236. Memorandum of Discussion at the 426th Meeting of the National Security Council0

[Here follows a paragraph listing the participants at the meeting.]

1. U.S. Position With Respect to the Regulation, Limitation and Balanced Reduction of Armed Forces and Armaments (NSC 112)1

Mr. Gray said the first item on the agenda would be a presentation on disarmament by the Director of the Joint Disarmament Study, Mr. Coolidge, who had earlier discussed his preliminary thinking on the subject with the Planning Board.2 Mr. Gray asked Secretary Herter if he cared to make any introductory remarks.

Secretary Herter recalled that some months ago the President had approved the assumption by Mr. Coolidge of responsibility for studying, on behalf of the Departments of State and Defense, the disarmament questions which our negotiators will soon have to face. Mr. Coolidge had completed his preliminary studies and was now prepared to make an interim report.

Mr. Coolidge expressed the hope that as a result of his interim report he would be able to obtain the criticism of the Council with respect to his preliminary thinking on disarmament. When he accepted his present assignment, he had not been able to see much light at the end of the tunnel. He had lived in the hope that the light would grow, but he regretted to report that it remained dim. Mr. Coolidge then emphasized the joint nature of the Disarmament Study. He had taken two oaths of office, one as Special Assistant to the Secretary of State and one as Special Assistant to the Secretary of Defense. He was grateful to State, Defense, CIA, AEC, and WSEG 3 for providing him with a staff, which was selected primarily for the purpose of providing imagination and ideas, rather than on the basis of previous disarmament experience.

Mr. Coolidge reported that the first step in his study of disarmament had been to look at what had been done in the past. He had been led to believe that disarmament had always been considered on a “crash” basis; but he had discovered on the contrary that the entire field of disarmament [Page 805] had already been so competently and thoroughly explored in every direction that very little new material remained to be uncovered by his study. However, in the past our disarmament efforts had suffered from an emphasis on “package deals”, which were extremely complicated and which involved making vast future commitments at an early stage of negotiation. On the other hand, modest proposals for a few immediate disarmament steps often appeared picayune. His efforts had been directed toward establishing a long-range U.S. disarmament goal comparable in breadth to the Russian goal but not complete as to the detailed steps necessary to achieve the goal.

Mr. Coolidge felt that a long-range U.S. goal which would appeal to world opinion and be in accord with U.S. interests as previously stated by the President would be to build toward world peace under law. He then read the following statement of proposed policy:

“The present policy of the United States on arms control matters should be to favor verifiable arms control measures which tend toward establishing world peace under law; namely, a world in which:

  • “1. Rules of international law prohibiting armed conflict between nations shall be in effect, backed by adequate jurisdiction in a world court and by an adequate international peace force.
  • “2. National military establishments shall have been reduced to the point where no single nation or group of nations can effectively oppose the international peace force, and no weapons of mass destruction shall be in the control of any nation.”

Mr. Coolidge said this proposed policy, which spelled out the President’s statements of world peace under law, called for two actions to be taken in modest steps: reducing national capabilities and building up international capabilities. He thought this proposed policy should be tried out on the Russians in order to determine whether they are serious about disarmament.

Mr. Coolidge said that two-and-a-half measures held some promise for reducing national war-making capabilities. The “half-measure” was a ban on nuclear testing; he called it a “half-measure”, not because he considered it inappropriate or inadequate, but because it was already half-way in force. Aside from cessation of nuclear testing, the first measure to reduce national capabilities was an agreement on the use of outer space. Mr. Coolidge felt the world had failed in the past to seize two opportunities for dramatic progress in disarmament, once when the Baruch Plan4 was proposed and once during Mr. Stassen’s term as Disarmament Adviser when agreement was not achieved on limiting ICBM’s. It was now too late to limit ICBM’s, but great effort, which might lead to [Page 806] profitable negotiation, should be devoted to controlling outer space before satellites containing warheads begin to be placed in orbit. The second measure to reduce national capabilities was the Norstad Plan for a “freeze” of forces under a bilateral inspection arrangement in an European Zone composed of Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Germany, Poland, and Czechoslovakia. After such a “freeze”, negotiations might turn toward a “thin-out” of forces which would enable the United States to withdraw two divisions from Germany. Mr. Coolidge felt that the Norstad Plan was consistent with the surprise attack negotiations, with efforts to test Russian good faith, and with one of Khrushchev’s five disarmament proposals; and that if placed in operation, it should result in considerable development of the inspection technique. In addition, the Norstad Plan had the advantage of enabling the United States to obtain compensation, in the form of Soviet withdrawals, for any redeployment of U.S. divisions from Europe which we might have to make on account of the gold problem.

