150. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • Meeting with the Disarmament Advisers


  • The Secretary
  • Ambassador Wadsworth
  • Mr. Farley, S/AE
  • Mr. Spiers, S/AE
  • Mr. Weiler, S/AE
  • The Under Secretary
  • General Alfred Gruenther
  • General Walter Bedell Smith
  • Mr. John McCloy

The Secretary said we were now reaching the point for taking decisions in the current review of disarmament policy, since quite soon we would probably open diplomatic discussions with the Soviets with [Page 591] respect to a possible Summit meeting. He said we anticipated our re-evaluation of policy would be studied by our NATO allies before any proposals were made to the Russians, and that we hoped to be ready within the next two weeks for discussions with our Allies.

The Secretary said we are confronted by two aspects of the problem that do not necessarily coincide. The first is the expectation and desire of peoples of the world to achieve some progress with respect to arms control. The second is the practical limitations of what can be done in this field. The Secretary said we cannot ignore the aspirations of humanity for some progress in disarmament, in spite of these practical limitations and we must avoid giving the impression that we lack concern for these aspirations. The Secretary referred to the adverse effect upon Germany’s moral position before the world that resulted from the position taken by the German representative at the 1907 Hague Conference, to the effect that making war more destructive and disagreeable was more likely to prevent wars than any attempt to limit the horror of war. The Secretary said that if we divorced ourselves from the aspirations of humanity we would run risks, that although imponderable, could have a very real effect upon our security position in the world. Thus we must sometimes appear to strive for those things which may seem to us to be impossible of achievement.

The Secretary said he had grave doubts as to the possibility of achieving any broad agreement on the limitation of armaments with the Russians. He said he did not believe significant reductions would occur until steps were taken to give each side a greater sense of security and thus make it possible to reduce armed forces and armaments. The Secretary said that it might be possible to reach agreement with the Soviets on some zones of inspection, which in turn might make it possible to have some thinning out of military forces within the inspected areas. He said that in addition it might be possible to do something with respect to outer space, although the Killian studies had indicated there were greater problems in this field than we had thought when the idea was first launched.

The Secretary then referred to the probable difficulties which he said we would have with some of our allies in any re-evaluation of disarmament policy. He said that, for example, the British would be opposed to a test cessation unless the Atomic Energy Act1 were changed and we were willing to give them the benefits of all our testing. The Secretary said that whether the Act would be amended in satisfactory form and whether we would then decide to give the British the information they desired was not certain at this time. He mentioned that in addition Congress was certain [Page 592] to attach some strings to any changes in the Act. The British, the Secretary said, had in the meantime gambled everything on nuclear weapons in order to retain their status as a great power and this had increased their need for nuclear testing information. He said that while it would be technically possible for the British to remain outside a US–USSR agreement to stop testing, public opinion in Great Britain would certainly force the British Government to quickly follow suit in case of a US–USSR agreement.

The Secretary then referred to the French effort to test nuclear weapons as soon as possible in order to get into the nuclear club, and noted that by the time the French have conducted their tests other countries, such as Italy and possibly Germany, may attempt to achieve a nuclear capability.

The Secretary referred next to the reluctance of our European allies to see any agreement concluded in the nuclear field which did not also include some agreements in the conventional field. Nevertheless, he said, if there is one thing that is beyond effective control it is conventional armaments and armed forces. The Secretary said it would be almost impossible to police such an agreement and that in addition the Soviets could increase their forces almost overnight from two to six million men without too much trouble, whereas we would not be able to do this. In addition, each side had its own special armed forces which it wished to exclude: for the United States it was the national guard, for the French it was the reserve. Similar problems applied to most conventional armaments. The Secretary said, however, that he believed some worthwhile controls in the field of conventional armaments could be obtained if we could ever reach an agreement with respect to such major delivery systems as long-range submarines, heavy bombers, and missiles, but that so far no one had been successful in tackling this difficult and complicated problem.

The Secretary said he had made these introductory remarks in order to indicate some of the practical problems we had to face. He next wished to discuss some modifications we are considering in present policy.

