137. Letter From the President’s Special Assistant for Disarmament (Stassen) to President Eisenhower 0

Dear Mr. President: May I follow through on my presentation at the NSC 1 with this summary and explanation. I am giving a copy to Foster and to Robert Cutler.

[Page 548]

First of all my recommendations stem from a deep faith that our system of freedom will prevail if there is not a war. I am confident of the outcome of a long vigorous competition between the free system and the Communist system. It is my basic philosophy that man by nature was meant to be free under God. I do not share Foster’s uncertainty about the success of our free way of life in the future economic and idea competition. I am also confident that our nation would come out on top and survive even though there be a nuclear war, but I believe it would be very very difficult to reestablish freedom and to rebuild civilization in the devastated wake of a nuclear war.

With this fundamental approach, it is my view that it is extremely important for the United States to take and maintain a sound, imaginative initiative for peace, and equally important to take and maintain a similar initiative for the wellbeing and freedom of the people of the world.

Such initiatives require concrete and dramatic proposals to hold the attention of the people and develop their understanding and support. We should ever avoid a negative and defensive approach and ever take a counter-proposal and affirmative move. Such an initiative will better establish the necessary sustained defense effort and cohesion and cooperation of other free nations for a widely dispersed and alert deterrent force than will a direct and almost exclusive emphasis on armaments.

Included in such a sustained initiative should be specific United States proposals in the field of disarmament of a type easily understood by the people, reasonable in their balance, and incorporating a favorable chance of starting inspection of the territory of the Soviet Union through a United Nations agency.

The three specific recommendations for spearheading proposals have these characteristics. A United States proposal to the Soviet Union that if a reasonable number of United Nations inspections posts are installed inside their territory and ours, equipped with adequate scientific instruments, the United States will join in stopping nuclear testing for two years, while negotiations are intensified for more far-reaching agreements, would give the United States a firm initiative. If the Soviet Union accepts, there will be an immediate move to open up their territory to international inspection including scientific instrumentation. This would be an historic turning point and have great promise of enlargement and expansion to an inspection system adequate to stop the production of fissionable materials for weapons purposes and to an inspection system to control the use of outer space for exclusively peaceful purposes. If the Soviet Union, notwithstanding their agreement to inspection posts in the negotiations in London last June, now refuses the offer, they can be continually pressed on this point. It is a specific and direct issue of a nature that the people of the world will understand. Such [Page 549] a refusal of the Soviet Union to make it reasonably possible to assure that such a small first agreement to suspend tests is being lived up to would be denounced by the great majority of people.

The second concrete proposal of a reasonable small zone for beginning open skies and ground inspection in Central Europe would attract the attention of the people second only to nuclear testing. General Norstad has been for it. I am confident that the NATO members would approve of it. I urge that their views be solicited. Reciprocal opening of territory is advantageous to the free nations. If the Soviet Union accepts this, it would facilitate prospects for the further successful negotiation of a reunified free Germany combined with a Central European zone without atomic weapons and with limited armed forces.

The third concrete proposal is for an initial zone which would include a part of the United States and a part of Siberia. This offer is important so that both our allies and the Soviet Union note the willingness of the United States to begin open skies and ground inspection on a part of the territory of our own forty-eight states. Furthermore, the joint intelligence studies indicate that any opening of the Soviet territory to the U.S. would give some improved warning protection against surprise attack on our homeland. If the Soviet Union accepts this, the chances of successive expansion to a comprehensive inspection system against surprise attack would be improved.