Turning to means of enhancing international capabilities, Mr. Coolidge expressed the view that there was little chance of achieving significant steps in the direction of creating an international police force. The small nations as well as the U.S.S.R. opposed such a step. However, it might be possible to develop further the concept of a UN “presence” in a troubled area. The establishment of such a UN “presence” might be facilitated by asking each UN member to file with the UN Secretariat a list of persons eligible to serve on a UN team which would be dispatched to trouble spots. This concept did not call for a standing force but for an ad hoc procedure of choosing UN teams from among the countries not involved in a dispute. Ultimately the UN teams might be given the power to mediate. Moreover, Mr. Coolidge continued, the concept of the codification and development of international law could be expanded. Previous efforts in this field had foundered on an attempt to define “aggression”. Mr. Coolidge said he was proposing agreement in the UN on additional rules of international law, not the enactment of rules by a world legislature. He also felt the Connally amendment, relating to the extent to which the United States would accept the jurisdiction of the World Court, should be repealed. Mr. Coolidge believed that the Court, which today lacks business and prestige, should at least be charged with the interpretation of treaties.

Mr. Coolidge realized that thus far he had omitted any mention of a limitation of nuclear weapons. This problem had been considered, and the conclusion had been reached that a balance of mutual deterrence was perhaps to be preferred to an attempt to limit nuclear weapons. Mr. Coolidge felt that if the United States had sufficient retaliatory capacity so that from five to twenty enemy missiles were required to destroy each U.S. missile, deterrence of surprise attack and an uneasy peace would [Page 807] result. Of course hardening the bases for our retaliatory force and making part of that force mobile would require a great deal of money Moreover, for a time there would be a “missile gap,” the only remedy for which would be to keep SAC in the air.

Mr. Coolidge reported that the Disarmament Study had also explored the questions of “nth country” nuclear capabilities. Although there was a clear split of opinion, military vs. diplomatic, on this issue, he was inclined to think that the present system, [1-1/2 lines of source text not declassified] was the best system.

Mr. Coolidge felt that ICBM’s could not be controlled because inspection would be unable to discover hidden ICBM’s. It had been suggested that ICBM’s might be controlled in an indirect way by providing for cessation of nuclear production. In time ICBM’s would thereby become useless because of degeneration of the nuclear stockpile after four to five years, especially after seven to eight years. However, the problem of inspecting a cessation of nuclear production would be formidable because plutonium would be produced by reactors under the atoms for peace program. Moreover, the ICBM vehicle would be difficult to limit because of the program for the peaceful exploration of outer space.

Mr. Coolidge said there was little hope of accomplishing U.S. objectives in disarmament unless and until there was a change in Soviet thinking so that the Soviets would pay more attention to world opinion. At the moment he was left with the feeling that proposal of a few limited measures in the field of disarmament would reveal whether Soviet thinking has changed and would provide guidance as to whether it would be worthwhile to propose more comprehensive and complicated measures.

Mr. Coolidge felt it was important that disarmament studies should be continued in order to backstop negotiations and maintain liaison with the scientific community. In this connection he noted with gratification that the JSC had recently established a Disarmament Group under Admiral Dudley.

In conclusion, Mr. Coolidge again solicited the views of the Council members on the general subject of disarmament.

