The NSC-68 is the blueprint for American foreign policy throughout the Cold War. Despite George Kennan urging for political-ideological containment in his Long Telegram, his ideals went unheeded as the US ploughed headlong into the arms race and a militarized Cold War.
Military containment is the core premise of NSC-68.
The document came at an important juncture in world history, where the US emerged from World War 2 as hegemon. Adam Garfinkle argues that three contextual elements stand out, namely:
First, the revolution in military affairs represented by the advent of nuclear weapons occurred almost simultaneously with the advent of the Cold War. Second, NSC-68 constituted an effort to manage that simultaneity, as guided by the theory of containment. And third, a sharp sense of anxiety, urgency, and uncertainty attended its development.
Essentially, the document argues that the US must use its military and economic might to coerce other nations into line and contain the USSR with great urgency. Although the tone of the argument contained within verges on hyperbole, this perhaps best captures the prevailing mood.
The relevance of NSC-68 lives on despite the fall of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent strategic environment. Indeed, the US Government has continued to preserve the goals of NSC-68 - massive military spending, the continual flexing of its global muscle, and an almost hypersensitive reaction to direct aggression - despite living in a unipolar world. The possibility of downgrading Washington's Cold War security commitments despite a vastly different world order has rarely been discussed.
The SAIS Review (19.1, 1999) is devoted solely to NSC-68, and is a great starting point for reviewing the document. The following text of NSC-68 is huge, originally 107 pages long. I have added the original memo from the final draft. I'm hardlinking as I go.
Memo for Mr. Murphy
This is the last draft incorporating agency suggestions we thought worthwhile.
Although the same number of pages as the last draft, it is actually shorter because a larger type machine was used. I have vigorously fought attempts, especially from CEA, to lengthen it.
As far as I am concerned, it is ready for us to show the President.
NSC 68: United States Objectives and Programs for National Security
(April 14, 1950)
A Report to the President
Pursuant to the President's Directive
of January 31, 1950
April 7, 1950
Terms of Reference
I. Background of the Present World Crisis
II. The Fundamental Purpose of the United States
III. The Fundamental Design of the Kremlin
IV. The Underlying Conflict in the Realm of Ideas and Values Between the U.S. Purpose and the Kremlin Design
Nature of the Conflict
V. Soviet Intention
s and Capabilities--Actual and Potential
VI. U.S. Intentions and Capabilities--Actual and Potential
VII. Present Risks
VIII. Atomic Armament
A. Military Evaluation of U.S. and U.S.S.R. Atomic Capabilities
B. Stockpiling and Use of Atomic Weapons
C. International Control of Atomic Energy
IX. Possible Courses of Action
The Role of Negotiation
A. The First Course--Continuation of Current Policies, with Current and Currently Projected Programs for Carrying Out These Projects
B. The Second Course--Isolation
C. The Third Course--War
D. The Remaining Course of Action--A Rapid Build-up of Political, Economic, and Military Strength in the Free World
TERMS OF REFERENCE
The following report is submitted in response to the President's directive of January 31 which reads:
That the President direct the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense to undertake a reexamination of our objectives in peace and war and of the effect of these objectives on our strategic plans, in the light of the probable fission bomb capability and possible thermonuclear bomb capability of the Soviet Union.
The document which recommended that such a directive be issued reads in part:
It must be considered whether a decision to proceed with a program directed toward determining feasibility prejudges the more fundamental decisions (a) as to whether, in the event that a test of a thermonuclear weapon proves successful, such weapons should be stockpiled, or (b) if stockpiled, the conditions under which they might be used in war. If a test of a thermonuclear weapon proves successful, the pressures to produce and stockpile such weapons to be held for the same purposes for which fission bombs are then being held will be greatly increased. The question of use policy can be adequately assessed only as a part of a general reexamination of this country's strategic plans and its objectives in peace and war. Such reexamination would need to consider national policy not only with respect to possible thermonuclear weapons, but also with respect to fission weapons--viewed in the light of the probable fission bomb capability and the possible thermonuclear bomb capability of the Soviet Union. The moral, psychological, and political questions involved in this problem would need to be taken into account and be given due weight. The outcome of this reexamination would have a crucial bearing on the further question as to whether there should be a revision in the nature of the agreements, including the international control of atomic energy, which we have been seeking to reach with the USSR
I. Background of the Present Crisis
Within the past thirty-five years the world has experienced two global wars of tremendous violence. It has witnessed two revolution
and the Chinese
--of extreme scope and intensity. It has also seen the collapse of five empires--the Ottoman
, the Austro-Hungarian, German
, and Japanese--and the drastic decline of two major imperial system
s, the British
and the French
. During the span of one generation, the international distribution of power has been fundamentally altered. For several centuries it had proved impossible for any one nation to gain such preponderant strength that a coalition of other nations could not in time face it with greater strength. The international
scene was marked by recurring periods of violence and war, but a system of sovereign and independent states was maintained, over which no state was able to achieve hegemony
Two complex sets of factors have now basically altered this historic distribution of power. First, the defeat of Germany and Japan and the decline of the British and French Empires have interacted with the development of the United States and the Soviet Union
in such a way that power increasingly gravitated to these two centers. Second, the Soviet Union, unlike previous aspirants to hegemony, is animated by a new fanatic
faith, anti-ethetical to our own, and seeks to impose its absolute authority over the rest of the world. Conflict
has, therefore, become endemic and is waged, on the part of the Soviet Union, by violent or non-violent methods in accordance with the dictates of expediency
. With the development of increasingly terrifying weapons of mass destruction
, every individual faces the ever-present possibility of annihilation should the conflict enter the phase of total war.
