206. Memorandum of Meeting With President Kennedy0


  • Disarmament Negotiations

In response to a question, a Defense spokesman said the destruction of the launching pad would delay our test series some weeks.1 A new pad would be ready in September and could be used in October.

The President stated that he did not want to conduct U.S. tests after the Soviets have finished their current test series if we can help it.2 He was informed that we now think the Soviets will end their current series on October 20. He noted that there was a risk in talking about a test ban if the Soviets finished their series and we have not held our final test in the current series.

Secretary McNamara presented his paper on the proliferation of nuclear weapons (copy attached).3 He estimated that in the next ten years sixteen States would be added to the four which now have a nuclear capability. Some three to seven years would elapse after a decision to go for a nuclear capability had been made, before a weapons capability would be achieved.

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Mr. Nitze discussed the situation during the next ten years in China, Sweden, India, Japan, Australia and South Africa, including the capabilities of these States to produce nuclear weapons and the restraints involved in their deciding to seek a nuclear capability. He acknowledged that in Germany and Italy pressures for nuclear capability was very great. This pressure might be dealt with by creating a multilateral force in NATO.

After ten years, the picture became quite different. The cost of producing nuclear weapons would drop drastically if the U.S. and the USSR continue testing and improving their weapons. As the years go by, the ease of getting a nuclear capability rapidly increases. States which do not now have a weapons capability can learn a great deal from the operation of their peaceful use reactors. If fusion is achieved, bombs become much cheaper.

Secretary Rusk estimated that by cheating it is possible to achieve the all-fission bomb underground and below the present threshold. In answer to the question, do fission bombs contribute to our military capability, he replied that at present they did not in view of our existing stockpile of bombs.

Dr. Wiesner said the fission is a time bomb and is not advantageous as a battle field weapon because its action in causing deaths is not instantaneous and its effect on personnel is delayed, thus reducing its usefulness in active combat.

Commissioner Haworth summarized an AEC paper on test readiness.4 He discussed the use of Christmas Island which he said would take two to three months to be made ready, but this could be reduced to thirty to sixty days if sufficient funds were expended. He also discussed a test system involving the use of no land by relying only on shipborne and airborne diagnostic instruments. He mentioned the value of using Johnston Island for weapons effects tests. He spoke of the possibility of conducting a high-altitude test by launching a missile from a ship at sea.

The President suggested that we first try to reach a long-term agreement with the British covering the use of Christmas Island. If the British refuse, then we can proceed to ready the other test systems.

Commissioner Haworth then briefed a paper on the various limitations which apply to different kinds of tests.5 He summarized the information we can learn from underground tests. In his view, the most important point in connection with cheating is the stimulating effect on the laboratories of the cheater. The cheater scientist will continue to work on new ideas because of the knowledge that they will have a chance, even underground, to prove out these ideas. If during a treaty period [Page 522] there has been cheating, the advantages gained by the cheater are much higher if the treaty is suddenly abrogated, thus making possible prompt tests of the new ideas.

Dr. Wiesner said that if there was an abrogation of the treaty, we had numerous options.

Mr. Foster summarized his memorandum (attached).6 In response to a Presidential question, Mr. Foster summarized the internationally monitored national control system. The President asked whether the data gained by the proposed system was important. Mr. Foster responded that this data was not important, but the political aspect of the system was important. The President asked whether we could agree to drop the international monitoring aspect of the control system if we had to and Mr. Foster agreed that we could.

Dr. Long, in response to a question as to what kind of a system would do a good job, said that we could reduce the number of stations from 180 to 50, comprising 20 seismic stations and 30 electro-magnetic acoustic stations.

The President requested additional information from Dr. Long. In response, Dr. Long said the capability of the system is 20 KT in tuff, while the Geneva system was estimated to have a 1 KT threshold.

There followed considerable confused discussion of seismic events and required number of seismic and electro-magnetic and acoustic detection stations.

Commissioner Haworth said in summary that in his view the Soviets could achieve no decisive technical advance by cheating on a test ban system.

Ambassador Dean predicted that if we offered the Russians only a ban of atmospheric tests, they would turn this down. They know we are far ahead of them in the technique of underground testing. In addition, the neutrals expect us to come back to Geneva with concessions, plus a comprehensive test ban treaty.

The President suggested that we could answer both the French and the Russian arguments about underground tests by telling them that our figures relate to 50 KT devices exploded in rock.

