6. Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, February 9, 19551


  • Review of NSC 112: Basic Disarmament Policy


  • Defense:
    • Deputy Secretary Anderson
    • Major General Loper
  • CIA:
    • Allen W. Dulles
  • AEC:
    • Chairman Strauss
    • Admiral Foster
    • Dr. Fine
  • NSC Planning Board:
    • Mr. Cutler
  • State:
    • Secretary Dulles
  • State:
    • Under Secretary Hoover
    • Deputy Under Secretary Murphy
    • S/P—-Mr. Bowie
    • IO—Mr. Key
    • IO—Mr. Wainhouse
    • S/AE-Mr. Smith
    • S/P—Mr. Stelle
    • UNP—Howard Meyers

Secretary Dulles said that the papers drafted by Defense and State on this subject did not seem susceptible of fruitful discussion in the NSC tomorrow, both being long and complicated.2 There were certain issues which had not yet received Presidential approval which could be separated out and presented to the NSC—some agreed to by the members of the Special Committee and some concerning which there was disagreement. What the US did in the disarmament field to a large extent was influenced by political, psychological and other factors. He did not believe we could afford to put this Government in the position of being opposed to disarmament, particularly in the light of President Eisenhower’s “Chance for Peace” statement of April 16, 1953 and [Page 16] “Atoms for Peace” address of December 8, 1953.3 For himself, he believed that limitations and reduction of armaments historically derived from a feeling of trust among nations and confidence that it was not likely that a war would commence, rather than from an agreement with a hostile power where there was mutual distrust. There were certain practical problems which required answers.

  • First, did we stand by the idea that the US favored disarmament? In his opinion this was necessary in view of the President’s expressed approval of such a position.
  • Second, we had to be extremely careful in making proposals in the armaments limitation field not to walk into a trap, since we were dealing with the Soviet Union, whose Government we did not trust.
  • Third, would we continue to adhere to the position that the US should not consider limitations in the nuclear field except as linked to reductions of conventional armaments? He did not wish to suggest that the US should take the initiative in making such proposals at this moment, but at least should be prepared to deal with this issue should the question arise. He believed the President felt that, if it were possible to secure effective elimination of nuclear weapons, then he would not worry so much about limitations in the conventional armaments field since such an agreement would protect US industrial power against the danger of severe damage through nuclear attack.
  • Fourth, were we prepared to proceed in a disarmament program on the basis of working out each stage at a time, entering upon the first stage without necessarily having developed and agreed upon the latest stages, and proceeding in developing the latest stages from the experience derived through carrying out each preceding stage.

Mr. Anderson explained that the Defense Department felt that it would not be possible to carry out the initial stage of a disarmament program with confidence unless we knew in advance what would come next. Moreover, if we should separate the nuclear and conventional aspects of disarmament and proceed on the kind of step-by-step development noted by Mr. Dulles, then the Soviets might seek to overcome the present US nuclear superiority by hiding nuclear weapons, and thus heighten the very danger felt by the President of being able to wipe out US industrial superiority through attack with nuclear weapons. Finally, Defense had not yet arrived at the conclusion that this limited approach to disarmament was a feasible or effective way of dealing with the disarmament problem.

[Page 17]

Mr. Strauss said that he was afraid of the concept that the initial stage in a disarmament program should involve cessation of the production of nuclear fuels. The US had gone to great trouble and expense to develop the mining and milling of nuclear materials in this country, an operation which was now beginning to pay off most successfully, if we should agree to stop production now, we would probably never be able to start up this US industry again. We might also never be able to recover our present impetus in nuclear weapons production if the US accepted this limited approach suggested by Mr. Bowie4 and Secretary Dulles, then broke off further implementation of a disarmament program and started up production of nuclear fuels again. For these reasons, he wondered whether the President today would still hold to the view mentioned by Mr. Dulles, which implied willingness to abandon the present US approach of seeking across-the-board disarmament in favor of a limited approach in the nuclear field.