On the one hand, the people of the world yearn for relief from the anxiety arising from the risk of atomic war. On the other hand, any substantial further extension of the area under the domination of the Kremlin would raise the possibility that no coalition
adequate to confront the Kremlin with greater strength could be assembled. It is in this context that this Republic
and its citizens in the ascendancy of their strength stand in their deepest peril.
The issues that face us are momentous
, involving the fulfillment or destruction
not only of this Republic but of civilization itself. They are issues which will not await our deliberations. With conscience
and resolution this Government and the people
it represents must now take new and fateful
II. Fundamental Purpose of the United States
The fundamental purpose of the United States is laid down in the Preamble to the Constitution
: ". . . to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity." In essence, the fundamental purpose is to assure the integrity
of our free society
, which is founded upon the dignity and worth of the individual
Three realities emerge as a consequence of this purpose: Our determination to maintain the essential elements of individual freedom, as set forth in the Constitution and Bill of Rights; our determination to create conditions under which our free and democratic system can live and prosper; and our determination to fight if necessary to defend our way of life, for which as in the Declaration of Independence
, "with a firm reliance on the protection
of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our Fortune
s, and our sacred Honor
III. Fundamental Design of the Kremlin
The fundamental design of those who control the Soviet Union
and the international communist
movement is to retain and solidify their absolute power
, first in the Soviet Union and second in the areas now under their control. In the minds of the Soviet
leaders, however, achievement of this design requires the dynamic
extension of their authority and the ultimate
elimination of any effective opposition to their authority.
The design, therefore, calls for the complete subversion
or forcible destruction of the machinery of government
and structure of society in the countries of the non-Soviet world and their replacement by an apparatus
and structure subservient to and controlled from the Kremlin
. To that end Soviet efforts are now directed toward the domination of the Eurasian
land mass. The United States, as the principal center of power
in the non-Soviet world and the bulwark of opposition to Soviet expansion, is the principal enemy whose integrity and vitality must be subverted or destroyed by one mean
s or another if the Kremlin is to achieve its fundamental design.
IV. The Underlying Conflict in the Realm of ideas and Values between the U.S. Purpose and the Kremlin Design
A. NATURE OF CONFLICT
The Kremlin regards the United States as the only major threat to the conflict between idea of slavery
under the grim oligarchy of the Kremlin, which has come to a crisis with the polarization of power described in Section I, and the exclusive possession of atomic weapon
s by the two protagonists. The idea of freedom
, moreover, is peculiarly and intolerably subversive of the idea of slavery. But the converse is not true. The implacable purpose of the slave state
to eliminate the challenge of freedom has placed the two great power
s at opposite poles. It is this fact which gives the present polarization
of power the quality of crisis.
The free society values the individual as an end in himself, requiring of him only that measure of self-discipline
and self-restraint which make the rights of each individual compatible with the rights of every other individual. The freedom of the individual
has as its counterpart, therefore, the negative responsibility of the individual not to exercise his freedom in ways inconsistent with the freedom of other individuals and the positive responsibility to make constructive use of his freedom in the building of a just
From this idea of freedom with responsibility derives the marvelous diversity, the deep tolerance, the lawfulness of the free society. This is the explanation of the strength of free men. It constitutes the integrity and the vitality of a free and democratic system
. The free society attempts to create and maintain an environment in which every individual has the opportunity to realize his creative powers. It also explains why the free society tolerates those within it who would use their freedom to destroy it. By the same token, in relations between nations, the prime reliance of the free society is on the strength and appeal of its idea, and it feels no compulsion sooner or later to bring all societies into conformity with it.
For the free society does not fear, it welcomes, diversity. It derives its strength from its hospitality even to antipathetic ideas. It is a market for free trade in ideas, secure in its faith that free men will take the best wares, and grow to a fuller and better realization of their powers in exercising their choice.
The idea of freedom is the most contagious idea in history, more contagious than the idea of submission to authority. For the breadth of freedom cannot be tolerated in a society which has come under the domination of an individual or group of individuals with a will to absolute power. Where the despot holds absolute power--the absolute power of the absolutely powerful will--all other wills must be subjugated in an act of willing submission, a degradation willed by the individual upon himself under the compulsion of a perverted faith. It is the first article of this faith that he finds and can only find the meaning of his existence in serving the ends of the system. The system becomes God, and submission to the will of God becomes submission to the will of the system. It is not enough to yield outwardly to the system--even Gandhian non-violence is not acceptable--for the spirit of resistance and the devotion to a higher authority might then remain, and the individual would not be wholly submissive.
The same compulsion which demands total power over all men within the Soviet state without a single exception, demands total power over all Communist Parties and all states under Soviet domination. Thus Stalin has said that the theory and tactics of Leninism as expounded by the Bolshevik party are mandatory for the proletarian parties of all countries. A true internationalist is defined as one who unhesitatingly upholds the position of the Soviet Union and in the satellite states true patriotism is love of the Soviet Union. By the same token the "peace policy" of the Soviet Union, described at a Party Congress as "a more advantageous form of fighting capitalism," is a device to divide and immobilize the non-Communist world, and the peace the Soviet Union seeks is the peace of total conformity to Soviet policy.
