139. Memorandum From the President’s Deputy Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kaysen) to President Kennedy0


  • Issues on Disarmament

At the Geneva meeting, which begins in two weeks, we are committed to try to make progress on all three levels of disarmament: a plan for general and complete disarmament; first steps in putting this plan into effect; and concrete measures not necessarily connected with the GCD plan. You have made these commitments in your recent exchange of letters with Chairman Khrushchev.

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The Conference will present a challenge to us at three levels: making some real progress in getting disarmament agreement in the not too likely event that the Soviets are interested in so doing; conducting the discussion in such a way as to educate the participants to the realities and complexities of the problems of disarmament, whether or not we achieve useful agreements at this time; and seeking a victory in what will undoubtedly be a propaganda contest with the Soviet Union.

There is as yet little agreement within the government on many of the problems involved either in choosing a plan for GCD to present to the Conference, or in deciding what concrete independent measures we should offer. Accordingly, there will be many issues which you must decide in the next week or ten days. They fall into two classes: those related to plans for GCD and first steps thereunder, and those related to concrete measures of disarmament not necessarily part of GCD.
At present we have a broad U.S. statement of principles on GCD (25 September Statement of Principles to the UNGA) and three attempts of varying degrees of completeness to embody these principles in plans. These are the ACDA Draft Plan No. 1; the White House Staff revision of ACDA Draft Plan No. 1; and the proposals of the ACDA Memorandum of February 24.1 None of these has been finally selected by ACDA or cleared within the government. The major features of the three principal plans are sketched below:

ACDA Plan No. 1 proposes to achieve GCD in a series of stages that deal first with the strategic delivery vehicles of the NATO-Warsaw Pact countries and would subsequently be broadened to cover all armaments in all countries. Specifically, the first stage of the plan would reduce strategic delivery vehicles of all types of the NATO and Warsaw Pact states to parity at 1,000 vehicles for each side. Within this limit, continued production would be permitted. In the second stage, Communist China and other allies of the NATO-Warsaw Pact states would be included, and all arms would be reduced to a parity at defined levels, with a parity of 500 for strategic vehicles. Subsequent stages would apply to all countries and all arms. Inspectors would be stationed at declared production facilities, and all destruction would be verified. Inspection against undeclared activities would be based on progressive opening of zones which would result in the progressive opening up of all countries as disarmament progressed. This plan envisages establishment of an international control organization and police force during the third stage.

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The White House Staff revision of ACDA Plan No. 1 proposes to achieve GCD through stages that deal from the outset with all major armaments. Initially it would apply to the NATO and Warsaw Pact States, and would subsequently be broadened to include all countries. Specifically, the first stage proposes to reduce all major armaments of the NATO and Warsaw Pact States by 30% for each individual type of weapon. From the outset there would be a complete production cutoff. In the second stage, the armaments of all countries, including Communist China, would be reduced to 40% of initially declared levels. Subsequent stages would reduce armaments by stages to final agreed levels. Inspectors would be located at declared facilities and destruction would be verified. To inspect against undeclared facilities complete access would be obtained progressively to zones so that access would be obtained progressively in direct proportion to the amount of disarmament achieved. This plan envisages establishment of an international control organization and police force during the second stage.

The ACDA memorandum of February 24 does not contain a complete plan. The alternatives it examines deal only with the first stage of a GCD plan. The apparently preferred alternative calls for a 30 percent reduction of strategic delivery capabilities of the NATO and Warsaw Pact countries. The paper discusses, without recommendation, whether the 30 percent reduction should be measured in terms of individual types of equipment, categories of equipment, or delivery capacity measured in megatons. The paper also discusses, without recommendation, whether or not a production cutoff should be included in the first stage. Later stages are not discussed in detail in this proposal, although presumably the agreement would be broadened to cover all armaments and all countries in a second or subsequent stage. Inspection methods are not discussed, even in broad, conceptual terms.

