233. Memorandum of Discussion0

Memorandum of Discussion With Prime Minister Macmillan on October 19, 1959


  • Ambassador Whitney
  • Lord Plowden
  • Chairman John A. McCone
  • One secretary

I called on the Prime Minister at his invitation at 10 Downing Street at 3:30 p.m., October 19, 1959. The meeting lasted one hour and 15 minutes.

[Page 790]

The Prime Minister was interested in my visit to the Soviet Union nuclear activities which I reviewed in detail. In summary I stated it seemed to us the Soviets were pursuing their peaceful uses program at a high level, that they were working in parallel areas to the U.S. and U.K. but they obviously had or possessed a high level of technical competence and that their plan of organization of their scientific community permitted accomplishment of specific undertakings in a minimum time. I pointed out that the building of the CTN ALPHA, copy of British ZETA, in four months and the CTN OGRA, equal in size to U.S. Princeton machine, in ten months were examples of their ability to conscript and organize their resources to accomplish special purposes in a minimum time. Plowden said their ZETA required two years or more and our Princeton machine two and one-half years or more. I then discussed the Krivoi Rog mining operations, uranium milling operations and at this point brought to the Prime Minister’s attention the fact that the Soviet policy did not permit full disclosure of detailed production figures to the extent published by U.S. and U.K. and that I had taken every opportunity to emphasize this point as essential to any form of cooperation.

We then discussed at length the Geneva test suspension negotiations. I stated that it was abundantly clear to me after visiting their underground mining operations to a depth of 3000 feet that the Soviets could make very significant progress in the development of small tactical weapons without the risk of detection. I explained to the Prime Minister the possibility of developing very exotic small weapons, the characteristics of which I explained indicating that if such developments were made by the Soviets in a clandestine developmental program the possession of such weapons would, in the opinion of our military, be of real significance.

I stated that research, seismological instrument development and testing of detection systems would be necessary to provide means of reasonable safeguarding an underground suspension agreement and until such testing was carried out with successful results (which was by no means certain) we could not ensure compliance with the test suspension in the underground environment.

I did not deal with our own developmental possibilities nor with the decoupling possibilities except to mention decoupling briefly. Plowden readily agreed that testing up to one KT could be carried out without danger of discovery and that the devices I was talking about were far below the 1 KT threshold.

I concluded by outlining my discussions with Professor Emelyanov and with Novikov in Vienna at which time I urged technical discussions at Geneva stating that such discussions would bring out the correctness of our position. I emphasized that a detection system and a quota of on-site inspections must be based on technical and scientific fact and not on [Page 791] political considerations. The Prime Minister did not object to this position.

The Prime Minister then stated that we might seek an atmospheric ban by agreement and with appropriate safeguarding arrangements which would be relatively simple and then have a gentlemen’s agreement for one year not to test in the underground and during this year we could seek appropriate means for safeguarding an underground agreement. I stated our scientists felt two to five years were necessary for research and development. The Prime Minister then suggested a two year gentlemen’s agreement pointing out that one year would be consumed in laboratory studies and preparing test devices prior to making tests and therefore a two year suspension would involve only a one year loss of time. I urged no gentlemen’s agreement pointing out that developments of the type mentioned could be achieved by the Soviets if they chose within the same period of time as could be required for research in detection methods.

The Prime Minister discussed at length the possibility of using tactical weapons indicating he had challenged the British JCS on this concept stating in his opinion it would lead to “big war”. I did not comment on this issue stating it was a military matter.

The Prime Minister then took the position that we must evaluate the hazards of failure at Geneva and the consequences in our relationship with the Soviets and with world opinion as contrasted with the risks of entering into an agreement which might have some loopholes which would give the Soviets advantages, though not crucial advantages. I stated this was the central issue at Geneva and that I was convinced from my ten day trip that the Soviet’s friendship, peace drive was a facade and that there was considerable evidence to me of their devious tactics and I therefore felt we have to be extremely guarded in any arrangement we made with them. The Prime Minister readily agreed.

Ambassador Whitney reported that in private conversations following our meeting, the Prime Minister expressed satisfaction over the discussion and pleasure at receiving the information from me. Both Whitney and Plowden felt the information given the Prime Minister was important and useful in molding British policy.

John A. McCone1
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, McCone Papers, Testing File No. 2. Secret. Drafted by McCone on October 20.
  2. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.