The antipathy of slavery to freedom explains the iron curtain, the isolation, the autarchy of the society whose end is absolute power. The existence and persistence of the idea of freedom is a permanent and continuous threat to the foundation of the slave society; and it therefore regards as intolerable the long continued existence of freedom in the world. What is new, what makes the continuing crisis, is the polarization of power which now inescapably confronts the slave society with the free.
The assault on free institutions is world-wide now, and in the context of the present polarization of power a defeat of free institutions anywhere is a defeat everywhere. The shock we sustained in the destruction of Czechoslovakia was not in the measure of Czechoslovakia's material importance to us. In a material sense, her capabilities were already at Soviet disposal. But when the integrity of Czechoslovak institutions was destroyed, it was in the intangible scale of values that we registered a loss more damaging than the material loss we had already suffered.
Thus unwillingly our free society finds itself mortally challenged by the Soviet system. No other value system is so wholly irreconcilable with ours, so implacable in its purpose to destroy ours, so capable of turning to its own uses the most dangerous and divisive trends in our own society, no other so skillfully and powerfully evokes the elements of irrationality in human nature everywhere, and no other has the support of a great and growing center of military power.
The objectives of a free society are determined by its fundamental
values and by the necessity for maintaining the material environment in which they flourish. Logically and in fact, therefore, the Kremlin's challenge to the United States is directed not only to our values but to our physical capacity to protect their environment. It is a challenge which encompasses both peace and war and our objectives in peace and war must take account of it.
Thus we must make ourselves strong, both in the way in which we affirm our values in the conduct of our national life, and in the development of our military
and economic strength
We must lead in building a successfully functioning political and economic system in the free world. It is only by practical affirmation, abroad as well as at home, of our essential values, that we can preserve our own integrity, in which lies the real frustration of the Kremlin design.
But beyond thus affirming our values our policy and actions must be such as to foster a fundamental change in the nature of the Soviet system, a change toward which the frustration of the design is the first and perhaps the most important step. Clearly it will not only be less costly but more effective if this change occurs to a maximum extent as a result of internal forces in Soviet society.
In a shrinking world, which now faces the threat of atomic warfare
, it is not an adequate objective merely to seek to check the Kremlin design, for the absence of order among nations is becoming less and less tolerable. This fact imposes on us, in our own interests, the responsibility of world leadership. It demands that we make the attempt, and accept the risks inherent in it, to bring about order and justice by means consistent
with the principles of freedom and democracy. We should limit our requirement of the Soviet Union to its participation with other nations on the basis of equality and respect for the rights of others. Subject to this requirement, we must with our allies and the former subject peoples seek to create a world society based on the principle of consent. Its framework cannot be inflexible. It will consist of many national communities of great and varying abilities and resources, and hence of war potential. The seeds of conflicts will inevitably exist or will come into being. To acknowledge this is only to acknowledge the impossibility of a final solution. Not to acknowledge it can be fatally dangerous in a world in which there are no final solution
All these objectives of a free society are equally valid and necessary in peace and war. But every consideration of devotion to our fundamental values and to our national security demands that we seek to achieve them by the strategy of the cold war. It is only by developing the moral
strength of the free world that the Soviet regime will become convinced of the falsity of its assumptions and that the pre-conditions for workable agreements can be created. By practically demonstrating the integrity and vitality of our system the free world widens the area of possible agreement and thus can hope gradually to bring about a Soviet acknowledgement of realities which in sum will eventually constitute a frustration of the Soviet design. Short of this, however, it might be possible to create a situation which will induce the Soviet Union to accommodate itself, with or without the conscious abandonment of its design, to coexistence on tolerable terms with the non-Soviet world. Such a development would be a triumph for the idea of freedom and democracy. It must be an immediate objective of United States policy.
There is no reason
, in the event of war, for us to alter our overall objectives. They do not include unconditional surrender, the subjugation
of the Russian peoples or a Russia shorn of its economic potential. Such a course would irrevocably unite the Russian people behind the regime which enslave
s them. Rather these objectives contemplate Soviet acceptance of the specific and limited conditions requisite to an international environment in which free institutions can flourish, and in which the Russian peoples will have a new chance
to work out their own destiny
. If we can make the Russian people our allies in the enterprise we will obviously have made our task easier and victory
The objectives outlined in NSC 20/4 (November 23, 1948) ... are fully consistent with the objectives stated in this paper, and they remain valid. The growing intensity of the conflict which has been imposed upon us, however, requires the changes of emphasis and the additions that are apparent. Coupled with the probable fission bomb capability and possible thermonuclear bomb capability of the Soviet Union, the intensifying struggle requires us to face the fact that we can expect no lasting abatement of the crisis unless and until a change occurs in the nature of the Soviet system.
The free society is limited in its choice of means to achieve its ends.
is the negation
, except when it is used to enforce the rights common
to all. The resort to force, internally or externally, is therefore a last resort for a free society. The act is permissible only when one individual or groups of individuals within it threaten the basic right
s of other individuals or when another society seeks to impose its will upon it. The free society cherishes and protects as fundamental the rights of the minority against the will of a majority, because these rights are the inalienable rights of each and every individual.
