject to considerable fluctuation, they at present appear likely to continue a high level of activity. But whether the West would be willing to maintain prudent military strength in the event of a protracted reduction of tensions is uncertain.
Trends in Military Balance of Power. Although the USSR already has substantial nuclear warfare capabilities, it is unlikely at least until mid-1958 to acquire such capabilities sufficient either to neutralize US retaliatory power or to inflict decisive damage on the US. During this time, therefore, the US will retain a substantial advantage over the USSR in nuclear warfare capabilities.
However, Soviet delivery capabilities are growing steadily, the size and flexibility of the Soviet weapons stockpile are increasing, and the USSR probably will begin acquiring multi-megaton weapons during the next few years. The USSR also appears to be broadening its strategic concepts to give greater emphasis to the twin factors of surprise and long-range nuclear attack and to be adapting its forces in this direction. At some time after mid-1958, the USSR will almost certainly have acquired a greatly increased capability for nuclear warfare against the US and the relative advantage of the US in this respect will have greatly decreased. Moreover, Soviet capabilities in guided missiles are believed to be growing rapidly. For example, at some time during the 1960–1965 period the USSR (as well as the US) probably will acquire militarily significant quantities of intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Thus a situation is approaching in which a total war involving use by both sides of available nuclear weapons could bring about such extensive destruction as to threaten the survival of both Western civilization and the Soviet system. This might result in a condition of mutual deterrence, in which each side would be strongly inhibited from deliberately initiating general war or taking actions which it regarded as materially increasing the risk of general war. However, general war would remain a possibility, if only because of the element of miscalculation by either side. Local wars might become more likely than at present, since the USSR’s growing nuclear capabilities might lead it to calculate that increasing US and allied unwillingness to initiate nuclear war would permit Soviet local aggression without substantial risk of general war.
General war would also be a possibility in the event that the USSR, either because of an unexpected technological breakthrough or for other reasons, came to believe it could destroy the US without effective retaliation. In an era of rapid technological development it is always possible that a condition of nuclear stalemate may prove transitory. Much may depend upon which side can acquire or maintain technological superiority, in turn largely a function of the application of trained scientific and technical manpower. Though the present scientific assets of the USSR are less than those of the US (and those of the Bloc as a whole far smaller than those of the West), the USSR almost certainly is increasing its scientific assets more rapidly than is the US.
Although the USSR is rapidly developing its nuclear striking power it and the Bloc as a whole are also making major efforts to re-equip and reorganize their conventional forces. The Bloc may somewhat reduce the over-all personnel strength of its forces, but these forces are being intensively modernized and their capabilities are steadily improving. In the Far East, Communist China is rapidly developing formidable military strength, though it remains substantially dependent on the USSR for equipment and logistic support.
The Western coalition retains a potential for further substantial increase in its military strength. However, the realization of this potential depends upon Western will to do so, a will which even now does not appear to be strong, and which would probably decline markedly in a period of reduced tensions.
Trends in Comparative Economic Strength. The USSR gives every sign of continuing its intensive economic expansion, notably in heavy industry. The Soviet economy still faces numerous problems, particularly in the fields of agriculture, industrial productivity, and allocation of manpower. Over the long run the rate of economic growth will depend partly on the scale of military effort the USSR decides to support. The previous rapid rate of Soviet economic growth [Page 136]will continue to decline; nevertheless, this rate is likely to remain substantially higher than that of the US. In broad terms we estimate that Soviet GNP (in 1954 little over one-third that of the US) will increase by 1965 to somewhat under half that of the US. But the US economy will probably continue to draw ahead in absolute terms, the gap in GNP increasing from an estimated $228 billion in 1954 to around $294 billion in 1965. On the other hand, the USSR will probably continue to devote a much higher proportion of its resources to investment and military use than will the US. Because of the increasing importance of forces-in-being in an age of nuclear weapons, economic and industrial strength is becoming a less dependable measure of national military power than in past years.

