34. Memorandum of Discussion at the 250th Meeting of the National Security Council, Washington, May 26, 19551

[Here follow a paragraph listing the participants at the meeting and agenda items 1–3.]

4. U.S. Policy on Control of Armaments (NSC 112; NSC Actions Nos. 899, 1106, 1162, 1256 and 1328; “Progress Report on Proposed Policy of the United States on the Question of Disarmament”, dated May 26, 1955, from the Special Assistant to the President on Disarmament)2

Mr. Anderson, in introducing this item, recalled to mind the efforts the United States had made since World War II in seeking agreement on a workable plan for control and regulation of armaments which would be consistent with U.S. security. He referred to the role of the Council in studying this problem during the past two years and to the President’s decision, following the last consideration by the Council of this subject on February 10, 1955, to appoint Governor Stassen as his special representative to conduct a further review of U.S. policy on control of armaments. Mr. Anderson then introduced Governor Stassen.

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Following the presentation by Governor Stassen and members of his staff of the progress report on U.S. policy on control of armaments, Governor Stassen asked if the members of the Council had any comments to make or questions to raise.

The President opened the discussion by commending Governor Stassen and his staff for their very effective presentation. He indicated that he was in substantial agreement with the manner in which the report had emphasized that there was little chance of eliminating the danger we faced through attempting to reach agreement on the elimination or ban on the use of nuclear and thermonuclear weapons. The President went on to say, however, that he felt the presentation had perhaps not given sufficient attention to the development, as part of the plan, of ways to control means and systems of delivery, such as planes, submarines, and intercontinental missiles. He felt that clear agreements on this type of controls would be a very important supplementary part of any agreement. He went on to say that an international control commission should have the right not only to investigate the sites where nuclear devices were stored or produced, but also to investigate the related means by which they could be delivered. As an example, the President pointed out that such an international control commission should have the right to have radar establishments anywhere on any continent in any country, and that this would reinforce the early warning concept basic to the system Governor Stassen was proposing.

Governor Stassen replied that the President’s points were good ones and important. He said that he felt such provisions were inherent in the system of control he was proposing. He referred again to one of the basic concepts of his presentation, namely, that if you could achieve an effective leveling-off and stabilization of further development of means of delivery, then you were in effect creating the major check to any further increase in the other side’s capabilities to damage you.

The President commented that although we may at the present time tend to talk down our B-36’s, he was nevertheless certain that if Governor Stassen were sitting as a member of the Soviet General Staff he would be pretty worried about their capabilities.

Governor Stassen returned to comment on the relation between a leveling-off of further advancement in means of delivery and the inspection provisions of the control system. He indicated again that the essential facet of the system, once the capabilities to inflict damage had been stabilized, was to give warning against, or to deter, any surprise attack. He noted that any nation would be required to report in advance flights of planes, movements of troops, activity by submarines, and other related military movements. He said that if, for example, [Page 111] such movements had not been reported in advance, then one would have a very good indication of hostile intentions when they were discovered.

The President then asked whether the departments would now proceed to analyze Governor Stassen’s report and give their opinions. Governor Stassen replied that his recommendation was that the departments should now undertake the study of the recommendations of the report as a matter of urgency, and report back to the President and the Council perhaps within four weeks time. He stated that he hoped it would be possible to get unanimity on some new policy proposal among the top two hundred policy-makers of the Government within a short period of time, so that if necessary such proposals would be ready in time for a meeting at the summit. Governor Stassen went on to say that of course this would be difficult and complicated, and that the departmental positions would have to be carefully worked out. However, he hoped that in the imterim period, members of his staff would consult on an informal basis with the departments concerned before departmental positions became frozen, and that this would enable them to make adjustments and refinements in the proposal on which there could be general agreement, while clarifying the major areas of agreement and disagreement.

The President then indicated that he considered the departments would be acting very rapidly if they were able to conclude their considerations by July 1. He noted with approval that he had not observed any leakage to the public concerning the proposals Governor Stassen’s group was working on, but expressed concern lest, due to consideration by so many people in the Government, various elements of it might leak out. He emphasized that if the Russians should get wind of some of the substance and assumptions on which we were working, then, of course, they would use this information on which to base their minimum positions and then attempt to force us back further into concessions we could not envisage.

Governor Stassen assured the President that consideration of this policy would be handled with the greatest discretion.

The Secretary of State then noted his agreement with the President on the very fine presentation made by Governor Stassen and his group. Secretary Dulles noted that it was not a simple matter, and raised many problems. Furthermore, he expressed the hope that during departmental consideration of Governor Stassen’s plan, primary attention would be given to the main proposals, not the supplementary ones.