The Secretary said the first change under consideration involved a suspension of nuclear tests for two years, with a United States declaration that we would resume testing if an agreement on a cut-off of fissionable materials production had not been reached by the end of the two-year period. He said the British and French would not like this but perhaps it was prudent for the United States to make this shift from the present requirement for prior agreement to a cut-off. He said our present inclination was to agree to a test suspension coming into effect as soon as a more or less pro forma agreement had been reached which would permit us to place a few inspectors on the existing Soviet testing grounds, and that following this we would negotiate to put into effect a more complete [Page 593] inspection system. He said that in this regard the recent study by Dr. Killian’s group goes so far with its inspection requirements as to be impractical.2 He said this report was quite properly a counsel of perfection but that as a practical matter if you could create a high degree of risk of detection of clandestine testing, that would be sufficient because the disadvantages to the Soviet Union of being caught would be so great as to discourage them from trying. The Secretary said that even if you could create a 50–50 chance of detection that might be enough. He said that he had asked that the Killian group look at what would be required in order to give us such a 50–50 chance of detection. He added that he had doubts that the Soviets would accept even such a modified inspection arrangement but that we should put them to the test. He said that if we got into a period of a twelve months’ test suspension without any real inspection, it would not do us any great harm, since it would merely mean extending the present six-month period we have between tests.

The Secretary said that while the British and French would not like a test suspension, they would have to follow us in order for the present governments to remain in power.

The Secretary said that with respect to the production cut-off, we were proposing the alternatives, which each party could choose, of closing down their production of fissionable material or of accepting the more comprehensive inspection that would go along with an arrangement merely not to devote the production of fissionable material to weapons purposes. He said Admiral Strauss had suggested the first alternative but that the British were very upset at the prospect of such an arrangement as this and that this was one issue upon which they would break with the United States if we did not have an alternative, such as the second arrangement. Mr. Farley explained that Admiral Strauss was thinking of a temporary two-year suspension of production while the more comprehensive inspection arrangements were being installed. Mr. Farley also noted that it might be possible to develop an arrangement under which certain plants would be closed down, thus simplifying the inspection problem. The Secretary said that a mere two-year production halt would not be worthwhile, if that was what Admiral Strauss had in mind.

The Secretary then turned to the question of inspection zones. He said we were thinking of the same position as we had advanced before, but were also considering proposing the smaller European zone approved last year by NATO but not submitted in the London negotiations. He said we were also considering an even smaller European zone which General Norstad had been studying. This latter zone would cover [Page 594] Germany, Poland, and Czechoslovakia. The Secretary said he had always had reservations about presenting zones in terms of political boundaries and preferred geographical coordinate because it lessened the political implications. He said we had not yet received the views of the Joint Chiefs or of Chancellor Adenauer on this smaller zone. The Chancellor, he said, had not in the past liked the idea of mobile Soviet inspectors in the Federal Republic and we would therefore have some problems with him regarding the extent of mobility to be allowed the ground inspection teams. The Secretary noted that the Joint Chiefs, on the other hand, feel quite strongly about the need for mobility, but that this was a detail we would have to work out.

The Secretary said that along with the European zone would go an Arctic zone, which could be of great importance. He said we had concluded that it was not practical to have zones of inspection for parts of the United States in return for inspection zones in Siberia, as Governor Stassen had suggested, because of the political difficulties that this would raise.

The Secretary then discussed the question of force levels. He said we were thinking of proposing a first step reduction to 2.2 million men, which was about 300,000 less than we had now, and that this would be tied to acceptance of some inspection zones. He noted that General Norstad had indicated that if he obtained an inspection zone in central Europe he would think it advisable to thin out some of his forces there.

The Secretary said we were repeating our proposal for deposition of some post World War II armaments in international depots, but that this would merely mean transferring some obsolete arms from present warehouses to international depots.

The Secretary then referred to our past proposal regarding the use of outer space only for peaceful purposes, noting that while it had originally been put forward as a minor aspect of our proposals it had now become a major item. He said we have some problems with our European allies in this area because they tend to think that we are seeking some arrangements which would protect ourselves but which would bring them little improvement in security; at the same time they believe they need IRBM’s to maintain a retaliatory capability. He said he believed this to be a shortsighted view because we would all be safer if we did not have long range missiles coming to the fore. He said if our security, in the form of some measure of immunity for the United States, can be achieved, the fact that we would always be in a position to bring our power to bear in case of aggression would increase all free world security. Aside from our allies’ views, however, he said, the problems in dealing with outer space are complex, and it is difficult to separate peaceful activity from military progress. However, while the problem is a complex one it is one worth pursuing.

[Page 595]

Mr. McCloy asked if Khrushchev had rejected the outer space item for a summit agenda. The Secretary said the Soviets had tied outer space controls to elimination of Western bases, which was not an acceptable arrangement.

Mr. McCloy asked if disarmament was likely to be the only item discussed at a Summit meeting, to which the Secretary replied that German reunification and other questions would also be discussed. The Secretary commented that if we could obtain German reunification this would permit significant armament reductions. He said we were restudying the proposal for a European security treaty which we had put forward at the 1955 Summit meeting as a means of bringing about German reunification. He said this had been a good plan but was so complicated that it had been a failure from the standpoint of propaganda. The Secretary said that as far as getting German reunification on the agenda, we would probably end up by getting the same agenda headings as were agreed to for the 1955 Summit meeting.

