311. Memorandum of Conversation1

[Facsimile Page 1]


  • First Meeting of Special Working Group on Disarmament


  • State
    • Ambassador James J. Wadsworth, US Representative on Disarmament
    • Mr. Philip J. Farley, S/AE
    • Mr. Ronald I. Spiers, S/AE
    • Mr. Vincent Baker, S/AE
    • Mr. Lawrence D. Weiler, S/AE
    • Mr. Donald R. Morris, S/AE
    • Mr. Henry Owen, S/P
  • Defense
    • General Alonzo Fox
    • Colonel Fred Rhea
  • AEC
    • Admiral Paul Foster
    • Mr. James Goodby
  • CIA
    • Mr. Robert Amory
  • Dr. Killian’s Staff
    • Mr. Spurgeon Keeney

Ambassador Wadsworth welcomed the members to the first meeting of the Special Working Group on Disarmament for Summit Preparations and asked Mr. Farley to explain the terms of reference of the group.

Mr. Farley noted that last week the President had established a Special Cabinet Committee on Summit Preparations to be chaired by the Secretary of State. Other members are the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the AEC and the Secretary of the Treasury. At its first [Typeset Page 1321] meeting on April 7, the Special Cabinet Committee established a working group on U.S. disarmament policy with members from the Departments of State, Defense, AEC, CIA and Dr. Killian’s office. The working group was asked to report by Tuesday, April 15, to the Special Cabinet Committee presenting its initial assessment of (1) the adequacy of present U.S. disarmament policy and (2) the opportunities for new U.S. initiatives in this field.

Mr. Farley reviewed the status of summit preparations within the Department of State, noting that the US, UK and France on March 31 had proposed to the Soviet Union that preparatory talks to pave the way for a possible summit meeting begin in the latter half of April. Therefore, it is a matter of urgency that this government have completed as soon as possible whatever review of its disarmament policy may be necessary.

[Facsimile Page 2]

Mr. Farley noted that while the predominant feeling in the Department of State is that there would be no summit meeting until fall, it is essential that we be ready to begin preparatory talks within the month. He said we recognize that this is a broad field and that probably a great deal of detailed work will be necessary. However, it is desirable at this point for the working group to ask itself (1) if the present U.S. position on disarmament (August 29) is one on which we can stand in detail, (2) if there are possible ideas for change which should be explored, (3) if there are modifications of the present policy which are desirable at this point. He said that probably the prospects of an agreed interagency position by April 15 were slight, but that the working group must by then identify for the principals on the Special Cabinet Committee any lines needing further detailed study. He explained that he considered it the task of the working group to pose the issues, suggest initiatives and assemble the facts so that the principals may be able to make any decisions necessary.

Mr. Farley then explained that the paper distributed to the working group had been prepared by the Department of State in order to put forth the results of our own preliminary re-examination of the broad field of disarmament policy. He noted that it has been approved by the Secretary of State, after discussion with the panel of disarmament advisers, for interagency consideration. He explained that we had considered the present form of the paper as that most useful for comparison with existing policy, that is, an interlinear modification of the June 11, 1957 NSC policy statement on disarmament.

Ambassador Wadsworth said that based on this, he felt the working group should reconvene Monday to receive initial suggestions from its members as to: 1) whether the U.S. should stand firm on its present policy, 2) any new ideas from the various agencies, or 3) any areas which [Typeset Page 1322] they felt should be studied further. From this discussion a preliminary report should be prepared for transmission to the President’s Special Cabinet Committee.

General Fox said that he thought an aspect of our policy which should be considered very seriously is the question of how it is presented. He said he felt the August 29 proposals were substantively quite sound but had been presented very badly. He thought the working group should pay particular attention to how, in the future our policy may be presented as to be clear and immediately understandable throughout the world.

Mr. Farley agreed, noting that our negotiators had great difficulty presenting our case, and that it is very difficult to separate policy from public impact. However, he noted that this is secondary to the work the group must do. The group must first focus on policy; once that is decided we can consider how it is to be presented. He stressed that the report to the Special Cabinet Committee on next Tuesday should give a consensus of the working group as to whether the August 29 policy should stand, whether it should be changed, studied further, whether detailed technical studies are needed or whether the working group would need immediate Presidential decisions before it could proceed further.

General Fox said that as far as the possible separation of test cessation from the cutoff was concerned, the answer from the military would most certainly [Facsimile Page 3] be no. However, he said that this might be different if the question were asked relative to the state of our knowledge after HARDTACK has been completed.

Mr. Farley agreed that any decision would clearly be easier given successful completion of the HARDTACK testing program. But he noted that an immediate response to the Soviet demarche might be necessary.

General Fox said that the Defense Department could not recommend such a decision. Mr. Farley noted that this was not just a military consideration but that there were extremely important political problems involved.

Admiral Foster said that he was not very sanguine about the possibility that HARDTACK would give the AEC laboratories all the information they want. He said that we would certainly have to predicate our assumptions on what the USSR is doing at the time the U.S. might stop testing. Would they continue their present cessation or would they resume? Mr. Farley noted that the Soviet Union by its unilateral cessation of testing has given up considerable freedom of action. What we do with regard to nuclear testing will certainly affect the future Russian position.

Mr. Farley reviewed the extent of separability of the various items in the State Department paper, noting that we propose not only changes [Typeset Page 1323] in policy as a whole but also changes in the interdependence of various items. Thus nuclear testing could be agreed to separately subject only to the condition of an agreed inspection system and the stated intention of the U.S. to resume testing at the end of two years unless international agreement on the cut-off of production had been reached. Outer space cooperation could be dealt with separately. Missile control proposals were contingent on further feasibility studies by Dr. Killian’s staff. Inspection zones might be accepted independently.