Secretary Herter remarked that, except for the Norstad scheme, which was proposed two years ago and discussed informally with our allies, the interim report did not hold out much prospect of forward movement in the disarmament field. The Norstad Plan perhaps had merit as a means of testing Soviet desire for mutual inspection of ground and air forces. But in the eyes of the Germans, the Norstad Plan would be the beginning of the isolation of Germany from the rest of Europe, a possible development which causes the Germans considerable anxiety. The French believe the disarmament zone proposed by Norstad should extend from the Urals to the Atlantic. Secretary Herter thought the first [Page 808] step in any disarmament negotiation should be a test of Russian good faith as to inspection. In this connection, the negotiations in progress in Geneva were important, inasmuch as they might result in a precedent-setting opening up of Russian territory to inspection. Secretary Herter then referred briefly to three disarmament plans: a Soviet plan for disarmament by stages with very vague inspection provisions; a British “staged” plan similar to Mr. Stassen’s plan of 1957; and a French scheme consisting of a very general declaratory statement with no inspection provisions, but with provisions which concentrated on delivery systems. Secretary Herter said he gathered the Coolidge group was continuing its study. In conclusion, the Secretary added that he had hoped Mr. Coolidge would propose a cessation of nuclear production.

Mr. Coolidge said he would be able to propose a number of disarmament measures which would be useful discussion topics but which in his view would not lead to much accomplishment. A cessation of nuclear production was an unsatisfactory scheme in that it would not produce very far-reaching results, and in addition required a very cumbersome inspection system which virtually required the inspectors to sit down with the manager of an atomic installation and help him run it.

The President said he had been told something he had not known before, i.e., the short life expectancy of nuclear bombs.

Mr. Coolidge explained that this short life expectancy did not apply to all bombs, but only to those containing trinium, which disintegrates and must be replaced after about five years. Trinium need not necessarily be used in bombs, but is generally used because it increases the explosive effect.

The President said that for some time attempts to think though the disarmament problem had foundered on the certainty that some nuclear bombs could be concealed from disarmament inspectors. Now Mr. Coolidge’s group had concluded that delivery vehicles could also be concealed. The President believed that delivery vehicles and hardened bases could be discovered by a system of disarmament inspection. He wondered why Mr. Coolidge had expressed such complete pessimism on this point.

Mr. Coolidge said he would like to clarify his position on this matter. He agreed with the President that ICBM’s could be discovered by inspection: what he was pessimistic about was the possibility that the Russians would give up ICBM’s and go back to reliance on planes short of our giving up our overseas bases.

Secretary Herter thought the military services estimated that the Russians could camouflage or conceal a sufficient number of ICBM’s—say 100—to be decisive in the absence of U.S. ICBM’s.

The President said that, on the assumption that nuclear disarmament could not be achieved, we should concentrate on conventional disarmament. [Page 809] There would then be a situation in which we could destroy the Soviet Union and the Soviet Union could destroy us, i.e., a condition of mutual deterrence. This situation would engender some uneasiness, it is true; but if conventional armaments were eliminated at least we would not be carrying such a heavy arms burden. If a start could be made on conventional disarmament, both the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. might begin to make sense out of problems that now appear insolvable. Accordingly, he would not abandon the hope of taking definite steps in conventional disarmament while ignoring nuclear capabilities.

Mr. Coolidge observed that the United States had taken in the conventional field unilateral military actions from which it might have derived disarmament advantage. For example, we had reduced our armed forces manpower without securing any Russian concessions in return for such reduction. He would hesitate now to ask the Soviets to reduce from 3.7 million men to 2.5 million men without any U.S. reductions.

The President and Secretary Herter indicated that Russian proposals provided for considerable reduction in military manpower by both the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. A manpower ceiling of 1.5 million for each country had even been mentioned.

Mr. Coolidge did not believe it would be safe for the U.S., in the light of unsolved international political problems, to reduce its forces below 2.5 million men, not because these forces were needed for use against the U.S.S.R., but because of the possibility of limited wars or “brush fires”.

The President asked whether Mr. Coolidge envisaged fighting two or three limited wars simultaneously. When Mr. Coolidge replied in the affirmative, the President remarked that a situation in which several limited wars were going on simultaneously seemed to him to be getting beyond the “brush fire” stage and tending toward fire in the tall timber.

