The "Yankee" shot, 14 May 1954 (GMT), during the Castle series of nuclear weapons test in the South Pacific (Click here for larger version)

The Making of the Limited Test Ban Treaty, 1958-1963

William Burr and Hector L. Montford, editors

Posted - August 8, 2003

 

Recent newspaper stories about the debate over whether to develop "mini-nuke" "bunker-busters" and the implications of new weapons for the current nuclear test moratorium (Note 1) is reminiscent of the pressure put on the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations to end a moratorium on nuclear weapons tests to allow testing of low-yield tactical nuclear weapons. Pressures for nuclear testing on both sides of the Cold War line ended the moratorium and shaped the Limited Test Ban Treaty which the U.S. government, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union signed forty years ago this week on 5 August 1963. Negotiated after years of effort to finalize a comprehensive test ban, the LTBT addressed the problem of fallout from nuclear tests by banning tests in the atmosphere, underwater, and in outer-space. (Note 2)

A significant event in both Cold War history and the history of nuclear policy, the treaty eased global anxiety over fallout from nuclear tests but it also suggested the possibility of a new era in US and Soviet relations. At the same time, the treaty deepened the split between the Soviet Union and China, which was determined to test nuclear weapons despite the treaty. While France and China would ignore the LTBT and test weapons in the atmosphere for years to come, the treaty was a significant international public health success by eliminating the atmospheric testing of the nuclear superpowers. Nevertheless, the limited test ban signified a deeper failure to negotiate the comprehensive test ban that proponents saw as important for curbing nuclear proliferation and checking the U.S.-Soviet arms competition. Indeed, the LTBT facilitated superpower nuclear arms development by making underground nuclear tests a routine event. Forty years later, diplomats have negotiated a comprehensive test ban treaty (CTBT) that bars all nuclear weapons tests, but the United States and other major powers have yet to ratify it.

This electronic briefing book begins with an overview of the unsuccessful attempt between 1958 and 1963 to negotiate a comprehensive nuclear test ban and the political dilemmas that forced London, Moscow, and Washington to negotiate a limited treaty. A selection of sixty-five declassified U.S. government documents on the treaty negotiations follows; most of them are published here for the first time. The documents illustrate the concerns that drove the U.S. negotiating position--world public opinion, pressure from allies, the status of the Soviet nuclear weapons program, and concern about the proliferation of nuclear capabilities. The documents also illustrate the major controversies over verifying nuclear test ban treaties, especially U.S. and British pressures for an international inspection system. (Note 3)

The Test Ban and Politics, 1955-1960

The Kennedy Administration holds the distinction of signing off on the first test ban treaty, but the concept of an agreement prohibiting nuclear tests emerged during the mid-1950s, when Dwight D. Eisenhower was U.S. President and Nikita Khrushchev was consolidating his leadership position in the Soviet Union. Through 1958, both superpowers routinely held atmospheric nuclear tests; between 1953 and 1958, the United States and the Soviet Union, along with the United Kingdom, held a total of 231 atmospheric tests. (Note 4) These tests, some of which were of massive proportions, increased global public apprehension over atomic weapons, especially the dangers of radioactive fallout. The danger of fallout exposure received wide publicity as Hiroshima victims ("the Hiroshima Maidens") visited the United States for treatment. Especially prominent was the case of the Japanese fishing ship Lucky Dragon whose crew encountered fallout produced by the fifteen megaton "Bravo" shot on 28 February 1954--an explosion whose explosive yield was the equivalent of 1,000 Hiroshima bombs. Radiation exposure certainly played a role in the death of one crew member. (Note 5)

Denying that atmospheric testing caused adverse health effects, the Atomic Energy Commission went on the attack against critics. But the AEC's own internal studies raised questions about fallout contamination, especially the impact of strontium-90 (radiostrontium) on the food supply. During the 1960s, AEC scientists and advisers would look closely at the impact of radioiodine on the thyroid. Although debate about the impact of low doses of radioactivity continues, a study completed in 2001 by the National Cancer Institute-Center for Disease Control tentatively concluded that exposure to fallout from nuclear tests during the 1950s was associated with an increase in U.S. cancer mortalities; fallout exposure may have caused more than 11,000 deaths. (Note 6)