In choosing among plans there are five major issues to be considered:
Specificity of the plan. Do we discuss only the first stage, plus a general discussion of goals? Do we discuss the first and second stages, with a more detailed discussion of goals and some discussion of transition procedures from stage to stage? How much attention is given in the plan to the development of international peace-keeping machinery and its relation to the stages? The February 24 ACDA memorandum really discusses only the first stage. The two earlier documents are complete plans which go through all stages with more or less equal detail. Perhaps a middle position would be more satisfactory; namely, a fairly detailed discussion of the first two stages, plus some indications of how the processes might run further and the character of the ultimate goals.
Linkage. What should the relation be between reductions in strategic striking forces and reductions in conventional forces, and, in particular, [Page 342]reductions in personnel strength? Neither the first ACDA plan nor the latest memorandum provides for linkage at the outset. The revised ACDA plan does. The arguments involved are complex. On the one hand the present balance of forces is in our favor in nuclear striking power; in the Soviets' favor in conventional forces. This argues for parallel reduction in both. On the other side is the argument presented in ACDA’s memorandum that we should not reduce conventional strength until we get the Chinese Communists into the agreement, and that this must be left for the second or even a later stage. This argument applies with particular force to personnel strength, but it also reaches naval and tactical air strength. Linkage avoids the difficult problem of defining “strategic” and “tactical” weapons.
Production cutoffs. Do we forbid new production, as well as reduce existing stocks? In essence, this is a problem of whether we limit numbers but continue to have an armaments race in the various quality dimensions of armament, or try to eliminate the race altogether. A related question is whether we define reduction in terms of individual types of weapons, or broader or narrower categories such as strategic delivery vehicles, or missiles with ranges of 6,000 km or more. A combination of reductions defined in terms of types and a production cutoff result in limiting competition in all dimensions of weaponry. Reductions defined in terms of categories, delimited in various ways, without production cutoffs, represent an attempt to allow quality competition to go on within limits.
Inspection and its relation to staging. A major part of the negotiability of any proposal will depend on the inspection procedures contemplated. An important general question is whether or not we wish to decide on an inspection plan now or leave the whole matter open for the conference. Both of the earlier ACDA plans rest on the notion of zonal inspection in which each side selects for inspection one of a number of previously agreed zones in the territory of the others. The memorandum of February 24 proposes no specific inspection procedure. Zonal inspection appears to be the most promising attempt yet made to meet the Soviet opposition to inspection without disarmament. It is clearly easier to operate this form of inspection if all armaments are included from the first stage. Otherwise the question of what facilities within a zone should or should not be open for inspection arises, and again the question of inspection without disarmament appears.
Proportionality vs. parity. There is the question of whether reductions should be by equal proportions or should have a goal of parity. This issue is really one of staging. The ultimate goal might be parity or some other agreed set of force levels, but movement toward it could be by equal proportional reductions in early stages, adjusting in later stages to achieve the agreed goal.

The proposed concrete measures of disarmament which are effective independently of a plan for general and complete disarmament fall into three classes: those concerned with nuclear weapons, more general measures which purport to reduce the danger of surprise attack and proposals for establishing expert study groups. The important measures of the first class are a cutoff of the production of fissionable material for military use combined with a transfer from stockpiles to peaceful uses and a nuclear test ban. The combination of the first two of these measures would provide a substantial measure of arms control. The problems inherent in them are well known. In respect to the nuclear test ban, the most important question is what controls additional to those proposed in the Geneva treaty would be needed to deal with the danger of secret preparation for testing in violation of the treaty. In connection with the production cutoff and transfer from military stockpiles to peaceful uses, the problem arises as to whether the offer of 40,000 kg per year, suggested in the ACDA memorandum of February 24, is not too one-sided even as an initial position. The relative size of our stockpiles and production facilities suggest that a 2-for-1 offer on our part might be both more attractive and a better propaganda point.

The proposals for advance notification of major military movements, the establishment of observation posts at transfer station centers, and the exchange of military missions between NATO and Warsaw Pact raise little question except as to their effectiveness. The same cannot be said about a proposal to prohibit the transfer of nuclear weapons to third countries. The distinctions between transfer and the present procedures under which we operate both our NATO stockpile and the bilateral arrangements with certain of our allies is so subtle that it is difficult to see how we could succeed in explaining it in the Geneva forum in the face of the obvious target it would present for Soviet polemics. It may be better to treat this as the ACDA memorandum proposes treating the problem of an experts committee on biological and chemical warfare, something we respond to but take no initiative on.

  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Departments and Agencies Series, ACDA, Eighteen Nation 1/62-2/62. Secret.
  2. ACDA Plan No. 1 is the same as the ninth revision of the Foster Plan; see footnote 5, Document 72. The White House revision, dated January 30, is in the Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Departments and Agencies Series, ACDA, General 7/61-6/62. Regarding the February 24 ACDA paper, see footnote 1, Document 135.