The resort to force, to compulsion, to the imposition of its will is therefore a difficult and dangerous act for a free society, which is warranted only in the face of even greater dangers. The necessity of the act must be clear and compelling; the act must commend itself to the overwhelming majority as an inescapable exception
to the basic idea of freedom; or the regenerative
capacity of free men after the act has been performed will be endangered.
The Kremlin is able to select whatever means are expedient in seeking to carry out its fundamental design. Thus it can make the best of several possible worlds, conducting the struggle on those levels where it considers it profitable and enjoying the benefits of a pseudo-peace on those levels where it is not ready for a contest. At the ideological
or psychological level, in the struggle for men's minds, the conflict is worldwide
. At the political and economic
level, within states and in the relations between states, the struggle for power is being intensified. And at the military level, the Kremlin
has thus far been careful not to commit a technical
breach of the peace, although using its vast forces to intimidate its neighbors, and to support an aggressive foreign policy
, and not hesitating through its agents to resort to arms in favorable circumstances. The attempt to carry out its fundamental design is being pressed, therefore, with all means which are believed expedient in the present situation, and the Kremlin has inextricably engaged us in the conflict between its design and our purpose.
We have no such freedom of choice, and least of all in the use of force. Resort to war is not only a last resort for a free society, but it is also an act which cannot definitively end the fundamental conflict in the realm of ideas. The idea of slavery can only be overcome by the timely and persistent demonstration of the superiority of the idea of freedom. Military victory alone would only partial
ly and perhaps only temporarily affect the fundamental conflict, for although the ability of the Kremlin to threaten our security might be for a time destroyed, the resurgence of totalitarian
forces and the re-establishment of the Soviet system or its equivalent would not be long delayed unless great progress were made in the fundamental conflict.
Practical and ideological considerations therefore both impel us to the conclusion that we have no choice but to demonstrate the superiority of the idea of freedom by its constructive application, and to attempt to change the world situation by means short of war in such a way as to frustrate the Kremlin design and hasten the decay of the Soviet system.
For us the role of military power
is to serve the national purpose by deterring an attack upon us while we seek by other means to create an environment
in which our free society can flourish, and by fighting, if necessary, to defend the integrity and vitality of our free society and to defeat any aggressor. The Kremlin uses Soviet military power to back up and serve the Kremlin design. It does not hesitate to use military force aggressively if that course is expedient in the achievement of its design. The differences between our fundamental purpose and the Kremlin design, therefore, are reflected in our respective attitudes toward and use of military force.
Our free society, confronted by a threat to its basic values, naturally will take such action, including the use of military force, as may be required to protect those values. The integrity of our system will not be jeopardized by any measures, covert
, [violent or nonviolent
, which serve the purposes of frustrating the Kremlin design
, nor does the necessity for conducting ourselves so as to affirm our values in actions as well as words forbid such measures, provided only they are appropriately calculated to that end and are not so excessive or misdirected as to make us enemies of the people instead of the evil men
who have enslaved them.
But if war comes, what is the role of force? Unless we so use it that the Russian people can perceive that our effort is directed against the regime and its power for aggression, and not against their own interests, we will unite the regime and the people in the kind of last ditch fight in which no underlying problems are solved, new ones are created, and where our basic principles are obscured and compromised. If we do not in the application of force demonstrate the nature of our objectives we will, in fact, have compromised from the outset our fundamental purpose. In the words of the Federalist
(No. 28) "The means to be employed must be proportioned to the extent of the mischief." The mischief may be a global war
or it may be a Soviet campaign
for limited objectives. In either case we should take no avoidable initiative which would cause it to become a war of annihilation
, and if we have the forces to defeat a Soviet drive for limited objectives it may well be to our interest not to let it become a global war. Our aim in applying force must be to compel the acceptance of terms consistent with our objectives, and our capabilities for the application of force should, therefore, within the limits of what we can sustain over the long pull, be congruent to the range of tasks which we may encounter.
V. Soviet Intentions and Capabilities
A. POLITICAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL
The Kremlin's design for world domination begins at home
. The first concern of a despotic oligarchy
is that the local base of its power and authority be secure. The massive fact of the iron curtain isolating the Soviet peoples from the outside world, the repeated political purges within the USSR and the institutionalized crimes of the MVD the Soviet Ministry of Internal Affairs
are evidence that the Kremlin does not feel secure at home and that "the entire coercive force of the socialist
state" is more than ever one of seeking to impose its absolute authority over "the economy, manner of life, and consciousness of people" (Vyshinski, The Law of the Soviet State, p. 74). Similar evidence in the satellite states of Eastern Europe leads to the conclusion that this same policy, in less advanced phases, is being applied to the Kremlin's colonial areas.
Being a totalitarian dictatorship, the Kremlin's objectives in these policies is the total subjective submission of the peoples now under its control. The concentration camp is the prototype of the society which these policies are designed to achieve, a society in which the personality of the individual is so broken and perverted that he participates affirmatively in his own degradation.
The Kremlin's policy toward areas not under its control is the elimination of resistance to its will and the extension of its influence and control. It is driven to follow this policy because it cannot, for the reasons set forth in Chapter IV, tolerate the existence of free societies; to the Kremlin the most mild and inoffensive free society is an affront, a challenge and a subversive influence. Given the nature of the Kremlin, and the evidence at hand, it seems clear that the ends toward which this policy is directed are the same as those where its control has already been established.