III. Trends in Bloc Stability, Cohesion, and Policies

Trends in Bloc Stability and Cohesion

Over the next several years at least it seems unlikely that the nature of the Soviet political system will significantly change or the stability of the regime be seriously weakened. Maneuvering for power among the present collective leadership will probably continue but it is likely to be confined to the small group at the top and not to result in open violence involving the police or armed forces. Despite the continued existence of major problems such as those in agriculture, and possible future requirements for increases in consumer goods, we see little likelihood of any early development of internal pressures so great as to compel a basic alteration of Soviet policies. Soviet efforts to reduce international tensions appear to have been received with relief and approval by the Soviet people.
In the European Satellites the post-Stalin leadership is attempting to modify the more obvious manifestations of Soviet control, and may proceed further on this course. However, the USSR almost certainly will not abandon its hold over the Satellites, nor is it likely that any upsurge of Satellite nationalism will seriously shake this hold. The Satellite regimes share a common interest with Moscow in maintaining tight Communist control over populations which are still basically hostile. A prolonged reduction of tensions would accelerate the already evident decline of popular hope for liberation, and hasten the process of adjustment to Communist rule.
Though the Peiping regime faces internal problems much greater than those of the USSR, its control over the people is becoming increasingly firm. Meanwhile Communist China’s prestige and influence within and outside the Bloc are growing, and the USSR will remain careful to treat it as a partner. Latent conflicts of interest between the two powers may eventually come to the fore, but ideological ties, China’s need for industrial and military aid, the USSR’s interest [Page 137]in a strong Communist power base in the Far East, common fear of US power, and common interest in the extension of Communist power will probably continue to dictate a close alliance for some years to come.

