234. Letter From the Deputy Director for Intelligence, Central Intelligence Agency (Cline) to the Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (Foster)0

Dear Mr. Foster: Thank you for sending us a copy of your September 26 letter to Secretary McNamara, which requested the comments of the Department of Defense and the Joint Chiefs on the current draft proposal for a nuclear non-diffusion agreement.1

I understand that General Carter has already made known our reservations about parts of the September 18 draft letters to President de Gaulle and Chancellor Adenauer.2 It occurred to me that further comments might be useful to you.

As you know, we believe that the material transmitted to the Committee of Principals on September 18 exaggerated both the imminence and the probable scale of nuclear diffusion.3 In addition to the considerations discussed in NIE 4-3-61,4 with which you are familiar, I should like to add that we also consider the cost of acquiring a nuclear weapons capability still to be an important deterrent. It is true that costs are in general declining as uranium becomes easier to obtain, as plutonium becomes more widely available and as information on weapons technology increases. Nonetheless, the minimum cost is still on the order of two hundred million dollars merely to acquire a single crude nuclear weapon. This does not allow anything for an effective modern delivery system. The French spent one billion dollars before their first test shot in 1960 and will probably be spending this much each year by 1968 on weapons alone. To this must be added the cost of acquiring appropriate delivery vehicles. The French will need at least fifty Mirage IV light jet [Page 583]bombers for a real strike force, and these would cost between 200-250 million dollars. Some seven hundred million dollars more would be required for an intermediate range ballistic missile now under development in France.

A second point we would like to make concerns the feasibility of keeping Communist China from acquiring nuclear weapons. The September 18 draft letter to the President stated that “… the possibility of obtaining the adherence of Communist China to such an agreement is very remote unless the appeal can be put as a joint effort by the three Western nuclear powers.” We would go considerably farther than this statement. We believe that the Communist Chinese are determined to go ahead with their nuclear weapons program and that the Soviets do not have (and are not likely to acquire) the leverage to produce a change in this decision. In July, Chinese Communist Foreign Minister Chen-yi stated in a speech that the Chinese were going ahead with their program and would achieve success soon. Early in September, the Peiping People’s Daily charged that the real purpose of US disarmament proposals was to tie China’s hands in developing nuclear weapons. We suspect that the Chinese are well aware of what is in the wind and that these remarks and their timing are not coincidental. Thus we should be very cautious in assuming that it is feasible to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of the Chinese Communists or that other nations (including the USSR) will find this one of the practical benefits of a nuclear non-diffusion agreement.

With the hope that these observations will be helpful to you,


Ray S. Cline5
  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, DCI, ER Subject Files. Secret.
  2. Foster’s September 26 letter to McNamara summarized developments regarding a possible international agreement on non-diffusion of nuclear weapons and provided ACDA’s recommendations on such an agreement. (Department of State, Central Files, 397.5611-GE/9-2762) See the Supplement.
  3. The comments of Lieutenant General Marshall S. Carter, Deputy Director of Central Intelligence, have not been found. Undated draft letters from the President to Macmillan, de Gaulle, and Adenauer were transmitted under cover of a memorandum from Foster to the Committee of Principals, September 18. (Washington National Records Center, RG 383, ACDA/DD Files: FRC 77 A 17, Committee of Principals Jan-Dec 1962)
  4. In addition to the draft letters cited in footnote 3 above, the material included an undated draft memorandum from the Secretary of State to the President and an undated draft declaration on non-diffusion. The draft memorandum, somewhat revised, was sent to the President on September 21; see Document 230.
  5. NIE 4-3-61, “Nuclear Weapons and Delivery Capabilities of Free World Countries Other than the US and UK,” September 21, 1961, is scheduled for publication in volume VIII.
  6. Printed from a copy that indicates Cline signed the original.