36. Telegram From the Department of State to the Mission to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and European Regional Organizations0

Topol 2308. Paris for USRO and Embassy. Following is summary of Department’s initial and tentative analysis of Soviet announcement Jan. 6 of 300,000 man reduction in armed forces.1USRO should see Moscow’s 1193, rptd info London 207, Paris 207, Bonn 122 in connection this summary.2

Begin Summary

Announcement part of developing campaign to demonstrate Soviet desires for relaxation of tensions and to encourage Western tendencies toward slowing down military preparations and toward new negotiations with USSR. This third announcement armed forces cuts since Stalin’s death. Unlike previous announcements, new statement did not give date by which reductions to be completed. Soviet officials who announced reductions at Moscow press conference took traditional position of declining divulge current strength of Soviet forces.

Announcement foreshadowed in Supreme Soviet Resolution Dec. 21 which “instructed” government consider further unilateral force [Page 147] reductions.3 On same day Khrushchev mentioned possibility of such reductions in speech to Supreme Soviet and did so again in Kiev speech Dec. 24.4 These statements indicated clearly that move aimed coincide with other steps by which USSR evidently hopes allay Western anxieties engendered by recent Soviet technological boasts and achievements and to impede resultant Western efforts toward greater military preparedness and political cohesion.

Khrushchev speeches and Supreme Soviet resolution asserted that certain statements of peaceful intent by NATO leaders at HG meeting were taken into account by USSR and had permitted consideration of force cuts. This unusual acknowledgment of Western peaceful intent perhaps prompted by Soviet estimate that Western opinion favoring slow-down in defense efforts could best be fostered by depicting international situation as improving. However, actual announcement Jan. 6 no longer credited NATO statements with causing Soviet decision but described move as unilateral one which if emulated by Western powers will be “major contribution to the cause of lessening tension”. Moreover at Moscow press conference Kuznetsov denied that decision was result of relaxed tension but asserted it would promote relaxation.

Although clearly related to current foreign policy moves, announcement, if it in fact foreshadows reductions in Soviet armed forces, is also significantly based on domestic considerations. In Supreme Soviet and Kiev speeches Khrushchev stated that developments in science and technology had made it possible maintain Soviet armed forces at level demanded by Soviet security requirements with smaller expenditure of resources and emphasized that military effectiveness would not be reduced.

Re effect of projected reduction, factor is whether in fact this is net reduction. Conceivable that during last fall’s ME crisis additional troops mobilized and that announcement reflects in part their release after temporary service. Also possible this may merely represent completion of reductions announced in 1955–56 although Soviet spokesmen insist new cuts are in addition to earlier ones.

In sum, announcement timed with international situation in mind; if carried out reduction is made feasible by technological developments; and would be desirable for economic reasons. No present evidence that considerations of popular morale entered into Soviet decision.

[Page 148]

Announcement stated that of 300,000 men to be demobilized 41,000 would come from Soviet forces in GDR and 17,000 from Soviet forces in Hungary. This figure for reductions in GDR interesting when compared to only 30,000 said to have been withdrawn in connection with earlier reduction of 1,200,000. One aim of this emphasis on reductions in Germany presumably to put West under pressure undertake similar cutbacks. Elaborate farewell ceremonies will probably again be staged in East Germany at which West will be urged follow suit.

Assignment of advanced weapons to Soviet forces in GDR may be practical reason permitting some reductions. Other possible factor is that Moscow may have moved additional troops into East Germany as result Polish and Hungarian affairs and is now taking credit for withdrawing them.

Announcement of reductions is first such public Soviet announcement since revolt. Soviet statement Oct. 30, 19565 indicated that continued presence Soviet troops would be matter for negotiation with Hungary as well as with Warsaw Pact powers. Current announcement not preceded by any public indication that such negotiations in progress or contemplated although Moscow might conceivably go through motions of having Warsaw Pact powers approve move. However, reduction in Hungary presumably intended convey confidence that situation there stabilized.

Soviet announcement may be clue to future Soviet moves in disarmament field. Together with Soviet refusal to participate in disarmament commission and USSR proposal for 82 member commission which would be more suitable for propaganda than negotiation unilateral force reduction casts doubt Soviet interest in serious disarmament negotiations now. Announcement fits in with Bulganin letters’ support of Rapacki Plan6 and leads to inference further Soviet concentration on this or similar proposals as well as Soviet use of propaganda approach to disarmament problem. End Summary.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 761.00/1–758. Secret; Priority. Drafted by Helmut Sonnenfeldt and James G. Lowenstein; cleared by Charles G. Stefan, Henry P. Leverich, and Vincent Baker; and approved by B.E.L. Timmons, Director of the Office of European Regional Affairs. Pouched to the NATO capitals.
  2. The Soviet announcement said that its armed forces would be cut by 300,000 men over and above the reduction of 1,840,000 men announced in 1955 and 1956 and that the reduction would include 41,000 stationed in East Germany and 17,000 in Hungary.
  3. In telegram 1193 from Moscow, January 7, Ambassador Thompson reported that the Soviet announcement of its troop reduction appeared to be further indication that the Soviet Union did not expect serious disarmament discussions in the near future. He added, “in my opinion it is likely that this reduction will in fact be completion of previously announced reduction and not in addition thereto despite Soviet statement to the contrary.” (Department of State, Central Files, 761.00/1–758)
  4. The points developed in this and the following paragraph were made in a memorandum from Hugh S. Cumming, Jr., Director of Intelligence and Research, to Secretary Dulles, January 7, and were probably derived from this memorandum. (Ibid., 761.5/1–758)
  5. For text of Khrushchev’s speech to the Supreme Soviet on December 21, 1957, see Current Digest of the Soviet Press, February 12, 1958, pp. 3–8. For text of his speech in Kiev on December 24, see ibid., February 5, 1958, pp. 12–17 and 40.
  6. Regarding this Soviet statement, see Foreign Relations, 1955–1957, vol. XXV, pp. 342343.
  7. The Rapacki Plan, first proposed by Polish Foreign Minister Adam Rapacki in a speech to the U.N. General Assembly on October 2, 1957, and subsequently renewed through diplomatic channels, called for the establishment of a denuclearized zone in Poland, Czechoslovakia, the German Democratic Republic, and the German Federal Republic. The countries in this zone, as well as the United States, United Kingdom, France, and the Soviet Union, would not manufacture, maintain, or import on these territories nuclear weapons of any type, including missile-launching equipment. Moreover, the powers having nuclear weapons would agree not to use these weapons against any territory in the zone. The plan also advanced proposals for the establishment and operation of a control system for the denuclearized zone. See Documents on Disarmament, 1945–1959, vol. II, pp. 839–892 and 918–926.