155. Memorandum From Secretary of State Dulles to President Eisenhower0

On April 26 I met with the recently appointed group of disarmament advisers: General Gruenther, General Smith, Robert Lovett and John McCloy. Lewis Strauss, Donald Quarles and James Killian were also present to state their views. We had a very thorough discussion of the present situation.1

[Page 605]

There was a consensus that steps must be taken to put clearly before the world the U.S. devotion to peace and to reduction of the arms burden. Only by concrete actions can we counteract the false picture, all too prevalent abroad, of the United States as a militaristic nation.

Nuclear testing was recognized to be a key to progress in this direction. So long as we continue to insist upon our freedom to test, the wide opposition to our position shields the Soviet Union from pressure to agree to the positive U.S. proposals for the stopping of bomb production and for “open skies”. Continued testing will undoubtedly lead to further refinement of our nuclear arsenal—though Dr. Killian makes a persuasive case that continued testing will help the Soviet weapons program more than it will ours. But the slight military gains appear to be outweighed by the political losses, which may well culminate in the moral isolation of the United States in the coming years.

This analysis was accepted by the four advisers. They cautioned, however, that we should not enhance Soviet prestige by remaining inflexible on the nuclear testing issue until a Summit meeting. U.S. agreement to a test suspension at the Summit, they seemed to feel, would give the Soviet Union a double victory: acceptance of the Soviet thesis on nuclear testing, and confirmation of the Soviet argument that meaningful agreement can only be reached at the Summit. Rather, we should make known our readiness to agree to an inspected test suspension in a manner and at a time of our own choosing. By thus disposing of this issue we might reduce pressures for a Summit meeting or, if it were held, assure that the meeting would deal with broad political issues which, it was felt, would be the proper function of any meeting that you attended.

It was suggested that any announcement we made on the subject of suspension of testing might be formulated as a suspension for six months, for example, on the assumption that an agreement would within that period be reached as to the detailed nature of the inspection required. If this agreement were reached, then there would be a further suspension of say a year on the assumption that during that period the system would be installed. If at the end of the period it actually was installed and functioning, then the suspension would continue on the assumption that progress was being made on other aspects of disarmament. Perhaps we could indicate that any resumption would be limited to confined underground tests or to very high altitude tests, neither of which would pollute the atmosphere.

By coupling our announcement on nuclear testing with a reiteration of our proposals on the nuclear cut-off and inspection against surprise attack, we could put the ball back in the Soviet court on these matters as well as on their willingness to accept inspection of a test suspension.

The nature of our discussion was such that perhaps this summary gives a greater impression of definiteness than was, in fact, the case. [Page 606] However, I felt that there was a consensus among the four disarmament advisers along these lines. I do not know, however, that Admiral Strauss and Mr. Quarles wholly agreed.

I believe that the time is now ripe for a decision that we will agree to a contingent nuclear test suspension after completion of the testing program now under way, on such conditions as are suggested.

If this decision is taken in the appropriate way, I also recommend that you charge me with the responsibility for developing with AEC, Defense, CIA and USIA, recommendations as to the manner and timing of our announcement of our readiness to agree to an inspected test suspension, in order to obtain maximum benefits in strengthening our hand on the Summit meeting and in regaining the initiative in the disarmament field. The United Kingdom in particular, also France and perhaps NATO would need to be consulted. The attitude of the United Kingdom and France will be much influenced by the prospects of getting the Atomic Energy Act amended.2

  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, DullesHerter Series. Secret. The source text bears the following notes by Eisenhower: “Foster and I are to talk further reference to final para. D” and “File, D.”
  2. Under his April 30 covering memorandum, Dulles also sent Eisenhower the memorandum of conversation of this meeting, dated April 26, which Eisenhower initialed. (ibid.) See the Supplement.
  3. On May 1, Eisenhower and Dulles discussed the issues raised in this last paragraph. Eisenhower reminded Dulles that unless the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 was amended to allow nuclear sharing with the United Kingdom, the British would not agree to a cessation of nuclear testing. They discussed tactics for passing the draft bill, which the Eisenhower administration had submitted on January 27, 1958, to amend the restrictions placed on the release of information to other nations under the Atomic Energy Act of 1954. (Memorandum of telephone conversation, May 1, 11:47 a.m.; Eisenhower Library, Dulles Papers, White House Telephone Conversations) See the Supplement.

    Eisenhower and Dulles talked again on May 2 and agreed that, in order to be passed, the draft bill would have to grant the Congress the right to veto, within 30 days by concurrent resolution, any atomic exchange agreement negotiated wth another nation. (Extract by David E. Boster of memorandum of conversation, May 2; Department of State, Secretary’s Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 64 D 199) See the Supplement.