224. Memorandum of Conversation, October 10, between Rusk and Gromyko1

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  • Disarmament


  • US

    • The Secretary
    • Under Secretary Ball
    • Governor Harriman
    • Ambassador Thompson
    • Assistant Secretary Tyler
    • Deputy Assistant Secretary Greenfield
    • Mr. Akalovsky
  • USSR

    • Mr. Gromyko
    • Mr. Semenov
    • Ambassador Dobrynin
    • Mr. Zamyatin
    • Mr. Zemskov
    • Mr. Kornienko
    • Mr. Sukhodrev
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The Secretary said his view was that the efforts towards a solution of the disarmament problem could be compared to advance of infantry. When infantry advanced and encountered a pocket of resistance it worked on that pocket but the advance continued in the other sectors. In this connection, the Secretary recalled the US proposal for mutual destruction of B–47’s and “Badgers”. The US had proposed this because we believed it was better to destroy sophisticated weapons which were [Typeset Page 640] becoming obsolete in the military establishments of our two countries than to disseminate such weapons to the underdeveloped countries.

Mr. Gromyko wondered whether this would not look like destruction of weapons which were too expensive to maintain.

The Secretary agreed that Mr. Gromyko might have a point here but noted that we were proposing a rate of destruction which would be faster than the rate of obsolescence. He reiterated that both of our countries would reach a stage of development of sophisticated weapons where we would not want to see those weapons get into the hands of others.

Mr. Gromyko asked whether the Secretary was advancing this idea as a method which could be applied to armaments in general or only to a specific category.

The Secretary commented this proposal had two advantages in our view: 1) it would not require broad inspection because all that would have to be verified would be that a certain specified number of designated armaments had been actually destroyed, and 2) this would be useful from the standpoint of our concern about the possibility of such weapons being distributed to other nations. The Secretary thought that perhaps other weapon classes could be handled in the same way, although he did not know. This matter could be studied. As to our proposal regarding B–47’s and “Badgers”, if these aircraft should become obsolete in five years for example, why couldn’t we destroy them in three years? That would give us some disarmament [Facsimile Page 3] and would also be beneficial in other respects. For instance, it was interesting to note that the cost of one supersonic bomber was equivalent to the cost of maintaining a whole university in an underdeveloped country; consequently, it would be nonsense to give such bombers to the less developed countries.

Mr. Gromyko commented that if, for example, five hundred bombers were destroyed but one hundred rockets were built in their place, where would that lead us?

The Secretary agreed we ought to work on the problem of rockets as well, but pointed out that rockets without bombers would still amount to less armaments than if we had both. He also reminded Mr. Gromyko that the United States was prepared to discuss the question of nuclear delivery vehicles across the board. We had proposed in Geneva that all major armaments be reduced in stage one by thirty per cent. If the USSR felt that this was a strategic problem, we were prepared to discuss it.

Mr. Gromyko said that perhaps the most realistic approach to disarmament was that of general and complete disarmament, because such an approach would avoid the problem of balance and/or correlation [Typeset Page 641] of forces. We would begin at some point and end at zero, so that the only problem would be to keep the balance during the process. Of course he realized that all this would take some time.

The Secretary said that in theory we agreed that total disarmament was our goal but pointed out that we must start somewhere and move ahead.

Mr. Gromyko said this was true, but those steps must be part of a whole and agreed program, so that everybody would know what would happen tomorrow.

The Secretary observed that he had reviewed the disarmament proposals which had been made since 1920. All of those proposals had bogged down in technical problems which arose as soon as one tried to match one weapon [Facsimile Page 4] against another. As far as our proposals for the destruction of bombers was concerned, he could confide to Mr. Gromyko that our military believed that their destruction would result in a strategic disadvantage to the United States. However, the Government view had prevailed and we had advanced the proposal. Perhaps the military in the Soviet Union felt the same way as ours. The Secretary then said that as far as other weapons were concerned, perhaps we could find some which would lend themselves to a similar approach.

Mr. Gromyko inquired whether this meant that the Secretary was mentioning bombers only as an example.

The Secretary replied he had mentioned bombers because we had fully analyzed this problem. We could study whether this approach could be applied to some other weapons and perhaps we could find some additional weapon classes which would lend themselves to a similar treatment.

Mr. Gromyko then asked whether this approach could, in the US view, be applied to any bombers or only to a specific type.

The Secretary said we had proposed B–47’s and “Badgers” because we believed that they balanced. He did not know whether this approach could be applied to all bombers and said that this matter would have to be studied.

Mr. Gromyko then raised the question of bases, noting that when the Soviet Union referred to nuclear delivery vehicles in stage one it also mentioned bases, a subject which the United States was reluctant to discuss.

The Secretary suggested that Mr. Gromyko ask his Defense Ministry how many bases the United States had abandoned in the last fifteen years. He thought Mr. Gromyko would be amazed when he heard the figure. The Secretary remarked that if this job should be too big for the Soviet Defense Ministry he would give Mr. Gromyko the figures.

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Mr. Gromyko commented that perhaps the United States had abandoned weak bases and kept the strong ones. He said he had raised the [Typeset Page 642] question of bases because it had been a sensitive spot in the relations between our two countries since the war, although sometimes both the US and the USSR refrained from mentioning it.

The Secretary suggested that Mr. Gromyko should note that the US had supported the Iranian commitment not to have any missiles stationed in Iran. We had done so because we knew the Soviet sensitivity on this point.

Mr. Gromyko said he appreciated this statement and commented that the Soviet Government had guessed that this was so, even at the time the Iranians had made their commitment, although of course the Soviet Union could not be completely certain at that point. He wished to point out, however, that while the United States was perhaps abolishing land bases it was building sea bases.

The Secretary rejoined that the Soviet Union was building submarine upon submarine.

Mr. Gromyko asserted that Soviet submarines remained in closed seas.

  1. Disarmament issues. Secret. 5 pp. Department of State, Central Files, DEF 18.