President Dwight D. Eisenhower
470th Plenary Meeting of the United Nations General Assembly
December 8, 1953 2:45 P.M. EST
Madame President, Members of the General Assembly:
When Secretary General Hammarskjold's invitation to address this General
Assembly reached me in Bermuda, I was just beginning a series of conferences with the Prime
Ministers and Foreign Ministers of Great Britain and of France. Our subject was some of
the problems that beset our world.
During the remainder of the Bermuda Conference, I had constantly in mind that ahead of me lay a
great honor. That honor is mine today as I stand here, privileged to address the General Assembly of the United Nations.
At the same time that I appreciate the distinction of addressing you, I have a sense of
exhilaration as I look upon this assembly.
Never before in history has so much hope for so many people been gathered together in a single
organization. Your deliberations and decisions during these somber years have already realized
part of those hopes.
But the great tests and the great accomplishments still lie ahead. And in the confident
expectation of those accomplishments, I would use the office which, for the time being, I hold,
to assure you that the Government of the United States will remain
steadfast in its support of
this body. This we shall do in the conviction that you will provide a great share of the wisdom
of the courage and the faith which can bring to this world lasting peace for all nations and
happiness and well-being for all men.
Clearly, it would not be fitting for me to take this occasion to present to you a unilateral
American report on Bermuda. Nevertheless, I assure you that in our de- liberations on that
lovely island we sought to invoke those same great concepts of universal peace and human dignity
which are so cleanly etched in your Charter. Neither would it be
a measure of this great opportunity merely to recite, however hopefully, pious platitudes.
I therefore decided that this occasion warranted my saying to you some of the things that have
been on the minds and hearts of my legislative and executive associates and on mine for a
great many months - thoughts I had originally planned to say primarily to the American people.
I know that the American people share my deep belief that if a danger exists in the world, it is
a danger shared by all - and equally, that if hope exists in the mind of one nation, that hope
should be shared by all.
Finally, if there is to be advanced any proposal designed to ease, even by the smallest measure,
the tensions of today's world, what more appropriate audience could there be than the members of
the General Assembly of the
I feel impelled to speak today in a language that, in a sense, is new - one, which I, who have
spent so much of my life in the military profession, would have preferred never to use.
That new language is the language of atomic warfare.
The atomic age has moved forward at such a pace that every citizen of the world should have
some comprehension, at least in comparative terms, of the extent of this development, of the
utmost significance to every one of us. Clearly if the peoples of the world are to conduct an
intelligent search for peace, they must be armed with the significant facts of today's existence.
My recital of atomic danger and power is necessarily stated in United
States terms, for these
are the only incontrovertible facts that I know. I need hardly point out to this assembly,
however, that this subject is global, not merely national in character.
On July 16, 1945, the United States set off the world's first atomic test
Since that date in 1945, the United States has conducted forty-two
Atomic bombs today are more than twenty five times as powerful as the weapons
with which the atomic age dawned, while hydrogen weapons are in the ranges of
millions of tons of TNT equivalent.
Today the United States' stockpile of atomic weapons, which, of course, increase daily,
exceeds by many times the explosive equivalent of the total of all bombs and all shells that came
from every plane and every gun in every theatre of war through all the years of World War II.
A single air group, whether afloat or land based, can now deliver to any reachable target a
destructive cargo exceeding in power all the bombs that fell on Britain in
all of World War II.
In size and variety the development of atomic weapons has been no less remarkable. This
development has been such that atomic weapons have virtually achieved conventional status
within our armed services. In the United States services, the
Army, the Navy, the Air
Force and the Marine Corps are all capable of putting this weapon to military use.
But the dread secret and the fearful engines of atomic might are not ours alone. In the first
place, the secret is possessed by our friends and Allies, Great Britain and Canada, whose
scientific genius made a tremendous contribution to our original discoveries and the designs of
The secret is also known by the Soviet Union.
The Soviet Union has informed us that, over recent years, it has devoted extensive resources to
atomic weapons. During this period, the Soviet Union has exploded a series of atomic
devices, including at least one involving thermonuclear reactions.
If at one time the United States possessed what might have been called
a monopoly of atomic
power, that monopoly ceased to exist several years ago. Therefore, although our earlier start
has permitted us to accumulate what is today a great quantitative advantage, the atomic
realities of today comprehend two facts of even greater significance.
First, the knowledge now possessed by several nations will eventually be shared by others,
possibly all others.
Second, even a vast superiority in numbers of weapons, and a consequent capability of devastating
retaliation, is no preventive, of itself, against the fearful material damage and toll of human
lives that would be inflicted by surprise aggression.
