213. Message From Foreign Secretary Home to Secretary of State Rusk 0

I got your message asking me to help you on the matter of the test policy at Geneva. Of course we will do what we can but we are in a great difficulty.

Considerable expectations were aroused by the information about new data on detection which was given out in Washington some week ago. Dean raised them higher on arrival at Geneva.1 Now it seems that we cannot put forward any concrete proposals corresponding to the new data, and this will get us into a very bad position.

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It had, we thought, been agreed at the Washington Scientific talks2 that adequate machinery for detecting and inspecting underground tests could be provided by a national system of detection posts, reporting to an international commission, and a minimum number of on-site inspections. We thought that this understanding was reflected in the draft treaty of July 24.3

I can understand that you have great difficulties in putting forward anything like this draft at present. But I am very much concerned that we should not gravely prejudice our position by putting forward at this stage other detailed proposals which have no scientific justification.

It seemed probable for instance from the Washington talks that we could for detection purposes dispense with national stations in Russia. It may be useful to include them in the system, but it would surely be impossible to justify on a scientific basis including three or four international bodies in each Soviet station, which is what an 8-hour shift amounts to.

If for political reasons, you cannot drop this demand, the only thing we can do is to avoid discussion of it. For this purpose I am sure that it is useless to go back to the old dodge of asking the Russians to accept inspection in principle. We must put forward something concrete and show that they are being unreasonable in refusing it. I very much hope it will be possible to say that, on the basis of present data, we thought that the number of on-site inspections could be reduced to a maximum of say 10 or 8 a year, that this would be a maximum need and that any number below this would be a matter for discussion and we hope for agreement.

We could then say that after this had been accepted we could discuss questions about detection posts and their relation to the international commission: but first things first. This would be a more pointed variant of our earlier tactics at Geneva.

Next best would be to propose at this stage a ban on atmospheric tests only. But after all the publicity about the new data, I do not see how we can stall on everything else without creating the impression that we are hopelessly insincere. If we want a test ban—and I take it that militarily we do—we should get on with the job of making proposals based on the new data, and hold the point as best we can in the meantime. I think that great pressures will build up, so I do hope that you can tell me that Dean is being given fresh instructions. We can then go all out to help. I do not see otherwise how we can conceal our concern that more positive proposals are not being made. The cross-examination by other members [Page 539] of the Conference is going to be very penetrating. I shall much welcome your views.

  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Kaysen Series, Disarmament, Nuclear Testing, Vol. II, 7/62-2/63. Secret. An attached note from Lord Hood to Secretary Rusk, August 5, notes that Foreign Secretary Home had asked him to transmit the enclosed message. Also attached to the source text is a memorandum from Brubeck (S/S) through McGeorge Bundy to Kaysen, August 6, saying that the message was received from the British Embassy on August 5. “A proposed reply,” the memorandum concluded, “is now in preparation and will be forwarded to you as soon as possible.” This reply has not been found.
  2. See Document 195.
  3. See Document 193.
  4. See footnote 3, Document 201.