The means employed by the Kremlin in pursuit of this policy are limited only by consideration
s of expediency. Doctrine is not a limit
; rather it dictate
s the employment of violence, subversion, and deceit, and rejects moral considerations. In any event, the Kremlin's conviction of its own infallibility has made its devotion to theory so subjective that past or present pronouncements as to doctrine offer no reliable guide to future actions. The only apparent restraints on resort to war are, therefore, calculations of practicality.
With particular reference to the United States, the Kremlin's strategic and tactical policy is affected by its estimate that we are not only the greatest immediate obstacle which stands between it and world domination, we are also the only power which could release forces in the free and Soviet worlds which could destroy it. The Kremlin's policy toward us is consequently animated by a peculiarly virulent
blend of hatred and fear. Its strategy has been one of attempting to undermine the complex
of forces, in this country and in the rest of the free world, on which our power is based. In this it has both adhered to doctrine and followed the sound principle of seeking maximum results with minimum risks and commitments. The present application of this strategy is a new form of expression for traditional Russian caution. However, there is no justification in Soviet theory or practice for predicting that, should the Kremlin become convinced that it could cause our downfall by one conclusive blow, it would not seek that solution.
In considering the capabilities of the Soviet world, it is of prime importance to remember that, in contrast to ours, they are being drawn upon close to the maximum possible extent. Also in contrast to us, the Soviet world can do more with less--it has a lower standard of living, its economy requires less to keep it functioning, and its military machine operates effectively with less elaborate equipment and organization.
The capabilities of the Soviet world are being exploited to the full because the Kremlin is inescapably militant. It is inescapably militant because it possesses and is possessed by a world-wide revolutionary movement, because it ' is the inheritor of Russian imperialism, and because it is a totalitarian dictatorship. Persistent crisis, conflict, and expansion are the essence of the Kremlin's militancy. This dynamism serves to intensify all Soviet capabilities.
Two enormous organizations, the Communist Party and the secret police, are an outstanding source of strength to the Kremlin. In the Party, it has an apparatus designed to impose at home an ideological uniformity among its people and to act abroad as an instrument of propaganda, subversion and espionage. In its police apparatus, it has a domestic repressive instrument guaranteeing under present circumstances the continued security of the Kremlin. The demonstrated capabilities of these two basic organizations, operating openly or in disguise, in mass or through single agents, is unparalleled in history. The party, the police and the conspicuous might of the Soviet military machine together tend to create an overall impression of irresistible Soviet power among many peoples of the free world.
The ideological pretensions of the Kremlin are another great source of strength. Its identification of the Soviet system with communism, its peace campaigns and its championing of colonial peoples may be viewed with apathy, if not cynicism, by the oppressed totalitariat of the Soviet world, but in the free world these ideas find favorable responses in vulnerable segments of society. They have found a particularly receptive audience in Asia, especially as the Asiatics have been impressed by what has been plausibly portrayed to them as the rapid advance of the USSR from a backward society to a position of great world power. Thus, in its pretensions to being (a) the source of a new universal faith and (b) the model "scientific" society, the Kremlin cynically identifies itself with the genuine aspirations of large numbers of people, and places itself at the head of an international crusade with all of the benefits which derive therefrom.
Finally, there is a category of capabilities, strictly speaking neither institutional nor ideological, which should be taken into consideration. The extraordinary flexibility of Soviet tactics is certainly a strength. It derives from the utterly amoral and opportunistic conduct of Soviet policy. Combining this quality with the elements of secrecy, the Kremlin possesses a formidable capacity to act with the widest tactical latitude, with stealth, and with speed.
The greatest vulnerability
of the Kremlin lie
s in the basic nature of its relations with the Soviet
That relationship is characterized by universal suspicion
, and denunciation
. It is a relationship in which the Kremlin relies, not only for its power but its very survival, on intricately devised mechanisms of coercion. The Soviet monolith
is held together by the iron curtain
around it and the iron bar
s within it, not by any force of natural cohesion. These artificial mechanisms of unity have never been intelligently challenged by a strong outside force. The full measure of their vulnerability is therefore not yet evident.
The Kremlin's relations with its satellites and their peoples is likewise a vulnerability. Nationalism still remains the most potent emotional-political force. The well-known ills of colonialism are compounded, however, by the excessive demands of the Kremlin that its satellites accept not only the imperial authority of Moscow but that they believe in and proclaim the ideological primacy
and infallibility of the Kremlin. These excessive requirements can be made good only through extreme coercion. The result is that if a satellite feels able to effect its independence of the Kremlin, as Tito
was able to do, it is likely to break away.
In short, Soviet ideas and practices run counter to the best and potentially the strongest instinct
s of men, and deny their most fundamental aspirations. Against an adversary which effectively affirmed the constructive and hopeful instincts of men and was capable of fulfilling their fundamental aspirations, the Soviet system might prove to be fatally weak.
The problem of succession to Stalin
is also a Kremlin vulnerability. In a system where supreme power
is acquired and held through violence and intimidation, the transfer of that power may well produce a period of instability.
In a very real sense, the Kremlin is a victim of, its own dynamism. This dynamism
can become a weakness if it is frustrated, if in its forward thrusts it encounters a superior force which halts the expansion and exerts a superior counterpressure. Yet the Kremlin cannot relax the condition of crisis and mobilization, for to do so would be to lose its dynamism, whereas the seeds of decay
within the Soviet system would begin to flourish
The Kremlin is, of course, aware of these weaknesses. It must know that in the present world situation they are of secondary significance. So long as the Kremlin retains the initiative, so long as it can keep on the offensive unchallenged by clearly superior counter-force--spiritual as well as material--its vulnerabilities are largely inoperative and even concealed by its successes. The Kremlin has not yet been given real reason to fear and be diverted by the rot within its system.