General Gruenther asked if there was strong opposition within the government to the proposal for a separate nuclear test cessation. He said he had talked with some people in AEC who believed they were just beginning to tap possible new developments for testing in higher altitudes. The Secretary said there was opposition within the government, but that he did not believe there was as much glitter in future testing possibilities as some thought. He said much of the talk about exploding materials in outer space as a means of preventing missiles from getting through was not really worth much, and that this was Dr. Killian’s view. He said there are great difficulties in connection with any nuclear testing in outer space, and mentioned present difficulties with regard to projected Pacific tests as an example. He said scientists have a tendency to want to go on and on with tests, and that all scientific advances are not necessarily in our interest.

The Secretary commented that we also had to consider the psychological effect of continued testing. He said he had proposed that we deflate the anticipated Soviet announcement on unilateral cessation of testing by announcing that we would stop testing after Hardtack for a period of two years. He said he had acquiesced in the decision not to do this because it would have placed Macmillan and Adenauer in a difficult position. Nevertheless, he said, we must recognize that we can lose the whole struggle with the Soviets if we fail to take into account such imponderables as world opinion, and it is in this area that we have been taking a beating. The Soviet had been trying to advance their cause by achieving their objectives through respectable means and avoiding new Koreas and the like. While this was, in a way, a good development, we must recognize that we also need to consider world opinion.

[Page 596]

The Secretary said that if we could get an agreement to suspend tests on January 1, 1959, we could have an agreement to have adequate inspection installed by January 1, 1960 if the test cessation were to continue. He agreed with General Gruenther’s observation that, as a practical political matter, it would be difficult to resume testing once we had stopped, particularly if it is over a question of the details of inspection. The Secretary added that while it might be difficult to resume a full scale testing it would be possible to have small tests underground to develop small clean tactical weapons and peaceful applications of nuclear explosives.

Mr. McCloy asked if such things as registration of attempts to launch vehicles to the moon were what we had in mind for measures to regulate outer space. The Secretary said this would be one example.

Mr. McCloy agreed that we faced a serious threat to our moral position in the world. He said people tend to think we are more intransigent than the Soviets. He said that at the same time people also appear to have the view that we are not as strong militarily as the USSR, and are concerned about this. He cited his recent conversation with Nehru in this regard, and noted that Nehru had told him he was convinced that neither Khrushchev nor anyone of importance around him wanted war with the United States.

Mr. McCloy and General Gruenther asked if we will not run a risk of appearing to go to a summit meeting merely to agree to Soviet proposals if, as appears to be the case, the only issue the Soviets will agree to discuss that holds any chance of agreement is a test cessation. The Secretary commented that we had to consider the position of our allies, and that all of them, for domestic political reasons, are determined to have a summit conference this year. He said we had gone along as far as we had on the summit question because of our need to help Mr. Macmillan who had cooperated so well with the United States in the past and who needs a summit meeting to survive politically. The Secretary said he was fearful that a a summit meeting will mark a great political defeat for the West, and in this regard he referred to the list he had given in his recent press conference of prices the Soviets wanted us to pay before we even got to the summit.

General Smith said that if the United States went to the summit and came away without an agreement on anything, the Russians would be the only winners. He said failure to reach any agreement might also increase tensions and thereby increase the chances of war. The Secretary noted in this latter connection that twice within recent weeks Khrushchev had told Western diplomats that if the West does not accept the status quo in Eastern Europe it means war. The Secretary said he did not believe Khrushchev meant this in a literal sense but that it does indicate the Soviets are seriously concerned with the situation in Eastern Europe.

[Page 597]

General Gruenther said he granted that “the hand was turning” in the direction of a test cessation, and he was aware that we would probably lose the next round in the General Assembly if this question came up, but that he was concerned as to where would we go from a test cessation, and what we would get in return so that it would not appear to be merely a United States acceptance of a Soviet proposal. He said he would like to see a test suspension tied to one of our own proposals, such as inspection zones.

The Secretary said the other proposal in our package besides test cessation that is practical for negotiations and would also be of some value to us is inspection zones in Europe and in the Arctic.

The discussion then turned to the future function of the advisors, and the Secretary said he wanted to be able to talk with them again, in order to get their further views. He mentioned General Gruenther’s suggestion of tying a test suspension to inspection zones as an example of useful ideas that could grow out of such discussions. The Secretary said he would try to hold another session with the advisors as soon as possible.

  1. Source: Department of State, Secretary’s Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 64 D 199. Secret; Limit Distribution. Drafted by Lawrence D. Weiler.
  2. Public Law 703, August 30, 1954; 68 Stat. 919.
  3. See Document 147.