134. Memorandum for the Record Prepared by McCone, July 261

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  • Secretary Rusk, presiding; McNamara, Lemnitzer, Nitze, McNaughton for DOD; Foster, Fisher for Disarmament; Bundy, Wiesner, White House; Rostow, State; Murrow, USIA; Seaborg, AEC; McCone, CIA

Foster outlined in broad terms the proposed atmospheric and comprehensive treaties.

Rusk raised questions concerning the tentative nature of technical data. Wiesner supported data as dependable and stated scientific findings will improve with time and not retrogress.

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McNamara raised two unknowns: (1) The level of threshold of any system and the number of unidentified natural events all of which related to the risks of a treaty with imperfect verification and second, the amount of weapon advance that the Soviets could make by operating below the threshold which he placed at about 14 KT.

Seaborg answering the second question stated that great developments could be done under 14 KT [text not declassified] (a) Development of small tactical weapons; (b) [text not declassified]; (c) [text not declassified]; (d) Partial but incomplete information on weapons effects. Underground technology has advanced; results have improved.

Foster questioned whether the USSR would run the risk of being caught by cheating. Comprehensive treaty was entered. This was supported by Wiesner.

McNamara stated that nevertheless we must weigh the risk even if the Soviets cheated at half the indicated threshold or 7 KT.

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Seaborg then advanced strong argument of maintaining underground testing to preserve the vitality of the laboratories. He was joined by Haworth.

Rusk then asked the question of “do we all agree that our interests are served by stopping testing, if all parties stopped and the suspension can be verified?” There was no dissension.

Rusk then reporting on Geneva, stated that (1) there was an atmosphere of expectancy of a major change in U.S. policy because of the Vela announcement; (2) We must not put out proposals for propaganda purposes as this hurts us rather than helps us. (3) We must be prepared to live with any proposal we put forth. (4) Unfortunately, each new meeting creates an expectancy that the United States will come forward with new offers or new concessions.

Rusk therefore summarized the two main approaches: (1) A comprehensive treaty tabled complete with the indicated number of inspection stations; their locations and the number of on-site inspections and the full explanation of the reasoning. (2) Recognized the Soviet attitude of forbidding on-site inspection and therefore while we want a comprehensive treaty, this basic issue must be resolved with the Soviets first and therefore we proposed to start with an agreed atmospheric treaty which would include outer space and underwater tests and would depend entirely upon a national detection resources and no inspection would be required in the territories of the other party.

McCone reviewed briefly the history of several such proposals previously made in 1959 and 1960 and therefore stated that he felt an atmospheric ban would not be agreed to by the Soviets.

Foster, Rusk and Bundy felt previous offers had been linked with other agreements for research or for the installation of control posts [Typeset Page 364] and that we at no time had made a straight offer to suspend atmospheric tests with no conditions.

NOTE: A review of history indicates that this is correct except that in 1959 President Eisenhower in writing to Macmillan actually made an atmospheric test suspension offer free of other entanglements. Murrow indicated that it might be a good idea to repeat our position and McCone agreed.

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Rusk then reported on Gromyko talks indicating a rising concern on the part of Gromyko over proliferation, stating that both U.S. and USSR have a common interest against proliferation. Gromyko complained about our plans for multilateral (NATO) forces interpreting them as a device to proliferate weapons to several countries including West Germany. Rusk encountered some difficulty in disabusing Gromyko of this but felt he finally succeeded.

McCone then discussed question of whether atmospheric suspension and a continuation of underground testing would halt proliferation, stating that all nations who wished to develop a nuclear capability could do so with underground testing. Wiesner joined in this viewpoint. It was the consensus that this was probably true but nevertheless was worth a try. Rusk then brought up the question of our policy on insisting upon on-site inspection as a part of the comprehensive treaty. He asked if anyone in the room felt that we could proceed with a comprehensive treaty that provided zero inspection. No one felt this would serve our interests and would involve dangers that we should not accept. Therefore, Rusk concluded that unless the Soviets waived their position in opposition to on-site inspection we are simply not in business with respect to a comprehensive treaty. All agreed and it was agreed that this would be reported to the President at the meeting on Friday.

Bundy emphasized that the new technical findings as he understood them did not permit a treaty with no on-site inspections. Others concurred. There was complete unanimity on this point. It was the most important point made at the meeting.

McNamara then raised the question of the two risks or dangers faced by the United States: (a) Risk to the U.S. if the Soviets beat the system and cheat. What will they accomplish and what will that mean to our security. (b) Risks to the United States if we do not make a Treaty, continue testing with the result that there will in all probability be a continual proliferation of weapon capabilities. He mentioned specifically West Germany, Italy, Israel, Japan, and India, pointing out that all now have reactors and hence were producing plutonium. [It was agreed that an appraisal as proposed by McNamara should be made.] Wiesner took this occasion to press for a comprehensive treaty, proposed an assessment of risks and urged that the atmospheric treaty [Typeset Page 365] be used as a fall-back position if the Soviets continue to oppose on-site inspection.

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Bundy then stated that as a matter of policy we are to continue underground testing in Nevada until we have a comprehensive treaty. There is no intention to stop the AEC and DOD from further underground testing; indeed, a new series of underground tests has been approved by the President.

McNamara then raised the question of continuing preparation for atmospheric testing in the event of a suspension. Bundy and Rusk stated that we must maintain readiness for further atmospheric testing even though agreement is reached to suspend atmospheric testing as we must anticipate a circumstance under which the Soviets would suddenly confront us with a series and would abrogate a treaty in order to proceed. It was agreed that maintaining a state of readiness would be difficult; that a great many things could be done secretly so that the lead time for a test series would always be at a minimum. All agreed that such a procedure should be followed as a matter of policy. Rusk proposed that State and DOD work jointly in this area.

In summary, it appeared to me that the meeting was unanimous that we should not engage in a comprehensive treaty without provisions for detection stations on Soviet territory and if necessary on-site inspections, taking into account Vela results. Under no circumstances should we agree to a treaty which did not provide proper verification and this called for some on-site inspections. All agreed that an atmospheric ban depending on national detection resources was satisfactory. All expressed very great concern over the proliferation of weapons and equated this danger to the risks of Soviet clandestine cheating on any comprehensive treaty. Finally, there was unanimity in the views which should be presented to the President.

NOTE: Since Khrushchev as recently as yesterday repeated his adamant objection to on-site inspections, it appears that a comprehensive treaty is futile. From my four years’ experience with this negotiation, I feel a proposal for an atmospheric ban alone will be rejected by the Soviets and therefore question whether the Geneva conference will meet with any success at all.

The meeting then dealt with two or three other disarmament issues as set forth in the papers, on which there was no disagreement.

John A. McCone
  1. Discussion of atmospheric and comprehensive treaties by Committee of Principals, July 26. Secret. 4 pp. CIA Files, Job 80B01285A, DCI Memos for Record, 4/9/62–8/21/62.