115. Memorandum of Conversation, March 26, between Rusk and Home1

SecDel MC/48
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  • Disarmament Discussion


  • United States

    • The Secretary of State
    • Mr. William C. Foster
  • United Kingdom

    • The Earl of Home
    • Sir Michael Wright
    • Mr. A.C.I. Samuel
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Lord Home opened with questions concerning the Secretary’s proposed speech. He first asked why we put early emphasis for conference action on cuts in major weapons systems such as nuclear delivery vehicles, tanks, etc. We responded that these had greatest capacity for destruction, would have greatest immediate effect in turning down the magnitude of possible destructive wars and were less numerous and therefore, presented an easier verification requirement.

He next questioned why we could not accept a continuous process of disarmament rather than a Stage 1, Stage 2, Stage 3. It was explained [Facsimile Page 2] that a 30% cut was a radical cut; the adjustments and the risks assumed thereby would be substantial and not precisely unpredictable. Therefore it was desirable, so to speak, to have the opportunity of reviewing the bidding when the first important changes had been made in relative power relationships. The period between stages should provide this.

It was further pointed out that while the United States had not reached a final decision, it was possible that after further study we might be able to agree that the 30% cut be first applied bilaterally to the U.S. and the USSR. We have previously indicated to our allies that we are willing to apply such a cut in military forces in this manner down to 2,100,000 each in the US and the USSR.

A question was then raised as to possible separable measures which could be usefully negotiated in the informal committee of the whole. In Secretary Rusk’s proposed speech some of these are listed, particularly having to do with surprise attack. However, there are other separable measures which might well be discussed. These will be developed later but are perhaps not usefully set forth in this speech. Such separable measures might include: non-transfer of nuclear weapons or know-how; a non-aggression pact between NATO and Warsaw Pact countries; and already underway in nuclear test ban treaty discussions.

The test ban treaty negotiation was then discussed at length. Lord Home asked why, since we had offered in September to accept a moratorium based on existing systems of detection, we were unwilling now to do the same particularly as it was felt that means of detection and identification had been improved? We stated that in the first place detection of these required a number of inspection stations around a large part of the Soviet Union and also required air sampling flights near to Soviet borders and perhaps over the Soviet Union. Air sampling from outside the Soviet Union would give no hard evidence as to location of tests and left the real possibility of denial of such tests having taken place. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to develop adequate evidence based on existing systems. There also would be the political difficulty of getting acceptance of any such treaty from the U.S. Congress. Members of important cognizant committees there believe that important advances have been made by the USSR and that [Typeset Page 307] the US should be unwilling to take any chance on a further change in our relative position in the field by possible cheating on the part of the Soviet. The U.S. has, nonetheless, expressed its willingness to accept a test ban treaty across the board with adequate detection, identification and location systems.

Sir Michael Wright stated at considerable length that he believed there had been great improvement in detection and identification systems which should allow us to omit control posts on Soviet territory. He stated that he believed that our American scientists appeared to agree with this appraisal in discussions with British representatives here last week.

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Foster expressed some doubt that this was a correct appraisal in view of his conversations with the same scientists. He also expressed doubt that the Swedish seismologist who was here had accepted the thought of possible breakthroughs which would allow the elimination of control posts while still retaining the ability to detect, identify and locate and thus be able to obtain convincing proof of a violation. Our scientists have indicated that the Swedish seismologist agreed with them. British scientists visiting Washington had stated that while there was possibility of an improvement in these systems over the coming years, improvements did not yet exist in a way to be able to supplant requirements set forth in the so-called 1958 Geneva system.

In the course of this discussion, Mr. Green called Lord Home and asked whether the afternoon heads of delegation meeting could be raised to ministerial level. Lord Home agreed he was willing to attend although Secretary Rusk would not be able to, nor would Minister Segni of Italy. However, it was agreed the meeting would be attended by Minister Green and Lord Home, by Mr. Foster for the U.S. and by Mr. Russo for Italy. In view of possible emphasis on the test ban discussion, the U.S. suggested that Doctors Wiesner and Hayworth attend.

Lord Home brought up briefly with Secretary Rusk the question of British problems with British Guinea and asked as to the possibility of U.S. assistance in this regard.

There was also a brief discussion of problems connected with the official British position on the admittance of Red China to “competent associated UN organizations” which it was agreed would be deferred to later discussions in Washington in view of U.S. feeling against this opening wedge.

  1. Disarmament discussion. Confidential. 3 pp. Department of State, Central Files, 600.0012/3–2662.