113. Letter From the Ambassador at Large (Thompson) to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (McNaughton)1

Dear John:

The Secretary has concluded that we should give consideration to offering the Russians a reciprocal exchange of information on our [Page 342]respective procedures for insuring control of nuclear weapons. Although it is obvious that propaganda underlies the clamor recently raised by the Soviets alleging inadequacies of American control over nuclear weapons stockpiled with Allied forces, it is possible that the top Soviet leaders are not fully aware of the extensiveness and effectiveness of these controls. We doubt that the Russians would agree to such an exchange of information, but the very fact of such an offer on our part would provide us with a counter to their propaganda charges of alleged neglect toward nuclear control. They would also be aware that unwillingness to discuss their own procedures would increase their vulnerability on this propaganda front. Finally, raising the idea of such an exchange might also cause the top leaders to familiarize themselves more thoroughly with our procedures, and might even lead them to review and to tighten their own arrangements.

We therefore believe that we should consider making such an offer, in terms which would put on record a reaffirmation of the seriousness with which we regard the problem and a refutation of their erroneous statements regarding our controls. In case of Soviet acceptance of the offer, we believe it should be possible to provide information—without disclosing data which must be kept secret—which will strengthen our case, we may elicit some useful information from the Soviet Union, and we would have opened a dialogue in an area of important mutual concern. We believe it would be possible to engage in such an exchange without getting into questions about aspects of our custodial control procedures which might be unconvincing to the Russians; it is clear that they will not be so forthcoming with respect to their own arrangements, if, indeed, they will discuss them at all—as to place us in the position of being more reticent than they. If they do not agree to a reciprocal exchange of information, as is likely, we can still provide them information on our control procedures if we wish.

While the Soviets have placed the main emphasis in their propaganda on our nuclear weapons stockpiled with and for the use of Allied forces, we believe it would be preferable to focus our comments on the general subject of insuring Presidential control, so as not to accentuate questions of trust with respect to Allies. (This would, incidentally, also blunt Soviet suspicion that we were only attempting to smoke out questions of Warsaw Pact nuclear supporting arrangements.)

Enclosed are a draft note proposing such an exchange; and an illustrative draft of a statement2 setting forth some information on our control arrangements, which could be passed to the Soviet Government. [Page 343]We would of course want to inform such Allies as Germany and the United Kingdom in the first instance, and NAC, in advance.

I would appreciate Defense’s comments and concurrence on the proposition and the enclosed drafts.

Sincerely,

Tommy
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Subject File, Nuclear Weapons, USSR, Vol. I, Box 34. Secret.
  2. Neither printed.