Major Trends in Soviet and Chinese Communist Policy

Despite the pronounced change in Soviet tactics, we see no indication that the USSR has given up its long-range aim of achieving a Communist-dominated world. Indeed the new Soviet leaders exhibit an air of confidence in their growing economic and military strength and in the ultimate victory of Communism. What they apparently have decided is that the existing world situation requires a shift from their previous line if they are to make progress toward their ultimate aims. Thus the East-West conflict is merely shifting from a phase marked by direct Bloc threats and pressures to one marked by increasing emphasis on less obvious forms of Communist political warfare.
The Soviet policy of seeking a general easing of cold war tensions seems pointed toward three main objectives: (a) reducing the threat of nuclear conflict arising from continued tensions, particularly during the period of Soviet nuclear inferiority; (b) gaining time to continue the USSR’s military build-up and to deal with its economic problems; and (c) opening new opportunities for undermining Western strength and extending Communist penetration of the Free World. In attempting to undermine Western strength the USSR will concentrate on neutralizing US nuclear power, inducing a reduction in Free World military forces, isolating the US, and bringing about its withdrawal from Western Europe and from bases around the Bloc. Integral to this objective is the aim of postponing and minimizing the rearmament of West Germany and Japan and if possible weaning away such potentially powerful US allies.
Communist China will find it difficult to adopt as flexible and amicable a pose as has the USSR. It is still dominated by unrealized territorial claims, revolutionary fervor, and strong nationalism and anti-Westernism. Nevertheless, for some time it probably will also see advantages in conforming to over-all Soviet policy. Among such advantages would be a relaxation of East-West trade controls and a greater likelihood of achieving UN membership. Peiping appears increasingly disposed to concentrate on creation of a strong Communist power center. It will probably attempt, through subversive penetration and diplomatic negotiation, to weaken hostile power on its periphery and to create new opportunities for expanding its influence without risking a military showdown with the US. Peiping remains determined to eliminate the Nationalist government as unfinished business of the revolution.
Likelihood of Peripheral Aggression and Subversion. At least so long as the USSR suffers a marked inferiority in nuclear capabilities, neither Peiping nor Moscow is likely to undertake or sponsor any local aggression which in their judgment would involve appreciable risk of general war. If the weakness of non-Communist positions in Indochina, Taiwan, or other areas appeared to offer opportunities which they estimated would involve minimal risks of effective counteraction and which could be localized, they might instigate or undertake local aggression. But as long as they pursue their present policy they would carefully weigh whether such a move would vitiate their over-all attempts at reducing tensions.
Tactics for Undermining Western Strength. Far more likely than overt military aggression are continued Communist efforts at penetration and subversion in vulnerable areas, designed to create eventual “revolutions” from within. However, except possibly in Southeast Asia, the more overt forms of subversion are likely to be soft-pedalled, at least in the short run, in favor of subtler forms of political action such as efforts to entice non-Communist parties into popular fronts, to promote neutralist policies, and in general to substitute Bloc for Western influence.
At the same time the USSR and Communist China will probably re-emphasize their desire to negotiate, but they are unlikely to make any major concessions on key issues such as Taiwan or Germany. Nevertheless, they may demonstrate considerable flexibility in other fields. It is possible, for example, that the Bloc might make various arms reductions or undertake additional or even complete withdrawals of nonindigenous Communist forces from areas like North Korea or even from some areas in Europe, if they estimated they could thereby create pressures for substantial Western concessions in return.
In Europe, the short-term Soviet aim appears to be a general détente based on the status quo, which would legitimize all the Satellite regimes, including that of East Germany. The USSR appears determined not to accept German reunification unless the European situation is so altered as to insure that a reunited Germany would not become a partner of the West. Meanwhile, by creating an atmosphere in which further rearmament may appear unnecessary and by advancing their all-European security proposals, the Soviet leaders aim to undermine NATO and bring about a withdrawal of US forces from Europe.
In the Middle and Far East the Communists will step up their current campaign against Western efforts to build defensive strength and alliances. They will seek to play on nationalist and anticolonial sentiments and to encourage divisive conflicts. By further offers of increased trade and of economic and military assistance, Moscow and [Page 139]Peiping will take advantage of the demands of the underdeveloped countries for external aid. Their aims will be to promote neutralism, undermine Western influence, and create subversive assets.
Soviet Policy toward Disarmament. At present the USSR probably hopes to obtain some form of arms limitation which would greatly reduce the risk of surprise nuclear attack and all-out nuclear warfare. Such a development would minimize the gravest threat to Soviet security while leaving the USSR in a position to pursue its long-range aims by political action, or even to resume overt expansionism, without incurring unacceptable nuclear risks. The USSR may also desire some lessening of its present arms burdens in order to permit greater allocation of resources to agricultural and other economic uses.
Therefore, the USSR probably aims to commit the West to fixed levels of reduced armament and to limit Western freedom to employ nuclear weapons, but without agreeing to unrestricted inspection. To achieve these gains, the Soviet leaders will probably be willing to agree to similar restrictions, and to accept some limited form of inspection. Meanwhile, the USSR will hope, through agitation of the disarmament issue, to divide Western opinion, to encourage a relaxation of military effort in the West, and to induce a withdrawal of US forces from overseas areas.
Probable Duration of Current Phase of Soviet Policy. Although Soviet policy has shown itself capable of sudden reversal, which could again occur if the present policy failed to achieve its expected results or led to developments prejudicial to Soviet interests, our assessment of Soviet motivations leads us to believe that the Soviet leaders intend to persist in their present course for some time. The care which they have taken to publicize it within the USSR, thus encouraging popular expectations of relaxed international tensions, also suggests that they do not intend to abandon this new tactic in the near future. The new line of Soviet policy does not, of course, rule out the occurrence of various Communist-incited crises and disturbances in the world, which may even lead to appreciable losses in Western positions. We believe, however, that the Bloc will take care that no one of these is of such magnitude or importance as to return the world to conditions of tension comparable to those existing in the years around 1950.
The Soviet leaders may nevertheless regard the present phase as only an interim one, to be used to narrow the gap between their own and US nuclear capabilities and to soften up the Free World. Once they had achieved an adequate nuclear capability and possibly created new revolutionary opportunities, or if it became evident that their policy was not producing substantial successes, they might again adopt a more aggressive policy, believing that in any resulting crisis [Page 140]they could outbluff the West. However, such a reversion would depend in great measure on the Bloc’s estimate of Free World will and deterrent strength.
Provided that the US and its allies maintain adequte deterrent strength, it remains unlikely that the Bloc would deliberately initiate general nuclear war or local aggression seriously risking this outcome. Even if the USSR vastly increased its nuclear capabilities, barring a technological breakthrough it still could not be confident that even a maximum surprise attack would prevent retaliatory devastation of the USSR. The Soviet leaders may be coming to feel that nuclear war in an age of super-weapons involves unacceptable risks and that therefore they must pursue their ultimate objectives by means which minimize the danger of nuclear war.
An extended period of reduced international tensions and wider East-West contacts would present problems for the Bloc as well as the West. The relaxation of harsh police controls may be difficult to reverse, and the promise of higher standards of living may be difficult to abandon. If a change in Soviet foreign policy required reversion to a policy of sacrifices enforced by drastic controls, internal discontent would result, although it could almost certainly be kept in check.
However, a relaxation of domestic controls and of the atmosphere of hostility in East-West relations could, if continued over the much longer run, combine with other factors to create real problems for the leaders in the Kremlin. There are signs that industrialization, urbanization, and the system of mass education have produced a bureaucratic and managerial group which might become increasingly devoted to the preservation of its privileges and vested interests and less willing to risk these to advance the cause of world Communism. If current Soviet policy is not reversed it is conceivable that such developments might reach significant proportions over a very long period and might ultimately create pressures for change within the Bloc, particularly in the event that the actions of the Free World prevent Communist victories. Of course if the hard Communist core in the Kremlin foresaw that such developments would threaten their control, they would probably attempt to reverse the trend by force and repression. 5
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IV Prospective Trends in the Free World