Mr. Bowie remarked that Mr. Strauss’ objections regarding the difficulties of starting nuclear fuel production after once having stopped it would apply to any disarmament program, even existing US policy. All disarmament proposals have envisaged that if the other side did not carry out its agreements then rearmament would begin again.

Mr. Strauss agreed with this point but emphasized the difference was that Mr. Bowie’s approach included no other limitations and therefore the Soviets might acquiesce in such a limited approach in the desire to hamstring our nuclear production without having to accept any other limitations on Soviet military strength.

Secretary Dulles remarked that the President, in his “Atoms for Peace” proposal, had already put forward the concept of a first limited step with the idea that successful implementation would enable proceeding further. Admittedly, a limited approach in the disarmament field involved more complicated questions than the “Atoms for Peace” approach, but this should be dealt with concretely and not as an abstract issue, in order to see whether the specific limited approach which might be developed would be in US interests.

General Loper stated that the Defense Department of course did not believe in implementing any disarmament program on the basis of proceeding by stages from less sensitive to more sensitive items. Therefore, the inspection of nuclear production facilities was presently conceived of as coming in a later stage because of its sensitive nature. Should this present approach be reversed, he believed this would raise dangers for US security.

Secretary Dulles thought that at present the US was not confronted with any practical proposal of a limited nature, except the [Page 18] Indian proposal for a moratorium on nuclear weapons tests.5 The NSC had decided to oppose this Indian proposal after careful consideration on the merits, and not on the ground that this moratorium proposal failed to cover the waterfront but because it was not practical.6 Therefore, in fact we had another precedent for examining a limited approach to disarmament which did not cover all aspects of this complex problem.

Mr. Anderson remarked that if he had written the present Defense paper on this subject, he would have placed greater emphasis on the need to explore this problem thoroughly to see if there was any possibility of developing a successful proposal in the disarmament field.

Mr. Strauss said that one of the difficulties of both the State and Defense papers was that they were drafted to meet an NSC deadline. Actually, much more time was required to examine these matters, and he suggested that perhaps the Special Committee, consisting of the Secretaries of State and Defense and himself, might be made a permanent body to continue such examination of basic disarmament policy.

Mr. Bowie thought that it would be better to continue this review under the direction of an individual of outstanding qualifications, since the members of the existing Special Committee had such demands on their time that they would not be able to devote an adequate amount of attention to this subject.

Mr. Anderson agreed with Mr. Bowie and said that the problems required further and continuing attention by a high level individual who would have access to the President and the ranking cabinet members concerned with these problems, being able to devote full time to these fundamental problems. He emphasized that the difficulties inherent in such a review did not minimize the necessity for expending great effort in this field.

Mr. Allen Dulles, while agreeing with the remarks of Mr. Bowie and Defense Secretary Anderson, urged that this individual who might be appointed to carry out this review should draw on the existing staffs of the concerned agencies, so that he could have the benefit of advice and aid from officers familiar with these problems. On the basis of experience, no one man would be able to cover all these issues and [Page 19] their relation to the political, military, and economic problems of the world which related to the disarmament issue and from which it could not be separated.

Secretary Dulles said that the disarmament problem was one of such gravity that he agreed with Mr. Anderson that the US must be in a position of trying to solve these issues.

Mr. Anderson said that even if a new man were to come in to direct a continuing review of disarmament, it might well be desirable to help him by giving him guidance from the Special Committee or the NSC on many of the great issues inherent in the disarmament problem.

Secretary Dulles thought that, in this connection, it would be possible to draw out from the two papers presented by State and Defense certain issues which could be presented tomorrow to the NSC for advice and determination.

