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Letter to Nikolai Bulganin, Chairman, Council of Ministers, U. S. S. R., on Geneva Disarmament Proposal.

March 06, 1956

[Released March 6, 1956. Dated March 1, 1956]

Dear Mr. Chairman:

In accordance with my message to you of October eleventh, I have now thoroughly reviewed your letter of September nineteenth, regarding the objective of an acceptable system of disarmament which we discussed at Geneva.

I have noted with satisfaction that you have expressed agreement with the importance of providing mutual safeguards against surprise attack and with the desirability of reciprocal reductions in armaments. You have credited me with a sincere desire to find a way to settle the important problem of international control and inspection.

It would appear, however, that you raise the following questions with regard to my Geneva proposal. You ask whether the adoption of my offer would lead to the reduction of armaments, and express doubt. You suggest the need of extending the inspection to other countries. You raise other points regarding nuclear weapons.

I am confident that the adoption of my Geneva proposal combined with ground inspection teams which you proposed, thus reducing the danger of surprise attack, will in fact lead to a reduction of armaments, the lessening of tensions, and the brightening of the prospects of a durable peace. Certainly the United States is fully resolved to achieve those ends. My representative on the Subcommittee of the United Nations Disarmament Commission will be prepared to help develop a program to carry out that resolve, through appropriate action by our Governments.

In my judgment, our efforts must be directed especially to bringing under control the nuclear threat. As an important step for this purpose and assuming the satisfactory operation of our air and ground inspection system, the United States would be prepared to work out, with other nations, suitable and safeguarded arrangements so that future production of fissionable materials anywhere in the world would no longer be used to increase the stockpiles of explosive weapons. With this could be combined my proposal of December 8, 1953, "to begin now and continue to make joint contributions" from existing stockpiles of normal uranium and fissionable materials to an international atomic agency. These measures, if carried out adequately, would reverse the present trend toward a constant increase in nuclear weapons overhanging the world. My ultimate hope is that all production of fissionable materials anywhere in the world will be devoted exclusively to peaceful purposes.

I am mindful of the difficulties in this regard, pointed out in your Government's proposals of May 10, 1955, arising from the possibilities for evading international control and organizing the clandestine manufacture of atomic and hydrogen weapons. The risks inherent in failing to achieve control, however, make it imperative to overcome the difficulties involved and to devise and implement an effective system of safeguards. With genuine efforts on both sides, I feel confident we can succeed in this endeavor.

In general, my feeling is that disarmament should be sought primarily, though not exclusively, in terms of limitations on armaments rather than on men. The former are more subject to supervision, regulation and control than the latter. In the present state of international affairs and especially in the absence of real peace in the Far East, I foresee that it may be difficult to agree on reductions in the general level of armed forces at this time. It should, however, be possible now to agree on measures having a stabilizing effect, dealing with the control and limitation, under proper safeguards, of major types of armaments. These measures will be an essential part of the comprehensive system required to provide security to participating states.

If the United States and U. S. S. R. and our associates on the Subcommittee--the United Kingdom, France and Canada-can reach a basic agreement, I am confident that other nations would want to join in what they would regard as a favorable development for world peace. With the agreement of other nations concerned, the United States would expect the agreed system of supervision to apply, in an appropriate and effective manner, to forces and facilities which we both have outside our borders.

During the early phases of such a program, both the U. S. S. R. and the United States would have very extensive military strength, including stocks of nuclear weapons. I wish to make it clear that, so far as the United States is concerned, we would continue to hold such strength, not for aggression, nor for narrow national purposes, but as a contribution toward world stability in this transitional period.

I welcome the indication that you are giving major attention to this subject which has such extraordinary significance to the peoples of our two countries and of the other nations of the world. May I assure you and the people of your country that the objective of the United States continues to be the attainment of a just and durable peace.

I hope that the coming meeting of the Disarmament Subcommittee will succeed in making real progress toward that goal.

I also wish to take this opportunity to acknowledge receipt of your letter of February first which replied to mine of January twenty-eighth. My view remains generally as expressed in that letter. But I shall continue to study the problem with a view to seeing whether it seems that any useful new steps can be taken as between us. I may communicate again with you later on this matter.



Note: The President's words "my proposal of December 8, 1953" refer to an address made by him before the United Nations General Assembly on "Atomic Power for Peace." The address is printed in the Department of State Bulletin (vol. 29, p. 847). Other documents referred to are printed in the Department of State Bulletin as follows: the President's message of October 11, 1955, and Mr. Bulganin's letter of September 19, 1955 (vol. 33, P. 643); Soviet proposals of May 10, 1955 (vol. 32, p.. 900); Mr. Bulganin's letter of February 1, 1956 (vol. 34, p. 193). For text of the President's letter of January 28, 1956, see Item 23, above.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Letter to Nikolai Bulganin, Chairman, Council of Ministers, U. S. S. R., on Geneva Disarmament Proposal. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/233026

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