The Kremlin has no economic intentions unrelated to its overall policies. Economics
in the Soviet
world is not an end in itself The Kremlin's policy, in so far as it has to do with economics, is to utilize economic processes to contribute to the overall strength, particularly the war-making capacity of the Soviet system. The material welfare
of the totalitariat is severely subordinated to the interest of the system.
As for capabilities, even granting optimistic
Soviet reports of production, the total economic strength of the U.S.S.R. compares with that of the U.S. as roughly one to four. This is reflected not only in gross national product
(1949: USSR $65 billion; U.S. $250 billion), but in production of key commodities in 1949:
Steel (million met. tons)
U.S. - 80.4
USSR - 21.5
USSR and EUROPEAN ORBIT COMBINED - 28.0
(thousand met. tons)
U.S. - 617.6
USSR - 130-135
USSR and EUROPEAN ORBIT COMBINED - 140-145
power (billion kwh)
U.S. - 410
USSR - 72
USSR and EUROPEAN ORBIT COMBINED - 112
(million met. tons)
U.S. - 276.5
USSR - 33.0
USSR and EUROPEAN ORBIT COMBINED - 38.9
Assuming the maintenance of present policies, while a large U.S. advantage is likely to remain, the Soviet Union will be steadily reducing the discrepancy between its overall economic strength and that of the U.S. by continuing to devote proportionately more to capital investment than the U.S.
But a full-scale effort by the U.S. would be capable of precipitately altering this trend. The USSR
today is on a near maximum production basis. No matter what efforts Moscow
might make, only a relatively slight change in the rate of increase in overall production could be brought about. In the U.S., on the other hand, a very rapid absolute expansion could be realized. The fact remains, however, that so long as the Soviet Union is virtually mobilized, and the United States has scarcely begun to summon up its forces, the greater capabilities of the U.S. are to that extent inoperative in the struggle for power. Moreover, as the Soviet attainment of an atomic capability has demonstrated, the totalitarian state, at least in time of peace, can focus its efforts on any given project far more readily than the democratic state.
In other fields--general technological
competence, skilled labor
of labor force, etc.--the gap between the USSR and the U.S. roughly corresponds to the gap in production. In the field of scientific research
, however, the margin of United States superiority is unclear, especially if the Kremlin can utilize European
The Soviet Union is developing the military capacity to support its design for world domination
. The Soviet Union actually possesses armed forces far in excess of those necessary to defend its national territory. These armed forces are probably not yet considered by the Soviet Union to be sufficient to initiate a war which would involve the United States. This excessive strength, coupled now with an atomic
capability, provides the Soviet Union with great coercive power for use in time of peace in furtherance of its objectives and serves as a deterrent to the victims of its aggression from taking any action in opposition to its tactic
s which would risk war.
Should a major war occur in 1950
the Soviet Union and its satellite
s are considered by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to be in a sufficiently advanced state of preparation immediately to undertake and carry out the following campaigns.
a. To overrun Western Europe, with the possible exception of the Iberia
n and Scandinavia
n Peninsulas; to drive toward the oil-bearing areas of the Near and Middle East
; and to consolidate Communist gains in the Far East;
b. To launch air attacks against the British Isles
and air and sea attacks against the lines of communications of the Western Powers in the Atlantic
and the Pacific
c. To attack selected targets with atomic weapons, now including the likelihood of such attacks against targets in Alaska
, and the United States
. Alternatively, this capability, coupled with other actions open to the Soviet Union, might deny the United Kingdom
as an effective base of operations for allied forces. It also should be possible for the Soviet Union to prevent any allied "Normandy
" type amphibious operations intended to force a reentry into the continent of Europe.
After the Soviet Union completed its initial campaigns and consolidated its positions in the Western European area, it could simultaneously conduct:
a. Full-scale air and limited sea operations against the British Isles;
b. Invasions of the Iberian and Scandinavian Peninsulas;
c. Further operations in the Near and Middle East, continued air operations against the North American continent, and air and sea operations against Atlantic and Pacific lines of communication; and
ary attacks in other areas.
During the course of the offensive
operations listed in the second and third paragraph
s above, the Soviet Union will have an air defense capability with respect to the vital areas of its own and its satellites' territories which can oppose but cannot prevent allied air operations against these areas.
It is not known whether the Soviet Union possesses war reserves and arsenal
capabilities sufficient to supply its satellite armies or even its own forces throughout a long war. It might not be in the interest of the Soviet Union to equip fully its satellite armies, since the possibility of defection
s would exist.