So long as the Bloc maintains its present course, a period of apparent stabilization in Bloc–Free World relations will probably exist. It will be marked by reduced fears of Bloc military aggression in the context of prolonged East-West negotiations and of increased diplomatic, economic, and cultural contacts. To most of the nations of the Free World, the course of international events will seem to be dominated less than before by action and counteraction in an East-West struggle. They will therefore feel more free to concentrate on internal problems and on pursuit of their separate national interests.
While a less strained international atmosphere would reduce the sense of commom danger which has bound many Free World countries, it might also facilitate greater economic and social progress in many areas, as countries tend to concentrate more on these matters. Increased international trade would probably develop. If the Free World should be thus strengthened, and if the Free World maintained adequate military strength, Bloc opportunities for subversive or expansionist gain would probably be narrowed.
But there is also grave danger that the Bloc’s new policy, together with the increasing recognition of the consequences of nuclear war, will create an even more serious threat to the Free World than did Stalin’s aggressive postwar policies. The US and its allies probably now are confronted by a period of less obvious hostility, harder to identify as such or to meet by such means as deterrent forces or military alliances. While critical threats will still exist in such vulnerable areas as the Taiwan Strait and Indochina, the new phase of the East-West conflict—provided it lasts for any period—may be characterized more by gradual erosion of Free World positions than by acute crises. Adjustment to this new situation is likely to present serious problems to the West.
The Bloc will not be able easily to overcome all the fear and suspicion created by its past actions. Cautious attitudes on the part of many Free World governments will continue and Bloc intransigeance on major issues would diminish somewhat the impact of its studied amicability. Nonetheless, the new Bloc behavior will accentuate already evident Free World tendencies to make concessions in order to arrive at acceptable settlements with the Bloc. For example, strong support already exists for a shift in Western policies toward Communist China. Very strong pressures are also developing for greatly expanded East-West trade, even in presently controlled items.
The continued growth of Bloc and Western nuclear capabilities will further stimulate tendencies toward accommodation in non-Communist countries. This factor will be especially important in Western [Page 142]Europe and Japan. Even wide recognition that the US will for a few years retain a significant nuclear advantage over the USSR will not overcome these tendencies.
There is likely to be strong popular pressure upon the governments of non-Communist countries for an agreed reduction in armaments, particularly to reduce the risk of nuclear war. However, the allies of the US will probably be cautious about urging any arms limitations which would neutralize US nuclear deterrent power without full guarantees of comparable restrictions on Soviet power.

