99. Memorandum From the Representative to the Geneva Conference on the Discontinuance of Nuclear Weapon Tests (Dean) to Secretary of State Rusk0


  • Resumption of Nuclear Test Ban Negotiations
The President telephoned this afternoon and was very much concerned that public opinion might believe that we did not have complete freedom of action to test in all environments while negotiations were going on in Geneva. He suggested that I should make this absolutely clear at the opening of negotiations.1 If the USSR were to accept a nuclear test ban treaty, he did not think it would be very popular.
He felt that there would be considerable misunderstanding if we again reiterated our willingness to maintain an unrestricted moratorium on tests yielding below 4.75 for three years to commence with the signing of the treaty, especially since it was now believed that in these lower yield tests the Soviets might be making very significant advances.
I explained to him my theory that we should at the very beginning outline the additional number of control posts, the manner of regrouping the control posts and the additional scientific control apparatus that would have to be written into the treaty before the treaty was signed in an effort to lower the threshold of the treaty as soon as possible. (I did not point out that this would mean abandoning our other alternatives of an eleven-man Scientific Commission to report six months before the end of the three-year research program.) I explained that this possibly could be done not as an additional concession to the Soviets, by eliminating the threshold, but rather as an additional control requirement without which we would not be willing to sign the treaty.
He said that if this could be set up in such a way so that it looked as though we were getting greater protection for the U.S. rather than as an additional concession, he was for it.
I said I felt it would be helpful if an announcement could be made before we resume negotiations on the 28th, that he now give all [Page 236]orders necessary to start testing in all environments. He stated that Prime Minister Macmillan took the position that unless we could satisfy English public opinion that this was essential for our military security he would have considerable difficulty answering questions in Parliament, and we must not give the impression we were testing because we were behind.
I pointed out that I felt we were encountering rather a difficult situation at the United Nations where the heads of some delegations at least, appeared to feel that the balance of nuclear power had shifted from the U.S. to the Soviets as a result of their latest series of tests, and that contrary to the theory held this summer that the resumption of testing by the Soviet Union would make their public posture more difficult, it appeared to be having the reverse effect of making some delegations, at least, unwilling to offend the Soviet Union because of fear of its increased power.
I also expressed the opinion that it would take many a month before Prime Minister Macmillan would give permission to test at Christmas Island and since our legal position to conduct tests in Eniwetok was clear (see Becker’s memorandum),2 I thought we should, in the interest of our own military security, be prepared to run the necessary criticism in the United Nations.
He asked me to telephone him after the Principals' Meeting.3
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 397.5611-GE/11-2261. Confidential. Also addressed to Foster.
  2. In the course of his statement at the opening of the resumed Geneva Conference on November 28, Dean stated that because the Soviet Union had been “involved in an unwarranted attempt to gain for itself a unilateral advantage in the nuclear field,” there was “naturally no chance whatsoever—and I want to make this very clear—of any pre-treaty commitment by the United States not to conduct any nuclear tests of any character in any environment which it deems essential for the national security of itself and its associates.” For text, see Documents on Disarmament, 1961, pp. 665-673.
  3. Not found.
  4. No memorandum of this telephone conversation has been found.