It is not possible at this time to assess accurately the finite disadvantages to the Soviet Union which may accrue through the implementation of the Economic Cooperation Act of 1948
, as amended, and the Mutual Defense Assistance Act of 1949
. It should be expected that, as this implementation progresses, the internal security situation of the recipient nations should improve concurrently. In addition, a strong United States military position, plus increases in the armaments of the nations of Western Europe, should strengthen the determination of the recipient nation
s to counter Soviet moves and in event of war could be considered as likely to delay operations and increase the time required for the Soviet Union to overrun Western Europe. In all probability, although United States backing will stiffen their determination, the armaments increase under the present aid programs will not be of any major consequence prior to 1952
. Unless the military strength of the Western European
nations is increased on a much larger scale than under current programs and at an accelerated rate, it is more than likely that those nations will not be able to oppose even by 1960
the Soviet armed forces in war with any degree of effectiveness
. Considering the Soviet Union military capability, the long-range allied military objective in Western Europe must envisage an increased military strength in that area sufficient possibly to deter the Soviet Union from a major war or, in any event, to delay materially the overrunning of Western Europe and, if feasible, to hold a bridgehead
on the continent
against Soviet Union offensives.
We do not know accurately what the Soviet atomic capability is but the Central Intelligence Agency
intelligence estimates, concurred in by State, Army, Navy, Air Force, and Atomic Energy Commission
, assign to the Soviet Union a production capability giving it a fission bomb stockpile within the following ranges:
This estimate is admittedly based on incomplete coverage of Soviet activities and represents the production capabilities of known or deducible Soviet plant
s. If others exist, as is possible, this estimate could lead us into a feeling of superiority in our atomic stockpile
that might be dangerously misleading, particularly with regard to the timing of a possible Soviet offensive. On the other hand, if the Soviet Union experiences operating difficulties, this estimate would be reduced. There is some evidence that the Soviet Union is acquiring certain materials essential to research on and development of thermonuclear
The Soviet Union now has aircraft able to deliver the atomic bomb. Our Intelligence
estimates assign to the Soviet Union an atomic bomber capability already in excess of that needed to deliver available bombs. We have at present no evaluated estimate regarding the Soviet accuracy of delivery on target. It is believed that the Soviets cannot deliver their bombs on target with a degree of accuracy comparable to ours, but a planning estimate might well place it at 40-60 percent of bombs sorted. For planning purposes, therefore, the date the Soviets possess an atomic stockpile of 200 bombs would be a critical date for the United States, for the delivery of 100 atomic bombs on targets in the United States would seriously damage this country
At the time the Soviet Union has a substantial atomic stockpile and if it is assumed that it will strike a strong surprise blow and if it is assumed further that its atomic attacks will be met with no more effective defense opposition than the United States and its allies have programmed, results of those attacks could include:
a. Laying waste to the British Isles and thus depriving the Western Powers of their use as a base
b. Destruction of the vital centers and of the communications of Western Europe, thus precluding
effective defense by the Western Powers; and
c. Delivering devastating attacks on certain vital centers of the United States and Canada
by the Soviet Union of a thermonuclear capability in addition to this substantial atomic stockpile would result in tremendously increased damage.
During this decade, the defensive capabilities of the Soviet Union will probably be strengthened, particularly by the development and use of modern
aircraft, aircraft warning and communications devices, and defensive guided missile
VI. U.S. Intentions and Capabilities--Actual and Potential
A. POLITICAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL
Our overall policy
at the present time may be described as one designed to foster
a world environment
in which the American system
can survive and flourish. It therefore rejects the concept of isolation
and affirms the necessity of our positive participation in the world community.
This broad intention embraces two subsidiary policies. One is a policy which we would probably pursue even if there were no Soviet threat. It is a policy of attempting to develop a healthy international community. The other is the policy of "containing
" the Soviet system. These two policies are closely interrelated and interact on one another. Nevertheless, the distinction between them is basically valid
and contributes to a clearer understanding of what we are trying to do.
The policy of striving to develop a healthy international community
is the long-term constructive effort which we are engaged in. It was this policy which gave rise to our vigorous sponsorship of the United Nations
. It is of course the principal reason for our long continuing endeavors to create and now develop the Inter-American system. It, as much as containment, underlay our efforts to rehabilitate
Western Europe. Most of our international economic activities can likewise be explained in terms of this policy.
In a world of polarized power, the policies designed to develop a healthy international community are more than ever necessary to our own strength.
As for the policy of "containment
," it is one which seeks by all means short of war to (1) block further expansion of Soviet power, (2) expose the falsities of Soviet pretensions, (3) induce a retraction of the Kremlin's control and influence, and (4) in general, so foster the seeds of destruction within the Soviet system that the Kremlin is brought at least to the point of modifying its behavior to conform to generally accepted international standard
It was and continues to be cardinal
in this policy that we possess superior overall power in ourselves or in dependable combination with other likeminded
nations. One of the most important ingredients of power is military
strength. In the concept of "containment," the maintenance of a strong military posture is deemed to be essential
for two reasons: (1) as an ultimate guarantee of our national security and (2) as an indispensable backdrop to the conduct of the policy of "containment." Without superior aggregate military strength, in being and readily mobilizable, a policy of "containment"--which is in effect a policy of calculated and gradual coercion
--is no more than a policy of bluff
At the same time, it is essential to the successful conduct of a policy of "containment" that we always leave open the possibility of negotiation with the USSR. A diplomatic freeze
--and we are in one now--tends to defeat the very purposes of "containment" because it raises tensions at the same time that it makes Soviet retractions and adjustments in the direction of moderated behavior more difficult. It also tends to inhibit our initiative and deprives us of opportunities for maintaining a moral ascendancy
in our struggle with the Soviet system.