General Fox asked if the target date for agreement—September 1, 1958—assumed Senate ratification. Mr. Farley noted that the specific date is, of course, subject to more discussion and at any rate would be stated in terms of a specific date or after ratification of an agreement by all states, whichever was the later. He noted that all the provisions would require a treaty and thus be subject to ratification, although the President could, by executive agreement, stop testing.

Ambassador Wadsworth reviewed our position on the nuclear testing issue in the United Nations. He recalled that many of our friends had felt at the 12th General Assembly that testing should be stopped and that the vote on the issue had been a lot less favorable to us than in the past. Since the 12th General Assembly the feeling among the great majority of the delegations in New York was that the United States should stop testing. Even the SYG had said this publicly. He noted that these people appreciate our need for continued testing, but feel that the unilateral Soviet cessation has changed the situation. He said that there will be a strong movement next fall for a resolution calling for cessation and that while this might not be successful, we certainly will lose many of our former supporters to the abstention list. He noted that this problem had many facets: for instance, a too rigid position by the U.S. may seriously jeopardize public opinion in countries where we have military [Facsimile Page 4] installations. He reported that the SYG felt on the basis of his Moscow trip that the USSR wants summit talks more than anything else. They object to our DC–SC procedure because they believe it is a trick to prevent a summit meeting. They are also suspicious of the March 31 tripartite note for the same reason, feeling that the proposed preparatory talks would be used as a strategem to avoid a summit meeting. He reiterated his feeling that the testing question had gone far beyond being a theoretical problem. Even the Norwegians and Danes were becoming increasingly restive. Many nations of the world were hysterical and panic stricken at the thought of possible effects from fallout from nuclear testing. USUN feels we need a broad move at this juncture.

General Fox asked if the Secretary of State would have to tip our hand concerning any proposals we might make during the course of the preparatory talks, or whether we could have a surprise demarche such as the Open Skies proposal, which had a great impact at Geneva. [Typeset Page 1324] Would a policy have to be fully coordinated with our allies? Mr. Farley noted that there was more of a pattern of cooperation now than there had been in 1955. The experience of last summer had built up a precedent of NATO cooperation which we have continued in coordinating replies to the Bulganin letters. However, he could certainly recognize the value of surprise impact. [text not declassified]

Mr. Farley said he thought he should make quite clear that the U.S. will not take much credit from cessation of testing. However, such a move will clear the air as to our general aims in disarmament. We must have more than this to recapture the initiative in world public opinion. He noted that we need during the preparatory talks to show the USSR that the U.S. really wants progress.

General Fox said he felt that the members of the working group were not in a position to make decisions, that they could not judge this issue adequately. Mr. Farley agreed but said that the group must examine disarmament policy and, on the basis of their knowledge, make a recommendation to the principals.

Mr. Keeney explained that this is what the Killian panel on nuclear testing had in effect done when it determined the impact on weapons development which would result from cessation of testing, even though it had not discussed military implications. Mr. Farley said that the working group is expected to deal with the issues such as test cessation. While the group cannot make final decisions it certainly must recommend courses of action to the Special Cabinet Committee.

General Fox reiterated that on the question of test cessation the Defense Department’s answer would clearly be “no”. Mr. Farley said in that case the group would report differing views and perhaps ask for more studies. Admiral Foster said that the group might very well come up with a consensus that test cessation would be unwise from a military point of view but that over-riding political reasons made it wise to stop testing. Mr. Farley agreed with this and said it was possible that one or all of the members might take the position either (1) [Facsimile Page 5] that there should be no decision until HARDTACK had been completed and evaluated or (2) that in preparing for the 13th General Assembly we must have a change in policy.

Admiral Foster noted that it takes about six months properly to evaluate the results of a test series. This would be long past the opening session of the 13th General Assembly.

Mr. Amory said it was quite clear to him that the political deadline of the 13th General Assembly must be met.

General Fox said that from a national security point of view our vital security interest militated against a cessation of testing. Mr. Spiers [Typeset Page 1325] noted that our political relationships were as much a part of our national security as our military preparedness. Admiral Foster said that in view of the shortness of time, he felt that the working group should assume that over-riding political considerations do exist and that a Presidential decision to cease nuclear testing has been taken. The group could then evaluate the result of such a decision. He expressed the personal view that a decision had already been made that the U.S. must have a fallback to its August 29 policy.

Mr. Farley explained that formerly, during Governor Stassen’s tenure, the mechanism for policy change had been for Governor Stassen to make recommendations which were considered by the NSC and sent to the President for final decision. Now Secretary Dulles was the principal disarmament advisor to the President, with Ambassador Wadsworth as chief negotiator and Mr. Farley responsible for policy formulation. He said establishment of this group was an attempt to get interagency development of policy. Thus he felt the group must uncover these problems for eventual decision on a higher level. He noted that there had not yet been any decision on any of the questions on disarmament. It was the task of the working group to propose policy guides for such decisions. It must identify possible advantages of shifts in policy. On the testing question, it may only be able to identify the views of each agency.

Ambassador Wadsworth set 2:30 p.m., Monday, April 14, as the time for the next meeting of the working group.

  1. Source: Record of the first meeting of the Special Working Group on Disarmament; preparations for summit, suspension of nuclear testing. Secret. 5 pp. NARA, RG 59, Central Files, 611.0012/4–958.