Dr. Kistiakowsky said he was not as pessimistic as Mr. Coolidge about control of long-range ballistic missiles. Some months ago (April 3, 1958) he had reported to the Council that a study by a technical panel on control of missile testing had concluded that it would be disadvantageous for the U.S. at that time to agree to a cessation of missile testing.5 However, the situation may now be different. By the time the disarmament negotiations end, Atlas and Polaris will be tested. A cessation of missile testing at that point might prevent the development of small, mobile missiles similar to Minuteman which, produced in quantity, would make disarmament much more difficult. He agreed with the view that 100 ballistic missiles could be concealed from disarmament inspectors, but doubted that such a number could be concealed in an operational [Page 810] status, particularly if they required liquid fuel, because very complex facilities were required for launching liquid-propellant missiles. Dr. Kistiakowsky did not want to prejudge any fresh study of the subject that might be made, but he felt there was a possibility that the conclusions of the 1958 study had been rendered obsolete by technological progress. However, Dr. Kistiakowsky added, it would not be practicable to limit missiles while allowing unlimited technological developments in outer space; missile control would necessitate international control of space. Nevertheless, the situation was not totally hopeless.

Mr. Dulles agreed with Dr. Kistiakowsky’s remarks, and added that the next eighteen months constituted a particularly important period because during this period the Soviets would be completing their deployments to mobile and hardened missile bases.

Secretary Anderson inquired whether it would be possible to combine the President’s “open skies” proposal with the Norstad Plan in such a way to guarantee against surprise. Mr. Coolidge replied that the Norstad Plan provided for open skies over the disarmament zone.

Mr. Gray noted that Mr. Coolidge’s view as to the undesirability of a “package plan” on disarmament would involve a change in policy. Disarmament had so far been discussed from a political and moral point of view; Mr. Gray felt it was important to discuss the subject also from the point of view of military advantage, and pointed out that Mr. Coolidge would be interested in the Council’s reaction to the statement of the long-range goal Mr. Coolidge had read.

General Twining said he understood the Council did not intend to make decisions on disarmament at this meeting. The Joint Chiefs of Staff would like an opportunity to comment on the points made by Mr. Coolidge before any decisions were taken.

The President referred to the policy statement read by Mr. Coolidge, particularly to the statement that “no weapons of mass destruction shall be in the control of any nation.” He believed we would have to accept this goal, but it was the last step in disarmament and should be so regarded.

Secretary Herter thought the objectives stated by Mr. Coolidge were long-range objectives and that the steps by which we advanced toward our goal would be slow. Mr. Coolidge said a technological break-through of some kind might conceivably speed up the process.

The Vice President assumed that the reference to a world court in Mr. Coolidge’s statement meant that the jurisdiction of such a court would be limited to disarmament. This limitation should be made clear in order to avoid arguments over domestic jurisdiction and political questions such as arose in connection with the Permanent Court of International Justice. The President agreed.

[Page 811]

The National Security Council: 6

Noted and discussed an interim report on the subject by Mr. Charles A. Coolidge, Director, Joint Disarmament Study.
Noted that the draft statement of a proposed long-range goal of the United States on arms control matters, presented at the meeting by Mr. Coolidge, would subsequently be circulated to Council members and Advisers so that they might provide the Secretary of State with any comments thereon after further study.

Note: The statement referred to in b above subsequently circulated for study and comment as provided therein.

[Here follow unrelated agenda items.]

Marion W. Boggs
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records. Top Secret. Drafted by Boggs on January 26, 1960. For Kistiakowsky’s account of this meeting, see A Scientist at the White House, pp. 180–181.
  2. For text of NSC 112, July 6, 1951, see Foreign Relations, 1951, vol. I, pp. 477496.
  3. A memorandum for the record of Coolidge’s meeting with the NSC Planning Board, November 30, is in the Eisenhower Library, White House Office Files, Project Clean Up, Disarmament—General. See the Supplement.
  4. Weapons Systems Evaluation Group. [Footnote in the source text.]
  5. Reference is to Bernard M. Baruch’s plan in 1946 for international control of atomic energy to be enforced by the United Nations. For Baruch’s description of the plan, see Documents on Disarmament, 1945–1959, pp. 7–16, 44–47.
  6. See Document 148.
  7. The following paragraphs and Note constitute NSC Action No. 2152, approved by the President on December 3. (Department of State, S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95, Records of Action by the National Security Council)