Ambassador Dean commented that 8 neutrals in Geneva are just about ready to abandon hope of an agreement, and, therefore, they are putting pressure on us to come forth with a comprehensive test ban treaty in advance of the UN General Assembly meeting.

The President said that as he understood the situation new information which we now had made it possible for us to reduce the number of [Page 523] stations inside the Soviet Union from 19 to 5, in a worldwide system comprising 50 stations in lieu of 180 stations.

Mr. Foster reviewed the political situation in the Senate. He cautioned that if we moved too fast, we would lose the prospect of obtaining Senate approval of any treaty.

Mr. Bundy commented that our difficulties in Congress are the result of the Congressmen’s lack of information.

The President acknowledged that we could not go to the Senate with a treaty this summer. We might be able to do so in the fall after the Soviets have finished their test series and we have decided that there has been no Soviet breakthrough as a result of their tests.

Ambassador Dean said he felt a strong need to come up within the next two or three weeks with new proposals.

Secretary McNamara denied that our new data and information we now have had been kept from those who need to have it.

Mr. Foster summarized his view. We should table a treaty banning only atmospheric tests now. We should tell the neutrals that our new data means we can accept a national detection system, fewer detection stations, and fewer on-site inspections, but we must first get acceptance from the Russians of the principle of on-site inspection.

Ambassador Dean repeated his view that we should table a comprehensive test ban treaty even though all its details could only be spelled out later.

Mr. Bundy pointed out that tabling a comprehensive treaty would upset the Senators.

The Vice President acknowledged that many Senators were upset. They are concerned about what we are now doing and they need additional information. Possibly the President will have to talk to certain key Senators.

Ambassador Dean restated his view that we should introduce a revised comprehensive treaty now.

Mr. McCone said that the Congressmen are worrying [about?] the test sites in the Soviet Union.

It was decided that a further discussion would be held tomorrow.7 The control post system would be described. It was acknowledged that Ambassador Dean would have to return to Geneva with some change in the U.S. position because of all of the interest in news stories indicating he had returned to Washington for further policy instructions.

The President pointed out that no real progress would be made by the Soviets or the U.S. until after the current test series is ended, but there [Page 524] would be an advantage in creating a situation in which the Russians would be blamed by the UN General Assembly for failure to achieve a disarmament agreement. It was acknowledged that our decisions depend on whether the new data made possible new test ban proposals.

  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Departments and Agencies Series, ACDA, Disarmament, General, 7/29-31/62. Top Secret. No drafting information appears on the source text. McCone summarized this meeting in a memorandum for the files, August 2. (Central Intelligence Agency, Meetings with President, 7/1/62-12/31/62) See the Supplement. A July 30 memorandum from McGeorge Bundy to the President, which sets forth the agenda for this meeting, indicates that Foster’s memorandum (Document 205) and two memoranda each from McNamara and Haworth, submitted in response to “certain questions on which you asked for reports over the week end,” were attached to his memorandum. (Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Departments and Agencies Series, ACDA, Disarmament, General, 7/29-31/62) None, however, is attached. An “index” identifies the subjects of these memoranda as follows: The US-USSR Military Balance With and Without a Test Ban, The Diffusion of Nuclear Weapons With and Without a Test Ban Agreement, Maintaining Readiness to Test During a Test Ban, and Relative Technical and Military Advantages of Testing or Non-testing Under Various Testing Constraints. (Ibid.) Undated drafts of the former two are ibid. Haworth’s two memoranda have not been found.
  2. Reference is to the failure of the Bluegill shot in the Dominic series, a Thor missile-launched nuclear test from Johnston Island on July 25. The missile malfunctioned and blew up shortly after ignition causing major damage to the launching pad and radioactive contamination to the surrounding area.
  3. A TASS announcement made over Moscow radio on July 21 said in part: “In response to the series of nuclear tests by the United States, the Soviet Government has ordered tests to be held of the newest types of Soviet nuclear weapons.” The statement is reproduced in International Negotiations on Ending Nuclear Weapons Tests, September 1961-September 1962, United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency Publication 9, October 1962, pp. 253-255. For a variant translation of the same statement, dated July 22, see Documents on Disarmament, 1962, vol. II, pp. 677-679.
  4. Not attached but see the source note above.
  5. Not attached and not found. [note: document 206 has two numeral 4 footnotes. I’ve changed the first one to footnote 5 and the second one to footnote 6. We might need to check the original manuscript for the correct citation]
  6. Not attached and not found.
  7. Document 205.
  8. See Document 208.