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Governor Stassen expressed his agreement with Secretary Dulles, pointing out that a particular effort had been made in developing the proposals to state in clear and precise terms its basic aspects, so that it would be easier for the departments to establish points they questioned or differed upon.

Governor Stassen then went on briefly to review some of these salient points brought up in his plan. The first was that U.S. policy should no longer propose the elimination of nuclear weapons as part of a control-of-armaments system. Another point was whether or not we should shift, in our armaments control proposal, to concentration on control of delivery systems in order to eliminate the possibility of surprise attack. A third point concerned our willingness to accept this plan as a first phase. Another important aspect was the firm provision for U.S., and Soviet, participation in the control and inspection commissions, thus rejecting any more Korean-type neutral commissions. The relation of the future level of German and Japanese armaments was also an important aspect of the plan. A key element of the whole approach may be considered the bilateral agreement between the United States and the Soviet Union which is fundamental to acceptance of the plan as a first phase which we would find in our interest for a certain number of years. Also the emphasis in the plan on demonstrating the mutual advantage, both to the United States and to the Soviet Union, should be noted.

The Vice President then stated that he wished to remind the Council of a political problem involved. He said that he felt the presentation indicated that the original bilateral agreement between the United States and the Soviet Union would in the long run be inadequate unless all Communist nations were eventually included. This meant that Communist China would have to be in the system, and this would of course raise the question of U.S. recognition of Communist China, possibly of its admission to the UN, or other forms of relations.

Governor Stassen replied that he did not feel that this problem would arise immediately in the first phase. He stated that he felt during the first phase, say for five or possibly ten years, the bilateral arrangements between the United States and the Soviet Union would be sufficient for our purposes. He would in fact be retaining during this period our great nuclear capability, and therefore we would not be particularly worried should the Soviets smuggle a few bombs into the hands of the Chinese Communists. Such an action on the part of the Soviets would not basically affect the essentials of the provisions of the plan.

The question was then asked as to what action the Council should take on Governor Stassen’s report. Mr. Anderson replied that he felt the Council should note the report as presented to the meeting, and refer it to the participating departments and agencies for further study [Page 113] and consultation with Governor Stassen. Additionally, Mr. Anderson said that the Council might request Governor Stassen to submit through the NSC Planning Board for Council consideration on July 1 a further report following consideration by the departments and agencies, which would indicate the extent of agreement which had been reached and also set forth the nature of differences, if any, which had arisen.

The National Security Council:3

Noted and discussed the reference progress report, as distributed and presented at the meeting.
Referred the reference progress report to the participating departments and agencies for study in consultation with the Special Assistant to the President on Disarmament.4
Requested the Special Assistant to the President on Disarmament to submit on July 1, 19555 a further report in the light of the views of the departments and agencies, indicating therein the extent of agreement within the Executive Branch and the specific areas, if any, of continuing differences of views with the precise description of such differences.

Note: The action in b above, as approved by the President (on May 31, 1955), subsequently transmitted to the appropriate departments and agencies for action. The action in c above, as approved by the President (on May 31, 1955), subsequently transmitted to the Special Assistant to the President on Disarmament.6

S. Everett Gleason
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records. Top Secret. Drafted by Gleason on May 27. A note on the source text indicates that the summary of the NSC discussion on item 4 was written by T.B. Koons, NSC Special Staff Member.
  2. Regarding NSC 112 and NSC Action No. 899, see footnote 4, Document 1. Regarding NSC Actions Nos. 1106, 1162, and 1256, see footnote 16, Document 7. Regarding NSC Action No. 1328, see footnote 22, ibid. The Progress Report is supra.
  3. Paragraphs a–c and the Note that follow constitute NSC Action No. 1411, approved by the President on May 26. (Department of State, S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95, NSC Actions)
  4. Regarding later consultations, see infra.
  5. For Stassen’s followup report, volume IV, see Document 40. For the NSC memorandum of discussion on this report, June 30, see Document 45.
  6. In accordance with NSC Action No. 1411–b, Stassen and his staff held meetings during the first 3 weeks of June with the various agencies and departments involved with the problems of disarmament. On June 3, they met with Allen Dulles and five other CIA officials, then with Secretary of State Dulles and six other Department of State representatives. Three days later, on June 6, they met with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Quarles, and others in the Department of Defense. On June 21, they met with additional Department of State personnel. Minutes of these meetings are in Department of State, Disarmament Files: Lot 58 D 133, Meetings of the Special Staff. On June 15, Stassen and his staff met with members of the Atomic Energy Commission; see Document 37.