220. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant for Science and Technology (Wiesner) to President Kennedy 0

The situation in Geneva doesn’t look any more hopeful seen first-hand than it does when viewed through cables and newspapers. The Soviet delegation maintains the same rigid position with which they began this conference and does not appear to have any leeway to negotiate in a meaningful way. This applied to both issues on the agenda—the test ban treaty and General and Complete Disarmament. There was some hope that the arrival of Mr. Kuznetsov to replace Zorin really meant more than an opportunity for Zorin to have his holiday before the U.N. General Assembly convenes on September 15, but in statements and private discussions during his first three days there has been no evidence whatsoever of a desire to seek resolution of the differences over the test ban on any terms but theirs. GCD was not discussed while I was in Geneva.

The primary purpose for having scientists join the U.S. delegation for a few days was to interpret the new seismic information for the Western and neutral delegates so that they would understand the changes in position that are made possible and, more important, to make them aware of the technical limitations which still exist.1 Our first meetings were with the British scientists, who later helped us greatly in presentations to the eight-nation groups. We easily agreed with the U.K. group on a technical position which emphasized the need for international specification and control of the control posts and the continued requirement for some on-site inspections.

Our technical position was sound—as of the moment—while Zorin had repeatedly made the extreme claim that inspection was now altogether unnecessary technically, while ducking demands to supply technical information to substantiate his stand. On the whole, we succeeded in making our points to those capable of understanding them. Some delegations, such as the Nigerian and Ethiopian, had no scientists in their group.

Though the technical facts were accepted by most groups, they did not all accept our position regarding the need for rigid safeguards. I think it fair to say that most of the neutrals at the Conference and our allies too would advocate accepting the invitational inspection proposal on the grounds that the risks of the arms race far outweigh any conceivable [Page 553] danger from clandestine testing. Much of the time of the Conference is now occupied in a discussion of obligatory versus invitational inspection.

It is obviously impossible to get any reliable explanation for the Soviet attitude, but most delegates echo two propositions—fear of the U.S. striking force and the fact that Khrushchev would be called an appeaser by the hard-line groups who have constantly opposed his co-existence. The Polish delegate Lachs2 stressed the latter point in conversation and stated that it was his firm belief that the Soviets would only accept on-site inspection if the test ban were linked with other agreements. As you know, I believe this too.

Just before I left Geneva, Ambassador Dean, Mr. Fisher and I spent about two hours with Kuznetsov and other members of the Soviet delegation. Kuznetsov made two points very clear: 1) their objections to on-site inspection stemmed from political not technical considerations—he stated this very plainly—and, 2) that they do not have completely reliable identification methods—this was essentially admitted in response to direct questions.

There is a deep feeling of frustration and gloom among the delegations at the Conference because of the lack of any real progress. Some of the delegations, particularly the Swedish and the Indian, had hoped that they could work out a satisfactory compromise on the test ban treaty and they are deeply disappointed. They tend to blame both sides for the impasse, though the Soviets’ behavior has, I think, caused most of the uncommitted delegations to be somewhat more understanding of our viewpoint than of the Soviets’.

I do not believe that real progress toward resolving disarmament issues can be made at a large semi-public conference such as this. I now have had four years of relatively intimate association with such meetings, and I am still appalled at how little real information is exchanged. Both sides are so busy scoring points that there is little opportunity for serious private discussion. Even the small private get-togethers are badly inhibited by the knowledge that the plenary sessions are certain to follow, I think that bilateral meetings such as those held last year between Zorin and McCloy might make more progress.

On the positive side, the Conference has served to educate the neutral groups and excite their interest as well. I believe that several of the delegations, particularly the Swedes, have developed an enduring interest in the technical and political problems of disarmament which will lead them to set up their own research groups.

[Page 554]

Everyone expects that the eight-nation group will be very active at the U.N. during the General Assembly, and that they will introduce a series of resolutions on the test ban and on GCD, some of which could be embarrassing or even dangerous to the U.S. I recommend that we prepare to send people, particularly some scientists, from the Arms Control Agency, DOD and possibly any office to help our U.N. delegation. This will require a substantial effort because it will be necessary to talk to 100 delegations, not the dozen that we had at Geneva.

Attached is the cable report filed by Ambassador Dean following the meeting with Kuznetsov.3

Jerome B. Wiesner 4
  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Kaysen Series, Disarmament, Nuclear Testing, Vol. II, 7/62-2/63. Secret.
  2. See footnote 5, Document 219.
  3. Professor Manfred Lachs, Polish Deputy Representative to the Eighteen-Nation Disarmament Committee.
  4. Not attached. (Disto 757 from Geneva, August 16; Department of State, Central Files, 700.5611/8-1662) See the Supplement.
  5. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.