4. National Security Council Report1

NSC 5505/1


NSC 5501, “Basic National Security Policy”,2 outlines the following general strategy:
  • “26. …3 U.S. policies must be designed to affect the conduct of the Communist regimes, especially that of the USSR, in ways that further U.S. security interests and to encourage tendencies that lead them to abandon expansionist policies. In pursuing this general strategy, our effort should be directed to:
    • “a. Deterring further Communist aggression, and preventing the occurrence of total war so far as compatible with U.S. security.
    • “b. Maintaining and developing in the free world the mutuality of interest and common purpose, and the necessary will, strength and stability, to face the Soviet-Communist threat and to provide constructive and attractive alternatives to Communism, which sustain the hope and confidence of free peoples.
    • “c. Supplementing a and b above by other actions designed to foster changes in the character and policies of the Soviet-Communist bloc regimes:
      • “(1) By influencing them and their peoples toward the choice of those alternative lines of action which, while in their national interests, do not conflict with the security interests of the U.S.; and
      • “(2) By exploiting differences between such regimes, and their other vulnerabilities, in ways consistent with this general strategy.”
  • “27. To carry out effectively this general strategy will require a flexible combination of military, political, economic, propaganda, and covert actions which enables the full exercise of U.S. initiative. [Page 21]These actions must be so coordinated as to reinforce one another. Programs for the general strategy between now and the time when the USSR has greatly increased nuclear power should be developed as a matter of urgency.”

a. This paper prescribes the principles to be applied, in conformity with paragraph 26–c quoted above, in exploiting discontents and other problems in the USSR and the European Satellites, such as tensions inherent in the police state, low standards of living, opposition to collectivization, cultural and intellectual regimentation, interference with religion, dissatisfaction of minorities, nationality problems, the governmental structure of the USSR, ideological weaknesses of the Soviet system, and disaffection in the Satellites.

b. Such discontents and other problems can be usefully exploited only if the U.S. (1) has or can develop a capability for such exploitation and (2) will thereby advance a specific objective within this capability.

In exploiting such discontents and other problems, the following principles should apply:
Measures for exploitation should be mutually consistent and should be directed toward specific U.S. objectives which are within existing or potential U.S. capabilities.
Seek to create and increase popular and bureaucratic pressures on the Soviet regime through the exploitation of discontents and other problems to promote evolutionary changes in Soviet policies and conduct which will be in U.S. interest and tend to lessen the chance of Soviet attack upon the U.S. As appropriate, seek (1) to cause the regime to occupy itself increasingly with internal problems and (2) to pose difficult decisions tending to create uncertainty or divisions within the regime.
Continue basic opposition to the Soviet system and continue to state its evils; but stress evolutionary rather than revolutionary change. At the same time make clear that while the U.S. is determined to protect its vital security interests by force if necessary, it does not seek to impose its ideas of government on the USSR by force.
Generally depict the causes of the discontents and other problems which are to be exploited not as inherent conditions reparable only by revolution but as conditions susceptible to correction by the regime if it should choose to take the necessary action.
Apply these principles to the European Satellites, taking advantage as appropriate of the special opportunities existing in these countries to exert greater pressures, and to weaken the ties which bind the Satellites to the USSR.

Because substantial change in basic conditions in the USSR or the Satellites (including the imminent threat or initiation of general war) might render these principles inappropriate, they should be continuously reviewed. In order to be prepared to meet any such substantial change, the U.S. should continue to develop and maintain capabilities which would be required in the event of such change, in [Page 22]so far as this can be done prior to such change without impairing the carrying out of these principles.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Exploitation of vulnerabilities in accordance with the above principles can be expected to modify the policies of the USSR and the European Satellites along lines more compatible with U.S. security interests only if further Communist expansion is prevented. The USSR and the European Satellites are not likely to experiment with alternatives more consistent with U.S. interest as long as the accustomed Communist techniques of military and political pressure on and in the free world show signs of achieving success. It is to be emphasized that no political warfare strategy can in any sense substitute for adequate military, political, and economic programs designed to strengthen the Free World. Therefore, success in carrying out the above principles will depend upon:
Maintenance by the U.S. and its allies, for an indefinite period, of military forces with sufficient strength, flexibility and mobility to enable them to deal swiftly and severely with Communist overt aggression in its various forms and to cope successfully with general war should it develop; and united determination to use military force against such aggression.
Building the strength and cohesion of the free world and taking adequate actions for the purpose of (1) creating cohesion within and among all the free nations, remedying their weaknesses, and steadily improving the relative position of the free world and (2) destroying the effectiveness of the Communist apparatus in the free world.
  1. Source: Department of State, S/SNSC Files: Lot 63 D 351, NSC 5505 Series. Top Secret. Circulated to the Council under cover of a note from Lay dated January 31, which noted that the President had designated the Special Committee chaired by Rockefeller as the coordinating agency, which was to make periodic progress reports to the Council, “including evaluations of the adequacy of the policy in relation to existing or anticipated conditions, and the need for any modifications in the policy, together with illustrative examples of current and projected programs.” In addition to the Statement of Policy, NSC 5505/1 included a Summary of the Report by the Special Committee on Soviet Vulnerabilities, dated November 30, 1954, and a copy of a memorandum from John K. Gerhardt, the JCS Adviser, to the NSC Planning Board, dated January 6, 1955, giving his views on the Summary of the Special Committee’s Report. Neither the Summary of the Report nor Gerhardt’s memorandum is printed.
  2. See footnote 6, Document 2
  3. Ellipsis in the source text.