8. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • US Thinking on Disarmament


  • British
    • R.A. Butler, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
    • Sir Harold Caccia, Permanent Under Secretary, Foreign Office
    • Sir David Ormsby Gore, British Ambassador
    • N. Henderson, Private Secretary to Mr. Butler
    • Tom Bridges, Second Private Secretary to Mr. Butler
    • Denis Greenhill, Minister, UK Embassy
    • M. Hadow, Press Secretary, Foreign Office
  • US
    • Secretary of State Rusk
    • Governor Harriman, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs
    • David K.E. Bruce, Ambassador to Great Britain
    • Secretary of Defense McNamara
    • Adrian Fisher, Deputy Director,ACDA
    • McGeorge Bundy, Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
    • William R. Tyler, Assistant Secretary, EUR
    • Richard I. Phillips, Director, P/ON
    • M. Gordon Knox, Deputy Director, BNA

Secretary Rusk introduced Secretary McNamara, who made the following remarks: the US current efforts in the field of disarmament are to find some next steps toward disarmament which do not require rigorous inspection. The West now has a balanced force of nuclear missiles, land and sea, which is considerably larger than the Soviets. However, the West cannot completely destroy the Soviet missiles in a first strike, so the Soviets have the power to inflict unacceptable damage on the West. Hence, they have the essence of a deterrent. It appears the Soviets believe they have this power. Therefore, a freeze would be to their advantage even as it would be to ours. The verification procedures would be less complicated than with more extensive disarmament measures. They would be applied only at declared testing sites and at production facilities; verification would also involve some checking for clandestine facilities. The categories of delivery systems affected by the freeze would be:

Intercontinental missiles
Medium-range missiles
Heavy bombers (above 40,000 kilograms)
Medium bombers (25,000-40,000 kilograms)
Anti-ballistic missile missiles.

It would be possible to maintain and replace missiles on a one-for-one basis and keep confidence in the missiles by some number of firings. There would be no testing of new models. The tactical weapons systems, for instance the Pershing, would not be affected because they lacked the range to reach to the heart of Russia and they were needed in West Germany.

The inspection would be simple and agreed. In addition the West would have unilateral monitoring of launch facilities by its own facilities. There would be a withdrawal clause. Other states would join the agreement as their development of nuclear weapons caused them to affect the balance of power. Initially France and Communist China would not need to be included. The Multilateral Force concept would be protected because the MLF does not contemplate the national dissemination of control of nuclear weapons. The anti-missile missile would have to be controlled; otherwise there might be a big shift in the balance of power.

Mr. Rusk added that the US felt quite sure the USSR would not agree soon to such a program if it were proposed. It would be a miracle if agreement were reached in 1964. This meant that the nuclear production of 1964 would be maintained. Our first step, of course, was to consult our allies regarding this general idea.

Mr. Butler asked whether Polaris were covered.

Mr. McNamara said yes, that one could not build one after the agreement.

Ambassador Ormsby Gore said that Britain, for example, could declare 5 Polaris submarines with 16 nuclear missiles apiece and replacements, and this would be the British limit under such an agreement.

Mr. Butler thought the idea might be an infringement of Nassau.2

Mr. McNamara said no because the British program would be provided for under the agreement.

Mr. Butler asked what was the Soviet reaction.

Mr. Fisher said it was too early to say. He thought such a program was too big a bite for the Soviets to take now; they probably want to make haste slowly.

[Page 18]

Mr. McNamara pointed out that the British did not have production in several of the five categories that would be frozen. The program was devised to exclude from control the British TSR-2 and the US TFX.

Mr. Butler, turning to a new subject, said he was thinking of advocating publicly asymmetrical reductions in armaments, including a balancing in some way conventional and nuclear forces. He also wondered about the details of the proposed destruction of out-moded nuclear delivery systems.

Mr. McNamara thought that the effort to work out a reasonable relationship between conventional and nuclear forces was too complicated to be realistic or helpful. Mr. Rusk said, for example, what is one million civilians; are they potential soldiers?

Mr. Butler surmised that the US would prefer that he not raise the idea of asymmetry in disarmament. Mr. Rusk said he would prefer to have Mr. Butler emphasize the prime importance of making sure that arms production curve does not soar upwards.

Mr. Butler asked whether it was still fashionable to have a Badger-B-47 bonfire. Mr. McNamara said, yes, if they do not have much value and Mr. Rusk pointed out the value of keeping such obsolescent weapons from falling into the hands of, for example, the Egyptians or the Indians. He agreed with Ambassador Ormsby Gore that other kinds of weapons might be proposed for the bonfire. He said that Gromyko had asked him whether other weapons than the B-47-Badger could be destroyed and that the reply had been that the US would be glad to consider further suggestions.

In point of fact, the first important step was the freeze on manufacture of new weapons, but, Mr. Rusk concluded, it might prove possible later on to throw into the bonfire more than merely out-moded weapons.

Mr. Rusk asked whether Mr. Butler at Geneva might not also consider saying something publicly about arms races other than that of the US and UK versus the USSR. For instance, the Arab-Israeli arms race, the Indian-Pakistan, the arms acquisition of African states all served to jeopardize the peace and to impoverish nations already very poor.

Mr. Butler thought that the expose of this subject had been most helpful and thanked Mr. McNamara. He said that the British had been making the right noises in their public statements in Geneva and that they would continue doing so. He recognized that the major responsibility was that of the US since the US had so much larger and more varied an arms production.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, DEF 18. Secret. Drafted by M. Gordon Knox (EUR/BNA) and approved in S on February 26. The source text is labeled “Part II of V.” The meeting was held at the White House.
  2. Reference is to the U.S.-U.K. agreement, concluded at Nassau on December 21, 1962, on nuclear defense systems. For a joint U.S.-U.K. statement issued on that occasion, see Department of State Bulletin, January 14, 1963, pp. 43-45.