112. Memorandum of a Conversation, White House, Washington, August 3, 19561


  • Call of Prime Minister Menzies upon President Eisenhower2


  • The President
  • Herbert Hoover, Jr., Acting Secretary of State
  • William J. Sebald, Acting Assistant Secretary
  • Robert Menzies, Prime Minister of Australia
  • Sir Percy Spender, Australian Ambassador

[Here follows discussion of the Suez Canal question.]

The Prime Minister asked whether in the opinion of the President there was any substance to the Russian “New Look,” adding that this subject had been discussed during the Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ meeting.3 The President said that we were chary about adopting any fixed conclusions or policy in this regard. He felt that one does not abandon a winning team for another. In consequence, it would seem logical that conditions in Soviet Russia are not entirely what the Soviets claim. Their leaders are not acting merely to gain popularity; there must be other reasons for their change of front.

The President spoke of some of the reasons which underlie our aid programs. He explained that the American people at times are disappointed at the lack of understanding which they meet in their efforts to be of help to those countries which need assistance; he did not think that we any longer think in terms of being liked as a result of our aid, but we did at least believe that our help in raising the living standards of some countries should be acknowledged. The Prime Minister interjected the remark that the Russians somehow or other manage to get greater kudos for so-called aid amounting to one-fifth of ours—a circumstance which should be studied. The President thought that there was merit in this suggestion but said that it is difficult for Democracies to handle situations of this kind. In any event, he felt that we should not lend ourselves to the proposition that when the Russians offer a steel mill we should immediately counter with two.

The Prime Minister raised the question of conventional arms in contrast with the highly expensive developments such as guided missiles, [Page 230] nuclear weapons, and tactical atomic weapons. He pointed out that a small country such as Australia is unable to afford these new weapons and would probably have to get along with conventional weapons. This being the case, he wondered whether, in view of the obvious developments which have taken place, there is contemplated any change in the American posture in Asia, and specifically in Southeast Asia where Australia has certain commitments, as in Malaya. … The President said that this is an evolutionary process which has been going on since 1952 when the so-called “new look” (a newspaper term) was undertaken. It is natural that there should be some streamlining in so far as personnel are concerned: with the greater potency of weapons it would be useless to have running around large numbers of men or divisions in the World War II sense. With the tremendous cost of guided missiles, such as intercontinental missiles, something has to give way as the cost is so tremendous that no country can afford to have huge armies and the new weapons also. Even the Soviets appear to have come to this realization. On the other hand, some of the new missiles are still so inexact and will continue to be so, that in the final analysis it is cheaper to have high speed bombers, practically incapable of interception, where the human element can operate with more exactitude. If Australia were to become engaged in a local war the President thought it essential that the forces be well-armed with conventional weapons. In this connection, he felt that the real deterrent in the eyes of the common man is not the number of atomic bombs which might be stored in some unknown place in the United States, but rather the man in uniform who can be seen. Those in authority, of course, understand the power of nuclear weapons, and are guided accordingly in their policies.

The President wondered whether anyone has ever thought through the consequences of a modern nuclear war. He posed the question whether the West, having defeated Russia and China, could undertake the tremendous task occupying the huge areas involved with all that an occupation implied. He thought it absolutely essential that some solution be found to the problem of disarmament, a matter which he often discussed with the Secretary of State. One hopeful sign is the Soviet offer to exchange flights over our respective Arctic regions. He did not know just what this means, but it is perhaps a chink in the presently stalled plan.

The Prime Minister took his leave at 10:45 a.m.

  1. Source: Department of State, Secretary’s Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 64 D 199. Confidential; Limited Distribution. Drafted by Sebald. A marginal notation indicates that this memorandum received White House approval on August 17.
  2. Prime Minister Menzies was in the United States on a private visit, July 31–August 5.
  3. This meeting was held in London, June 28–July 7.