Trends in the Western Alliances

Great difficulty will be encountered in maintaining military deterrent strength and in preserving the cohesion of the Western alliance systems. If the threat of Bloc aggression appears to diminish some loosening of these alliances seems inevitable; in any event their further extension will prove exceedingly difficult. European NATO force levels probably will decline; West German rearmament (likely to be even slower than now planned) will probably be insufficient to compensate for lower arms outlays in other countries, for the probable continued diversion of French forces to North Africa, and for the lack of cohesion in the Balkan alliance. Greater strains will probably develop among some allied countries. Far East issues will almost certainly create further frictions, expecially as crises recur in the Far East where the interests of the European NATO allies are becoming less engaged. Further intra-NATO strains will probably also develop over divisive issues such as Cyprus, the Saar, and North Africa.
Nevertheless, we do not foresee any developments over the next several years which will cause the disintegration of NATO. The interest of the European members in US economic and security commitments will almost certainly dictate NATO’s preservation. We do not believe that even the advent of nuclear plenty would lead most allies of the US, especially the major ones, to abandon their alliances, particularly since they recognize the vital importance of being under the umbrella of US deterrent power. However, in event of a major crisis involving imminent danger of nuclear war, the internal strains which most NATO members would experience make it impossible to predict their behavior.
Another major threat to the NATO structure may in time develop from increasing West German restiveness over reunification. The present government is firmly attached to NATO and, in the short term at least, security preoccupations will remain an overriding bar to any German deal with the USSR. But if reduced tensions continued for a long time and the West Germans came to believe that the Soviet [Page 143]threat to their security had materially lessened, mounting frustration might lead them to seek reunification at the price of abandoning NATO.
Japan, because of its security and economic needs, will probably remain basically aligned with the US. But it will assert progressively greater independence of the US, while normalizing relations with the Bloc. Japan’s serious political and economic problems make it unlikely that it will develop sufficient power and prestige over the next decade to play a major role as a leader of the non-Communist Far East, though its contribution to Free World power in this area should gradually increase.

Trends in the Uncommitted and Underdeveloped Areas

In a situation of reduced tensions, the problems created by the emergence in the Middle East, Far East, and in Africa of a growing number of underdeveloped and, in many cases, uncommitted countries will assume increasing prominence. Western colonial rule is rapidly disappearing in Asia, and a similar development is already accelerating in Africa; in both areas rising nationalist pressures will continue to weaken remaining European rule. The hallmark of all the emergent nations is a determination to be free of undue foreign influence coupled with an often conflicting desire to create strong modern states. To the extent that they see a reduced threat to them from Communist expansionism, their existing tendencies toward neutralism will be reinforced. At the same time, they require and are actively seeking outside aid in their development. Western failure at least partially to meet their demands may make them increasingly receptive to offers of Bloc aid. Similarly, Western failure to recognize and adjust to the anticolonial and in some cases racial sentiments in these areas would stimulate existing antagonisms.
Meanwhile the political instability and economic backwardness of the less developed countries of Asia and Africa will continue to be a major source of weakness in the Free World. Those in peripheral areas under the shadow of Communist power remain vulnerable to direct Communist pressures and intervention, as in most of mainland Southeast Asia. South Vietnam and Laos in particular, though they are making slow progress toward viability, are still critically weak and face such a serious internal and external subversive threat as to make their position extremely precarious.
The situation in the Middle East and South Asia makes these areas dangerously susceptible to Bloc exploitation, particularly to the Bloc’s new campaign of declared peaceful intent, broadened relations, and offers of arms and of expanded trade and aid. The existence of such disputes as the Arab-Israeli conflict and the differences between [Page 144]India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan facilitate Soviet efforts to disturb area stability and substitute its own for Western influence. Many of these countries will be willing to play off the Bloc against the West.
In these areas the “battle of ideas” for influencing the attitudes and allegiance of potential leadership groups will also prove increasingly important. The current Bloc effort to establish its international respectability will help open new lines of communication to these groups, particularly those on which the Communists concentrate, the intelligentsia and the youth.
But the situation in the underdeveloped and largely uncommitted areas will present opportunities as well as risks for the West. In the contest between the Bloc and the West for influence in the areas, the West has great assets. Its capacity for economic and technical aid is far greater than that of the Bloc. In view of the way in which the prospective peaceful uses of atomic energy have caught the world’s imagination, US policies in this field will be of great importance. Moreover, the force of emergent nationalism in Asia and Africa, which has initially manifested itself in anticolonial sentiment and in conflicts with certain of the Western Powers, may prove in time to be an increasing counterforce to Communist penetration. In addition, conflicts of interest like those which potentially exist between India and Communist China may become a considerable force on the Western side. The speed of industrialization and of improvement in living standards achieved respectively in India and in Communist China may come to be regarded in some Asian countries as a test of whether totalitarian or non-totalitarian methods are best suited for pursuing their own economic growth.