In "containment" it is desirable to exert
pressure in a fashion
which will avoid so far as possible directly challenging Soviet prestige, to keep open the possibility for the USSR to retreat before pressure with a minimum loss of face and to secure political advantage from the failure of the Kremlin to yield or take advantage of the openings we leave it.
We have failed to implement adequately these two fundamental aspects of "containment." In the face of obviously mounting Soviet military strength ours has decline
d relatively. Partly as a byproduct
of this, but also for other reasons, we now find ourselves at a diplomatic impasse with the Soviet Union, with the Kremlin growing bolder, with both of us holding on grimly to what we have, and with ourselves facing difficult
In examining our capabilities it is relevant to ask at the outset--capabilities for what? The answer cannot be stated solely in the negative
terms of resisting the Kremlin design. It includes also our capabilities to attain the fundamental purpose
of the United States, and to foster a world environment in which our free society can survive and flourish.
Potentially we have these capabilities. We know we have them in the economic and military
fields. Potentially we also have them in the political and psychological fields. The vast majority of Americans are confident
that the system of values which animates our society--the principles of freedom, tolerance, the importance of the individual, and the supremacy of reason
over will--are valid and more vital than the ideology
which is the fuel of Soviet dynamism. Translated into terms relevant to the lives of other peoples--our system of values can become perhaps a powerful appeal to millions who now seek or find in authoritarianism
a refuge from anxieties, bafflement
, and insecurity.
Essentially, our democracy also possesses a unique degree of unity
. Our society is fundamentally more cohesive than the Soviet system, the solidarity of which is artificially created through force, fear, and favor. This means that expressions of national consensus
in our society are soundly and solidly based. It means that the possibility of revolution in this country is fundamentally less than that in the Soviet system.
These capabilities within us constitute a great potential force in our international relations
. The potential within us of bearing witness to the values by which we live holds promise for a dynamic manifestation
to the rest of the world of the vitality of our system. The essential tolerance of our world outlook, our generous and constructive
impulses, and the absence of covetousness in our international relations are assets of potentially enormous influence.
These then are our potential capabilities. Between them and our capabilities currently being utilized is a wide gap of unactualized power. In sharp contrast is the situation of the Soviet world. Its capabilities are inferior to those of our allies and to our own. But they are mobilized close to the maximum
The full power
which resides within the American people will be evoked only through the traditional democratic process: This process requires, firstly, that sufficient information regarding the basic political
, economic, and military elements of the present situation be made publicly available so that an intelligent popular opinion
may be formed. Having achieved a comprehension of the issues now confronting this Republic, it will then be possible for the American people and the American Government to arrive at a consensus. Out of this common view will develop a determination of the national will
and a solid resolute expression of that will. The initiative
in this process lies with the Government.
The democratic way is harder than the authoritarian
way because, in seeking to protect and fulfill the individual, it demands of him understanding, judgment, and positive participation in the increasingly complex and exacting problems of the modern
world. It demands that he exercise discrimination: that while pursuing through free inquiry the search for truth he knows when he should commit an act of faith
; that he distinguish between the necessity for tolerance and the necessity for just suppression. A free society is vulnerable in that it is easy for people to lapse into excesses--the excesses of a permanently open mind wishfully waiting for evidence that evil design may become noble purpose, the excess of faith becoming prejudice
, the excess of tolerance degenerating into indulgence
and the excess of resorting to suppression
when more moderate measures are not only more appropriate but more effective.
In coping with dictatorial governments acting in secrecy
and with speed, we are also vulnerable in that the democratic process necessarily operates in the open and at a deliberate tempo
. Weaknesses in our situation are readily apparent and subject to immediate exploitation. This Government therefore cannot afford in the face of the totalitarian challenge to operate on a narrow margin of strength. A democracy
can compensate for its natural vulnerability only if it maintains clearly superior
overall power in its most inclusive sense.
The very virtues of our system likewise handicap us in certain respects in our relations with our allies. While it is a general source of strength to us that our relations with our allies are conducted on a basis of persuasion and consent rather than compulsion and capitulation, it is also evident that dissent
among us can become a vulnerability
. Sometimes the dissent has its principal
roots abroad in situations about which we can do nothing. Sometimes it arises largely out of certain weaknesses within ourselves, about which we can do something--our native impetuosity and a tendency
to expect too much from people widely divergent
The full capabilities of the rest of the free world are a potential increment to our own capabilities. It may even be said that the capabilities of the Soviet world, specifically the capabilities of the masses who have nothing to lose but their Soviet chains, are a potential which can be enlisted on our side.
Like our own capabilities
, those of the rest of the free world exceed the capabilities of the Soviet system. Like our own they are far from being effectively mobilized and employed in the struggle against the Kremlin design. This is so because the rest of the free world lacks a sense of unity, confidence, and common purpose. This is true in even the most homogeneous and advanced segment of the free world--Western Europe.
As we ourselves demonstrate power, confidence, and a sense of moral and political direction, so those same qualities will be evoked in Western Europe. In such a situation, we may also anticipate a general improvement in the political tone in Latin America, Asia, and Africa and the real beginnings of awakening among the Soviet totalitariat.
In the absence of affirmative decision on our part, the rest of the free world is almost certain to become demoralized. Our friends will become more than a liability to us; they can eventually become a positive increment to Soviet power.
In sum, the capabilities of our allies are, in an important sense, a function of our own. An affirmative decision to summon up the potential within ourselves would evoke the potential strength within others and add it to our own.