  • First, the US must continue to examine the disarmament problem and seek a solution, despite any skepticism which might exist concerning the success of our efforts in this field.
  • Second, it seemed to be agreed that a top-level individual should be brought into the Government to spend full time in carrying out such a review of the disarmament problem, since the issues involved are so complicated that the heads of the agencies concerned with this problem are unable to give adequate continuing attention to them. These agencies should contribute experienced personnel to this man’s staff, so that the review of disarmament would keep in touch with the realities of the world situation.
  • Third, so far as the forthcoming London meetings of the United Nations Disarmament Commission Subcommittee of Five were concerned, the US positions would be in accord with the basic policy established by NSC 112. This basic policy still linked conventional and nuclear disarmament in terms of reductions in either field, and it seemed to be advisable to raise this issue with the President to see whether we should continue to adhere to this concept at the London meetings in the event questions concerning this linkage should be raised during these meetings. Moreover, adherence to NSC 112 policy raised the question whether it would be possible to take any one limited step in a disarmament program without considering what the other steps should be. The conclusion of the Special Committee appeared to be that this question was one which could not be answered in the abstract, and that it was necessary to examine in specific terms what such a limited step might be, while recognizing the danger involved in going down the disarmament path without knowing where we would come out at the end.

Mr. Cutler explained that he had briefed the President the other day on these issues, explaining the conflict of opinion.

Mr. Anderson remarked that we should be cognizant of the difference between (a) agreeing to take a limited step which would be taken in the context of existing safeguards under a general disarmament [Page 20] program, or (b) if such a limited step is taken with lesser safeguards but as an element complete in itself without reference particularly to a general program. If the second position were adopted, Defense might have a different attitude on this question than had previously been voiced.

Mr. Strauss stressed his feeling that even this second approach might nibble away the strength of our existing position step by step without obtaining a quid pro quo from the Soviets.

Mr. Bowie thought that there was no way to proceed in this area without risk, and that we would have to look at this problem in the sense of balancing off such risks against the undoubted risks to the United States if we continued to adhere to our present positions in the light of the growing nuclear power of the Soviet Union.

Mr. Cutler agreed that he would try to draft a statement of the issues arising out of this review of NSC 112 (basic disarmament policy), for NSC consideration at the February 10 meeting, in such manner that this statement would fairly represent the views of State, Defense and AEC.

  1. Source: Department of State, Disarmament Files: Lot 58 D 133, Chronological File—Disarmament—General. Top Secret. Drafted by Meyers.
  2. The Department of Defense drafts are dated January 11 and 25. (Ibid.) The Department of State paper is a February 7 draft report on the review of NSC 112, prepared for the National Security Council by S/P in cooperation with IO and S/AE. (Ibid., S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95, NSC-112) Earlier drafts of the Department of State paper are ibid., PPS Files: Lot 66 D 70. Comments on these drafts and the January 11 Department of Defense paper are ibid., Disarmament Files: Lot 58 D 133, Chronological File—Disarmament—General.
  3. For texts, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1953, pp. 179–188 and 813–822, respectively. The President’s December 8 speech proposed the creation of an international atomic energy agency under the aegis of the United Nations to provide peaceful power from atomic energy. The President urged the principal atomic powers to make joint contributions from their stockpiles of uranium and fissionable materials to this agency. Regarding this initiative, see Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, vol. II, Part 2, pp. 12891295.
  4. The “limited approach” suggested by Bowie is summarized in Document 1.
  5. The Indian proposal was stated by Prime Minister Nehru in a speech to the Indian Parliament on April 2, 1954, and the Indian Representative to the United Nations, Rajeshwar Dayal, wrote Secretary-General Hammarskjöld on April 8, 1954, asking him to submit Nehru’s remarks to the Disarmament Commission as a U.N. document. For extracts of Nehru’s address and Dayal’s letter, see Documents on Disarmament, 1945–1959, vol. 1, pp. 408–413. A revised draft of the Indian proposal was submitted to the Disarmament Commission on October 27, 1954. For text, see General Assembly Official Records: Ninth Session, Annexes, Agenda Items 20 and 68, pp. 4–5.
  6. For reactions of the U.S. Government to the Indian proposal, see Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, vol. II, Part 2, pp. 1388 ff.