I do not mean that these disarmament initiatives should be the only ones that the U.S. takes. For example, it would be highly desirable if during this year the President would personally go to a meeting of the heads of governments of the Colombo Plan states to be held in Delhi, India. This Colombo group includes the nations of free Asia from Japan around to Pakistan. They meet exclusively on economic and technical programs. At such a meeting you could offer to establish a Colombo Atoms-For-Peace Center on Ceylon, and win acclaim throughout the area. The engineering and scientific studies for such a Center are well developed. You could also offer a portion of the Development Loan Fund to underwrite a trade and payments union of these Colombo Plan countries to facilitate the flow of private trade between the free nations of Asia. Properly developed, such a program would be of great economic assistance without actually using up the underwriting money. It would assist in confidence of payment between private traders in these states and thus further the development of private enterprise. It is one of the methods we used successfully in Europe. The cooperation and substantial support of the NATO states, acting through the Organization for European Economic Cooperation (OEEC), could grow out of this initiative. This would help our United States objectives in Asia.

A Presidential offer to assist the United Nations in establishing a police force equipped with tactical atomic weapons would help to take [Page 550] away the smaller nations’ sense of being excluded from our atomic weapons position. Even though it may be many years before such a police force could be worked out, the psychological impact of an offer would be good, and this would be another part of keeping a United States initiative month after month.

After our scientific satellite is successfully orbiting, the President could offer to the United Nations the cooperation of the United States in a United Nations Space Development Project. Such a project could go forward whether or not the Soviet Union agreed. This again would develop a sense of participation by scientists of many nations and could involve financial contributions by all of the others in a manner similar to the infrastructure program of NATO.

The United States could also offer to negotiate a solution of the Hungarian situation along the lines of the Austrian solution and could repeatedly express this willingness. This would make it clear that the United States would not accept a status quo in Eastern Europe.

The United States can propose a competition between systems in the advancement of the standards of living of people, with the results to be observed within each country by a special United Nations Commission in which nations on both sides should participate. This should stimulate the demands of the peoples inside the Communist countries for more results in consumer goods and for more service and freedom. If accepted by the Soviet Union it would further open up Soviet and satellite territory.

Each of such proposals should be made at an appropriate time and in a tone and manner conducive toward a negotiating atmosphere. So far as the free world is concerned this would be the best form of propaganda and at the same time would carry the best chance for agreements which would decrease the danger of war.

In connection with such a program, a meeting at the Summit followed by negotiating groups on individual matters and then followed by another meeting at the Summit with further detailed work is to be commended. With the nature of the world power situation and with an awareness that the form of the Soviet government means that direct talks with the top leaders is the best way to get through to them, even an annual meeting at the Summit would seem to be sensible and logical in world relationships for the sake of peace. The United States meets Prime Ministers of Western countries a number of times each year. Are not meetings with those who hold the power in the Soviet Union in fact even more important. If the people are informed that it is anticipated that there would be repeated meetings, this would prevent either extreme disappointment or undesirable tension in relation to any one summit meeting. The liberation of Austria, the establishment of the atoms-for-peace program, and the easing of the iron curtain for movements of people are [Page 551] three direct important products of your willingness to meet at the Summit in 1955. The establishment of the United Nations Charter is a direct product of the meeting at Yalta and of the talks of Hopkins with Stalin in Moscow.

Such a first Summit meeting could perhaps best be held in Washington and include the Soviet Union, Poland and Czechoslovakia, and the U.S., Britain and France, with the Secretary General of the UN participating to represent that organization and to give confidence to all other states that their interests would neither be ignored nor secretly bargained away.

In summary, taking and maintaining the initiative is in my view of the essence. It will be recalled that the initiative that you would go to Korea, the initiative of atoms-for-peace, the initiative of meeting in Geneva, the initiative of the open skies proposal, were the instances in which the greatest support and cohesion for the position of the United States at home and abroad were sustained. During these periods the best cooperation was also obtained on the defense requirements including the great advances in the infrastructure program for airfields throughout NATO, the establishment of the special weapons planning work in NATO, the incorporation of a German defense force, and overall the strong support for your continued leadership of our country.

Measures such as these can be placed in motion through a letter from you to the heads of the NATO governments stating your intention to make certain of the proposals if they do not see an objection, and welcoming their own suggestions and views.


  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, Administrative Series, Stassen, Harold E., 1957. Secret. A handwritten note on the source text reads: “Hold/D[wight].”
  2. See Document 136.