12. Memorandum of Discussion at the 359th Meeting of the National Security Council0

[Here follow a paragraph listing the participants at the meeting and Agenda Items 1. “Measures To Carry Out the Concept of Shelter,” 2. “Soviet Defense and Air-Raid Shelter Construction,” (both included in the Supplement), and 3. “Significant World Developments Affecting U.S. Security.”]

4. Estimate of the World Situation (NIE 100–58)1

General Cutler briefed the Council on the relationship between the new estimate of the world situation and the problem of revising our basic national security policy, on which task the NSC Planning Board was already engaged. (A copy of General Cutler’s briefing note is filed in the minutes of the meeting, and another is attached to this memorandum.)2

After pointing out the difficulty of preparing such an estimate, which required the contributions of the entire intelligence community, [Page 52] Mr. Allen Dulles read a summary of what he considered the most significant changes between the present estimate and the “Estimate of the World Situation” made last year. In the meantime, General Cutler had distributed a statement entitled “Important Points in the Estimate of the World Situation (NIE 100–58)”, which had been selected by the NSC Planning Board. (A copy of this statement is filed in the minutes of the meeting, and another is attached to this memorandum.)3

When Mr. Allen Dulles had finished his summary, General Cutler explained that the statement he had just distributed represented an independent effort by the Planning Board to focus the Council’s attention on four or five major points in this very disturbing estimate of the world situation. There was not any difference, essentially, between what Mr. Dulles had just said than the points which the Planning Board had singled out. It was the hope of the Planning Board, through this device, to obtain some expression of opinion from the Council by way of guidance in the current review of our basic national security policy.

General Cutler then summarized briefly the material in the written Planning Board statement contained under the heading “Soviet Strength and Intentions” and under the heading “The State of Mutual Deterrence and Deterioration in the Western Position”. General Cutler said it was the latter development which he personally found to be the most disturbing in the entire estimate.4 The estimate’s conclusions under this heading made many of the Planning Board wonder what new long-range change, if any, we could find as a means of dealing with the situation. Should the United States, asked General Cutler, in the face of the estimate’s conclusions on mutual deterrence and the deterioration of the Western position, continue our existing national strategy? Or should the United States proceed to exert greater pressures on the Soviet Union? Or, finally, should we seek an accommodation with the Soviets by offering them concessions? General Cutler said he thought it would be valuable if the Secretary of State would comment on the first two points—to-wit, “Soviet Strength and Intentions” and “The State of Mutual Deterrence and Deterioration in the Western Position”. The other points in the written statements had been sufficiently covered by Mr. Allen Dulles, in particular the serious problem created by the capability of the USSR to direct [Page 53] its economic strength in support of any internal-external policy which it believed would help it achieve world leadership.

In response to General Cutler’s invitation, Secretary Dulles said that he did have one or two observations to make on this estimate. In the first place, the estimate paid far too much attention to our U.S. problems than it did to the problems which confronted the Soviet Union. Doubtless if the Soviets had written a similar estimate, they would have emphasized their own problems more than the problems which faced the United States.

Secondly, said Secretary Dulles, there was another fact which must be constantly borne in mind. It was true that the USSR had now achieved greater influence in the world than it possessed eight or ten years ago. This is primarily due to the fact that the behavior of the Soviet Union was better now than it had been then. In its attempts to control the destinies of other countries, it is much more sophisticated and subtle. The Soviet Union no longer dares try to reduce other countries to its control by direct and forceful action, but feels obliged to use more subtle approaches. Not only can we not prevent this improvement in the behavior of the Soviet Union, it was a question whether we wanted to prevent this improvement. Doubtless the ultimate intentions of the Soviets were still bad, but their behavior, at least, was better, and ultimately the Soviets may become more civilized.

There was yet another serious problem, said Secretary Dulles, which had not been stressed in this intelligence estimate but which he had been aware of and most recently in his trip to the Far East. In scanning English-language publications in Far Eastern cities, the basic fact had struck him that nothing in the way of news comes out of the USSR except what the Soviets want to have come out. On the other hand, hardly any news comes out of the United States that we really want to come out. Nothing more contributes to increasing the influence of the USSR and lessening the influence of the United States than this fact. Bellicose statements by U.S. Congressmen and all kinds of sensational stuff which essentially misrepresents the United States is headline news in these newspapers and journals. It was a question as to how long we could stand this contrast with the news emanating from the Soviet Union. Secretary Dulles confessed that he did not know how to deal effectively with this problem.

When Secretary Dulles had completed his remarks, General Cutler expressed himself as being comforted by the first two observations which Secretary Dulles had made; but he asked Secretary Dulles then to speak of the problem of mutual deterrence and the potentially disruptive forces which the state of mutual deterrence has stimulated within the Western alliance. What are we going to do about the fear of our allies that [Page 54] the United States will not use its nuclear retaliatory capability to protect these allies from Soviet aggression?

Secretary Dulles said he could not understand what so concerned General Cutler, inasmuch as we proposed, of course, to protect our allies by invoking our retaliatory capability in the event that their vital interests are threatened. Furthermore, continued Secretary Dulles, he did not share the view that our allies were losing faith in our will to make use of our nuclear retaliatory capability in the event of Soviet attack.

