30. Paper Distributed at the 359th NSC Meeting1
Washington, March 20, 1958
IMPORTANT POINTS IN THE “ESTIMATE OF THE WORLD SITUATION” (NIE 100–58)
(Figures in parenthesis refer to “Estimate” paragraphs)
1. Soviet Strength and Intentions.
- The Soviet world position vis-a-vis the West has improved in 1957 over 1956, in part due to its demonstrated scientific capabilities, its reasserted control over Bloc countries, and the effective psychological impact of its propaganda effort to depict Russia as the advocate of “peace” and “disarmament.” This Soviet trend is not necessarily irreversible. (1, 19).
- The Soviet determination to achieve world leadership is unabated. (6, 40).
- It is unlikely that at least in the next five years the Soviet Union, even with an ICBM capability, will embark on general nuclear war or deliberately take actions involving serious risk of such war. The Soviet Union has still a healthy regard for U.S. retaliatory capability and of damage attending nuclear exchanges. (10, 66).
- Changes in top Kremlin personnel do not indicate a deterioration or disintegration in the Soviet regime’s policy or determination to gain world leadership for Communism. However, there are evolutionary changes in Soviet society which might in the long run (but not in nearby times) turn Russia into a nation with which the Free World could live more at peace.
- During the foreseeable future there will be a dangerous jockeying for position between the U.S. and the USSR, involving the most difficult calculations of risk of actions or inactions in particular situations. (67, 70). Failure to calculate accurately could lead to local war or even to a general conflict. Despite efforts to keep wars limited, the chances of doing so whenever major areas or causes are involved are at best not too promising. (67).
2. The State of Mutual Deterrence and Deterioration in the Western Position.
- The U.S. and the USSR will soon achieve a state of mutual deterrence, under which each will try to avoid a general nuclear conflict [Typeset Page 110] because of the resultant inestimable damage to both and to the world. (5, 6, 66).
- Under these circumstances, (a) potentially disruptive forces within the Western Alliance have been stimulated; (b) some friendly nations fear that the U.S. will no longer be willing to threaten nuclear retaliation in order to deter Soviet actions in matters of vital concern to them; (c) the Soviets will take more bold actions in the fields of economic penetration and subversion, perhaps in the area of limited war; and (d) there will be a weakening in the Free World alliances, less confidence in U.S. leadership and military power, increased respect for Russian achievements in science, technology, rocketry, and nuclear weapons, more susceptibility to Russian propaganda for East-West negotiations—all in the hope of escape from tension. (9, 30, 34, 42, 72, 73)
3. U.S. Bases Overseas.
- The U.S. will encounter increasing trouble in retaining overseas bases on terms assuring their availability and effectiveness in case of need. (38)
- The dual control provisions of the IRBM agreements will introduce troublesome elements into the operation of the NATO Alliance. The division between people who seek early negotiations with the Russians and people whose principal concern is to maximize the military strength of the Alliance before negotiating, will offer opportunities for exploitation by the USSR and for Soviet maneuvers to delay the installation of IRBM’s. (38, 39).
4. Competition for Underdeveloped and Uncommitted Countries.
- Most of these countries believe the world power struggle is of no direct concern to them. They are not greatly concerned with “anti-Communism,” but are interested primarily in their own economic development. Their choice will increasingly be, not between East and West, but between neutralism and pro-Communism. (47, 50, 87).
- Most of these countries lack political and economic organization to achieve desired economic growth. There is a shortage of administrative and technical skills. Local capital is insufficient, and economic and political uncertainties and (in some cases) hostility, discourage private and to some extent Governmental foreign investment. Population growth frequently exceeds the growth of the economies. Many underdeveloped countries are increasingly disposed to accept Soviet economic offers, and some may come to adopt Communist methods which appear to them to have been successful in the USSR and Communist China. (48, 65).
5. Competition Between Free World and Soviet Systems.
- The economic strength of the USSR will continue to grow at a faster rate than that of the U.S., and the Soviet regime will continue to have the capability to direct its economic strength in support of its internal and external policies which seek world leadership. (15).
- Weaknesses in the Free World economy have emerged, including slower economic growth, slower expansion of world trade, inflationary pressures, and the U.S. economic recession. However, over the longer run, prospects for economic growth are favorable in many Free World areas. (61).
- An intensive, world-wide competition between the Soviet Bloc and the U.S. will continue for some years to come during which the Soviet Bloc will undertake vigorous economic and political offensives. (73).
- The general course of events in the East-West contest will depend more than anything else on the manner in which the West mobilizes and employs its political, economic, and military resources. (74).
- Source: Important points in NIE 100–58. Secret. 3 pp. Eisenhower Library, Whitman File.↩