The free world, at least dimly aware of these facts, has naturally embarked on a large program of
warning and defense systems. That program will be accelerated and expanded.
But let no one think that the expenditure of vast sums for weapons and systems of defense can
guarantee absolute safety for the cities and the citizens of any nation.
The awful arithmetic of the atomic bomb does not permit of such an easy solution.
Even against the most powerful defense, an aggressor in possession of the effective minimum
number of atomic bombs for a surprise attack could probably place a sufficient number of his
bombs on the chosen targets to cause hideous damage.
Should such an atomic attack be launched against the United States,
our reaction would be swift
and resolute. But for me to say that the defense capabilities of the United States are such that
they could inflict terrible losses upon an aggressor - for me to say that the retaliation
capabilities of the United States are so great that such an
aggressor's land would be laid waste
- all this, while fact, is not the true expression of the purpose and the hope of the United
To pause there would be to confirm the hopeless finality of a belief that two atomic colossi are
doomed malevolently to eye each other indefinitely across a trembling world. To stop there would
be to accept helplessly the probability of civilization destroyed - the annihilation of the
irreplaceable heritage of mankind handed down to us generation from generation - and the
condemnation of mankind to begin all over again the age old struggle upward from savagery toward
decency and right and justice.
Surely no sane member of the human race could discover victory in such desolation. Could anyone
wish his name to be coupled by history with such human degradation and destruction?
Occasional pages of history do record the faces of the "Great Destroyers" but the whole book of
history reveals mankind's never-ending quest for peace and mankind's God-given capacity to build.
It is with the book of history, and not with isolated pages, that the United States will ever
wish to be identified. My country wants to be constructive, not destructive.
It wants agreements, not wars, among nations. It wants, itself, to live in freedom and in the
confidence that the people of every other nation enjoy equally the right of choosing their own
way of life.
So my country's purpose is to help us move out of the dark chamber of horrors into the light, to
find a way by which the minds of men, the hopes of men, the souls of men everywhere, can move
forward toward peace and happiness and well-being. In this quest, I know that we must not lack
I know that in a world divided, such as ours today, salvation cannot be attained by one dramatic
I know that many steps will have to be taken over many months before the world can look at itself
one day and truly realize that a new climate of mutually peaceful confidence is abroad in the
But I know, above all else, that we must start to take these steps - now.
The United States and its Allies, Great Britain and France,
have, over the past months, tried to take some of these steps. Let no one say that we shun the
On the record has long stood the request of the United States, Great
Britain and France, to
negotiate with the Soviet Union the problems of a divided Germany. On that record has long
stood the request of the same three nations to negotiate an Austrian peace treaty.
On the same record still stands the request of the United Nations to negotiate the problems of
Most recently, we have received from the Soviet Union what is in effect an expression of
willingness to hold a four-power meeting. Along with our Allies, Great Britain and France,
we were pleased to see that this note did not contain the unacceptable preconditions previously
As you already know from our joint Bermuda communique, the United
States, Great Britain and
France have agreed promptly to meet with the Soviet Union. The Government of the United States
approaches this conference with hopeful sincerity. We will bend every effort of our minds to the
single purpose of emerging from that conference with tangible results toward peace - the only
true way of lessening international tension.
We never have, we never will, propose or suggest that the Soviet Union surrender what is
We will never say that the peoples of Russia are an enemy with whom we have no desire ever to
deal or mingle in friendly and fruitful relationship.
On the contrary, we hope that this coming conference may initiate a relationship with the Soviet
Union which will eventually bring about a free intermingling of the peoples of the East and of
the West - the one sure, human way of developing the understanding required for confident and
Instead of the discontent which is now setting upon Eastern Germany, occupied
Austria and the
countries of Eastern Europe, we seek a harmonious family of free European nations, with none
a threat to the other, and least of all a threat to the peoples of Russia.
Beyond the turmoil and strife and misery of Asia, we seek peaceful opportunity for these
peoples to develop their natural resources and to elevate their lot.
These are not idle words of shallow vision. Behind them lies a story of nations lately come to
independence, not as a result of war but through free grant or peaceful negotiation. There is a
record already written of assistance gladly given by nations of the West to needy peoples and to
those suffering the temporary effects of famine, drought and natural disaster.
These are deeds of peace. They speak more loudly than promises or protestations of peaceful
But I do not wish to rest either upon the reiteration of past proposals or the restatement of
past deeds. The gravity of the time is such that every new avenue of peace, no matter how dimly
discernible, should be explored.