General Trends

One of the most dangerous political trends over the next several years will probably be a futher blurring of the lines which have divided the Communist and non-Communist worlds. Many Free World countries embarked on a policy of defensive alliances less because of ideological convictions than because of the danger of general war or Bloc local aggression. The apparent abatement of this danger, if the Bloc persists in a convincing demonstration of peaceful intent, may result in increasing neutralism and a trend toward a greater number of uncommitted states.
These trends will be reflected in the United Nations, which may increase in importance as a forum for attempts to reconcile diverse interests in a period of decreased emphasis on East-West conflict. The US is already becoming less able to count on strong UN majorities for positions which it wishes to espouse; the Latin American countries, for example, may take more independent positions.
A trend may also emerge toward new groupings independent of both the West and the USSR. Afro-Asian ties will assume increasing importance, though the loose Afro-Asian group in the UN seems too diverse to serve as a base for anything other than advancement of certain common interests, particularly on colonial issues. Though India will remain preoccupied with a host of pressing internal problems, its international influence will probably continue to grow and it may serve as the focus for a loosely coordinated group of nations.
If the Bloc is heavy-handed in its policies, engages in patently subversive efforts, or reverts to local aggression, the impact of its present line would be offset and many non-Communist states again alienated. On the other hand, if the Bloc maintains an ostensibly peaceful posture over an extended period, the opportunities for the extension of Communist influence may be greatly improved. Local Communist parties may be more able to obscure their objectives and their international affiliations and to play an ostensibly normal role in the political life of Free World nations. Real danger would exist that piecemeal Communist “peaceful gains” in various areas would not be recognized as threatening, and Free World opposition to such moves might become greatly weakened.
  1. Source: Department of State, INRNIE Files. Top Secret. According to a note on the cover sheet: “The following intelligence organizations participated in the preparation of this estimate: The Central Intelligence Agency and the intelligence organizations of the Departments of State, the Army, the Navy, the Air Force and The Joint Staff. Concurred in by the Intelligence Advisory Committee on 1 November 1955.” The Assistant Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation, abstained, because the subject was outside FBI jurisdiction.
  2. Reference is to the Meeting of the Heads of Government of the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and the Soviet Union held at Geneva, July 18–23. See vol. v, pp. 119 ff.
  3. [Footnote in the source text not declassified]
  4. Reference is to the Afro-Asian Conference held at Bandung, April 18–24. See vol. XXI, pp. 81 ff.
  5. The Deputy Director for Intelligence, The Joint Staff and The Assistant Chief of Staff, G–2, Department of the Army, while agreeing generally that these developments are conceivable over the much longer run, would nevertheless omit this paragraph. Viewed in the light of an absence of evidence and of this very long term as a hypothesis, the paragraph is not relevant to the world situation as it now exists or as it will confront the US over the next several years. [Footnote in the source text.]