General Cutler said that the issue still seemed somewhat doubtful to him. Secretary Dulles replied that if it did, General Cutler must be aware that our allies would soon have their own nuclear weapons. Moreover, mutual deterrence would not only apply to large wars but, to some degree at least, it would also apply to little wars. Did General Cutler object to this situation? What was wrong with mutual deterrence? Did General Cutler advocate war?

General Cutler replied that he was simply suggesting that once the Russians fully realized the existence of the state of mutual deterrence, they would nibble their way into the fabric of the Free World by small aggressions. Secretary Dulles disagreed with General Cutler’s view, and thought the Soviets were no more likely to take such risks than was the United States. In strong support of Secretary Dulles’ view, the President cited our ties to Formosa and the effect of the so-called Eisenhower Doctrine. General Cutler, however, stuck to his point of view in the argument, and added that of course we did not have conventional forces available to meet the conventional forces which the Soviet bloc could use against us in limited war.

Mr. Allen Dulles thought that Soviet aggression through recourse to limited wars presented the United States with much less of a problem than was presented by developments such as those in Indonesia, which the Soviets could effectively exploit to weaken the Free World. Secretary Dulles commented that in the three situations which most greatly concern the United States today—namely, Indonesia, North Africa, and the Middle East—the directing forces were not Communist, but primarily forces favorable personally to a Sukarno, a Nasser, or the like. Developments in these areas had not been initiated by Soviet plots.

General Cutler replied that, in short, the Soviets were not obliged to do the work themselves; it was being done for them. The President took vigorous exception to this interpretation by General Cutler, and in turn, Secretary Dulles insisted that the Soviets would not dare today to repeat again what they had done in Czechoslovakia. If they did so, the facade of respectability which they had so assiduously built up would collapse. Mr. Allen Dulles expressed disagreement with this view of the Secretary of State. He said he felt that the Secretary’s argument might apply to what the Soviets would not dare to do in Berlin, but he felt obliged to [Page 55] point out that the Communist take-over of Czechoslovakia had not involved any Soviet troops. Secretary Dulles agreed that this was so, but insisted that in general the Communist take-over of Czechoslovakia had been the result of heavy Soviet pressure and of fear of Soviet power. The President expressed hearty agreement with this diagnosis, and said that he could speak from personal experience that fear of Soviet Communism was what had induced the democratic leaders of Czechoslovakia to cave in before the demands of local Communists.

Against Secretary Dulles’ argument that the Soviets would now no longer dare to repeat what they had done in Czechoslovakia for fear of losing face in the world, Mr. Allen Dulles cited the case of Hungary. Secretary Dulles replied that this was somewhat different, because in the case of Hungary the Soviets were not seizing territory which they had never controlled, but were rather holding on to something that they had previously had under their control.

Secretary McElroy intervened to state that his really great concern related to the question as to whether in a democracy like the United States we could successfully engage in real economic competition with the USSR, expend the necessary resources to do this, and still be assured of popular and Congressional support. Secretary McElroy felt that this kind of all-out contest with the Soviet Union was much more likely in the future than was general war. The President commented that he couldn’t agree more, but there would be very few votes in Congress in support of such competition. Secretary McElroy agreed, and said he wondered whether we were not approaching a time when we will have to do a little packaging of such a program, as we had done in the Marshall Plan, rather than meeting Soviet economic competition in a piecemeal fashion. The President replied that until recently we had thought that we were making real progress with the Congress in this field because the Democrats had always been strong supporters of the foreign aid program; but they were now turning against it, and the Republicans were the majority supporters of the program. It was pointed out that the South, as it became more heavily industrialized, was turning against foreign aid programs.

Secretary Anderson counseled that the Government should study very carefully certain selected economic projects around the world which gave promise of extraordinary value. As an example he cited study of projects of possible alternative routes to carry Middle Eastern oil to Europe, since the present routes were controlled by forces hostile to the West. Another instance was Africa, where Secretary Anderson believed that development might prove wholly theoretical except in so far as Africa can distribute its exports. It would be profitable for us to study how best this distribution could be made.

[Page 56]

The National Security Council:5

Noted a National Intelligence Estimate on the subject (NIE 100–58) as summarized at the meeting by the Director of Central Intelligence.
Discussed important points in the subject estimate, on the basis of a statement of such points submitted by the NSC Planning Board and distributed at the meeting.

[Here follows Agenda Item 5. “Capabilities of Forces for Limited Military Operations,” included in the Supplement.]

S. Everett Gleason
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records. Top Secret; Eyes Only. Drafted by Gleason on March 21.
  2. Entitled “Estimate of the World Situation,” dated February 26, 1958. (Department of State, INRNIE Files) For text, see the Supplement.
  3. Dated March 20. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 273, Records of the National Security Council, Official Meeting Minutes File)
  4. Undated. For text, see the Supplement.
  5. Under this heading, the Planning Board statement summarized portions of NIE 100–58 that concluded that the United States and the Soviet Union would soon achieve a state of mutual deterrence, under which each would try to avoid a general nuclear conflict. In this circumstance, potentially disruptive forces within NATO were stimulated and some friendly nations feared that the United States would no longer be willing to threaten nuclear retaliation in their interests. The Soviets would grow bolder and there would be a general weakening of “Free World” alliances accompanied by lowered confidence in U.S. leadership and military power. Respect for Soviet achievements, meanwhile, would grow.
  6. The following paragraphs constitute NSC Action No. 1880, approved by the President on March 21. (Department of State, S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95, Records of Action by the National Security Council)