89. Memorandum from Col. Smith to Gen. Taylor, March 61

[Facsimile Page 1]


  • Disarmament Meeting With the President

1. Background. The meeting this afternoon will be a follow-on to that of the Principals last week and its purpose is to reach some agreement on the US position to be presented at the 18 Nation Disarmament Conference which begins on 14 March. The basic paper for discussion is one developed over the weekend by ACDA and was not distributed to attendees at the meeting until this morning. (This upset some of the serious disarmers who oppose ACDA’s line of attack).

[Typeset Page 269]

2. ACDA gives as the overall US objective that “the US should seek to develop a policy which results in a reduction in the nuclear destructive capability of the world and also in the prevention of the proliferation of nuclear weapons to an increasing number of countries.” Specific objectives include the working out with other nations of a program for general and complete disarmament, to negotiate with the Soviets the widest measure of disarmament possible, to negotiate with the Soviets any arms control measures which would improve the prospect of further disarmament, and finally, to effect favorably the attitudes and actions of both our friends and enemies. The paper lists on page 6–8 the area of agreement we share with our allies at this point. The list shows there is broad agreement on the general approach to the problem.

3. The central issue appears to be whether the US should press for reduction of only strategic vehicles in the initial stages or whether it should propose an across-the-board reduction. Appendix A of the ACDA paper contains a summary of the basic arguments on this point. As presented the paper tends to oppose across-the-board reductions because it would freeze US conventional inferiority, and as noted in the overall objective, ACDA would hope to have us rely more on these forces for deterrance. Given this reasoning ACDA favors a 30% reduction in strategic delivery vehicles without reduction of other armaments. Such a reduction would be proportionate according to the ACDA proposal and would thus permit us to maintain our strategic superiority while building up our conventional forces. A third alternative discussed would allow some trade-off of US strategic superiority for some US conventional superiority.

4. The arguments on these points have become esoteric among the professional arms controllers and they may tend to become so in the discussion this afternoon. Irrespective of reductions in strategic [Facsimile Page 2] nuclear capabilities it does not seem feasible that the Soviets would willingly permit us to achieve conventional superiority. Their actions in the recent Berlin crisis have shown that if we increase our forces they will increase theirs. Moreover, it seems somewhat incongruous to believe there could be much progress in disarmament in a world so hostile that the major powers believed it essential to expand their military forces.

5. The paper contains a lot of refinements to the three broad alternatives mentioned above. Under certain conditions some modernization would be allowed. Under others all military production would cease.

6. If Mr. McNamara attends the meeting and if he acts as he did at the State Department the other day he may take over the meeting and lobby for the overall 30% reduction figure. If so, the meeting could proceed fairly orderly. If not, it is impossible to predict what might happen.

  1. Background information for disarmament meeting with President. Confidential. 2 pp. National Defense University, Taylor Papers, Disarmament 2, 1962.