116. Memorandum of NSC Discussion, March 281

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  • Memorandum of Discussion at National Security Council Meeting, called for the purposes of receiving reports from Secretary Rusk.


  • President, Vice President, Secretary of State, Sec/Def, Secretary of Treasury, Attorney General, Acting Chairman of Joint Chiefs, DCI, Foster and about 20 others.

The report was as follows:

1. Nuclear testing

As reported the Soviet Union will not accept inspection within their own territory. They were brutally frank on this point claiming internal inspection was primarily for espionage. Gromyko stated that even one man can do them great damage. Therefore Rusk concludes that there is no chance for a test suspension agreement. The Soviets have no room for negotiation. Gromyko stated that they have developed instruments to detect and identify nuclear explosions in any environment in any place in the world and he assumes U.S. has same but will not disclose them, therefore concludes purposes of our insisting on inspection obviously for espionage.

As discussion proceeded the non-nuclear countries became impressed with our arguments. They recognized the espionage claim as entirely false and apparently understood the need for inspection. The meeting gave Rusk an opportunity to clearly explain the problems of detection and identification. Neutrals indicated that if a secret vote were taken, the vote would be about 12 to 5 in support of our position. However the issue was an internal political issue with many of them, therefore they could not speak out. However, the neutrals’ position considerably modified as the conference carried on. Further indoctrination must be undertaken of the 8 neutral nations of the conference, both at Geneva and in their respective capitals and also with other neutral countries at their capitals or at the U.N. State developing plans for this by producing literature, visual aids, etc.

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Rusk expects suggestions to postpone starting our tests. There are no real arguments. There never will be a good time to conduct tests. [Typeset Page 309] Rusk therefore hopes we will not under any circumstance be influenced into postponing our decision. Rusk says that he sees no reason to postpone the commencement of tests and therefore strongly recommends that we do not accept the arguments that are advanced or may be advanced for postponement.

2. Disarmament

The Soviet has stated positively that they will not permit the inspection of retained arms. They will only permit the inspection of discarded arms. Gromyko says that we can expect Soviet attitude on the inspection of disarmament to be infinitely more difficult than their attitude on inspection for testing. Hence, Rusk is in no way sanguine or hopeful over progress on disarmament. However Rusk indicated there was a possibility of some agreement in areas of surprise attack and outer space and the restrictions on the diffusion of weapons to third countries. This, he indicated, would present us a problem with NATO as Gromyko is insisting that weapons not be turned over to third party nations or to international organizations. Gromyko was particularly anxious about Germany and apparently interested in discussing a nuclear policy with the two Germanies quite outside of any other disarmament undertaking. Rusk interprets this to mean that the Soviets are so concerned over Germany that they wish to treat them in respect to nuclear armament outside more comprehensive agreements which might possibly break down at some future time or even during the period of negotiation.

William Foster stated that the neutralists had obviously moderated their views and he attributed this to Rusk’s persuasive handling of the situation. He also felt a slight advance was made in the areas indicated above though offered no particular hope for a disarmament understanding.

The impression was gained from statements both public and private that the Soviet arms strength may be less than we think or that they have led us to believe. A statement was made that our proposed 30% reduction would create an imbalance because the U.S. forces were greater now than the [Facsimile Page 3] Soviet forces. Also contribution of 50,000 kilograms of fissionable material to an international agency would create an imbalance.

NOTE: Some neutrals reported that 50,000 kilograms represented the entire Soviet resource of U–235.

In a private conversation Usachev, principal Soviet disarmament treaty expert, said that the Soviets had concluded that U.S. is stronger than the USSR. In another conversation it was mentioned that our missile capability exceeds theirs and for this reason they can not take a chance on the type of disarmament proposals we are advancing. All [Typeset Page 310] of this had led our delegation to suggest a review of all available hard intelligence on Soviet military capabilities.

ACTION: I was asked by the President and Rusk to order a check of all information on Soviet strength and I have agreed this would be done as promptly as possible.

3. Berlin Situation

No move of substance was made; however there was a definite change in mood as the talks went on and it was obvious that the Soviets wanted to continue talking on a bi-lateral basis. It was pointed out that when the conference opened the Berlin issue was raised by Rusk and other U.S. representatives. However, towards the close of the conference the Berlin issue was always raised by the Soviet side. There was no flexibility in the Soviet position which would permit searching for a modus vivendi. However there seemed to be some interest in an agreement which would provide international authority over the corridors and other access routes but these were coupled with the granting of authority to East Germany which would be unacceptable to us.

Gromyko denied any knowledge of any interference in the corridors through the distribution of chaff and the registering of flights and other problems in and around Berlin. During the discussions Gromyko made no threats, he made no positive statements concerning Soviet course of action, and he [Facsimile Page 4] would not permit an impasse to develop. Obviously he wished to keep Berlin in the conversation.

One point I would like to have checked: Apparently both Rusk and Lord Home were embarrassed because of sudden emphasis on the distribution of chaff in the corridors for it now turns out that the Soviets have carried on chaff exercises for the last several years hence the violent protests of both Rusk and Home were of no particular purpose. I would like to know promptly whether we have reported these incidents prior to the last week or two.

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John A. McCone
  1. Soviet positions on nuclear testing, disarmament, and Berlin. Secret. 5 pp. CIA Files, Meetings with the President, 12/1/61–6/30/62.