There is at least one new avenue of peace which has not yet been well explored - an avenue now
laid out by the General
Assembly of the United Nations.
In its resolution of Nov. 18, 1953, this General Assembly suggested-and I quote - "that the
Disarmament Commission study the desirability of establishing a subcommittee consisting of
representatives of the powers principally involved, which should seek, in private, an acceptable
solution - and report such a solution to the General Assembly and to the Security Council not
later than 1 September, 1954."
The United States, heeding the suggestion of the General Assembly of the United Nations, is
instantly prepared to meet privately with such other countries as may be "principally involved,"
to seek "an acceptable solution" to the atomic armaments race which overshadows not only the
peace but the very life of the world.
We shall carry into these private or diplomatic talks a new conception. The United States would
seek more than the mere reduction or elimination of atomic materials for military purposes.
It is not enough to take this weapon out of the hands of the soldiers. It must be put into the
hands of those who will know how to strip its military casing and adapt it to the arts of peace.
The United States knows that if the fearful trend of atomic military
build-up can be reversed,
this greatest of destructive forces can be developed into a great boon for the benefit of all
The United States knows that peaceful power from atomic energy is no
dream of the future. That
capability, already proved, is here now - today. Who can doubt, if the entire body of the world's
scientists and engineers had adequate amounts of fissionable material with which to test and
develop their ideas, that this capability would rapidly be transformed into universal, efficient
and economic usage?
To hasten the day when fear of the atom will begin to disappear from the minds of people and the
governments of the East and West there are certain steps that can be taken now.
I therefore make the following proposals:
The governments principally involved to the extent permitted by elementary prudence, to begin now
and continue to make joint contributions from their stockpiles of normal uranium and
materials to an international atomic energy agency. We would expect that such an agency would be
set up under the aegis of the United Nations.
The ratios of contributions, the procedures and other details would properly be within the scope
of the "private conversations" I have referred to earlier.
The United States is prepared to undertake these explorations in good
faith. Any partner of the
United States acting in the same good faith will find the United States a not unreasonable or
Undoubtedly initial and early contributions to this plan would be small in quantity. However, the
proposal has the great virtue that it can be undertaken without irritations and mutual suspicions
incident to any attempt to set up a completely acceptable system of world-wide inspection and
The Atomic Energy Agency could be made responsible for the impounding, storage and protection of
the contributed fissionable and other materials. The ingenuity of our scientists will provide
special, safe conditions under which such a bank of fissionable material can be made essentially
immune to surprise seizure.
The more important responsibility of this atomic energy agency would be to devise methods whereby
this fissionable material would be allocated to serve the peaceful pursuits of mankind. Experts
would be mobilized to apply atomic energy to the needs of agriculture, medicine and other
peaceful activities. A special purpose would be to provide abundant electrical energy in the
power-starved areas of the world. Thus the contributing powers would be dedicating some of their
strength to serve the needs rather than the fears of mankind.
The United States would be more than willing - it would be proud - to
take up with others
"principally involved" the development of plans whereby such peaceful use of atomic energy would
Of those "principally involved" the Soviet Union must of course, be one. I would be prepared to
submit to the Congress of the United States, and with every expectation of approval, any such
plan that would:
First, encourage world-wide investigation into the most effective peacetime uses of fissionable
material; and with the certainty that they had all the material needed for the conduct of all
experiments that were appropriate;
Second, begin to diminish the potential destructive power of the world's atomic stockpiles;
Third, allow all peoples of all nations to see that, in this enlightened age, the great powers of
the earth, both of the East and of the West, are interested in human aspirations first rather
than in building up the armaments of war.
Fourth, open up a new channel for peaceful discussion and initiate at least a new approach to the
many difficult problems that must be solved in both private and public conversations if the world
is to shake off the inertia imposed by fear and is to make positive progress toward peace.
Against the dark background of the atomic bomb, the United States does
not wish merely to present
strength, but also the desire and the hope for peace.
The coming months will be fraught with fateful decisions. In this Assembly, in the capitals and
military headquarters of the world; in the hearts of men everywhere, be they governed or
governors, may they be the decisions which will lead this world out of fear and into peace.
To the making of these fateful decisions, the United States pledges
before you - and therefore
before the world - its determination to help solve the fearful atomic dilemma - to devote its
entire heart and mind to find the way by which the miraculous inventiveness of man shall not be
dedicated to his death, but consecrated to his life.
I again thank the delegates for the great honor they have done me in inviting me to appear before
them and in listening to me so courteously.