Growing concern over fallout fostered politically influential antinuclear activism around the world. Adlai Stevenson, the Democratic Party's presidential candidate in 1952 and 1956, took strong positions in favor of a test ban. (Note 7) Dwight D. Eisenhower was personally interested in halting nuclear tests but his administration was divided. Top advisors, such as Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Lewis Strauss fervently supported testing and downplayed the fallout problem. Strauss along with senior Pentagon officials agreed that testing was necessary to maintain the U.S.'s superiority over the Soviets in nuclear weapons technology. (Note 8) Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, along with Eisenhower himself, realized that a moratorium on nuclear testing leading to a comprehensive ban test ban would improve the US's image. During a May 1954 National Security Council meeting, the president stated "We could put [the Russians] on the spot if we accepted a moratorium. . . Everybody seems to think that we're skunks, saber-rattlers and warmongers. We ought not miss any chance to make clear our peaceful objectives." (Note 9) Nevertheless, Eisenhower was reluctant to oppose the AEC and the issue was stalemated.

The dynamics of the test ban issue changed in significant ways during 1958. Eisenhower's prestigious President's Science Advisory Committee (PSAC), upgraded in the wake of the Sputnik crisis developed significant arguments on the merits of test limitations and the possibilities of verifying a test ban. The Soviets, who had been calling for a test ban since the mid-1950s, took a major initiative in early 1958 when they called for an American-British-Soviet test moratorium. At the end of March, the Soviets announced that they were unilaterally halting nuclear tests. This put Washington under great political pressure. As a first step, before making any decisions on a moratorium, Eisenhower and British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan reached an agreement with Khrushchev to sponsor an international conference of scientific experts to discuss the problem of monitoring and verifying a test ban. This was a key issue because detecting nuclear tests, especially underground detonations, involved so many complex scientific and technical problems. (Note 10)

The Conference of Experts met in Geneva during the summer of 1958 and closely studied the major methods for detecting nuclear tests: air sampling, acoustics, seismic, and electromagnetic. University of California physicist (and winner of the 1939 Nobel Prize) Ernest Lawrence led the U.S. delegation. Despite some U.S.-Soviet disagreements over the feasibility of telling apart underground tests and earthquakes, Cold War rifts did not prevent the participants from producing a report. The experts concluded that a network of 170 control posts in and around Eurasia and North America would be able to detect atmospheric tests down to one kiloton and 90 percent of underground tests down to five kilotons. Where the report was ambiguous was who would work at the posts and how the international organization that oversaw verification would decide whether an on-site inspection was necessary to confirm whether an illegal nuclear test had occurred. (Note 11)

Despite some ambiguities, the Geneva report was positive enough to facilitate a U.S. decision to participate in a moratorium. On 22 August 1958, the day after the experts had finished their report, Eisenhower announced that the United States would halt nuclear testing for one year if the Soviet Union (and the United Kingdom) would do likewise. To determine whether they would make the moratorium permanent, the three powers agreed to begin test ban negotiations in Geneva on 31 October. All three countries had last-minute nuclear tests during September and October. (Note 12)

The Geneva test ban negotiations, which lasted from late 1958 through early 1962, were difficult and protracted largely because of continued controversy over the requirements of verification. The United States consistently pushed for on-site verification to ascertain whether a questionable event was an earthquake or a nuclear test. Some of the pressure was based on a firm belief that remote instrumentation was not, in itself, sufficient to conclude whether a suspicious event was a test or not. Significantly influencing U.S. policy thinking about inspection was the conviction that it was a way to open up Soviet society to "qualified observers", as Eisenhower put it in early 1959.

The Soviets insisted on what amounted to a veto over on-site inspections by the control commission with the control posts to be staffed mainly by the host country. While the Soviets eventually dropped the veto requirement, another complicating element was new U.S. information suggesting (erroneously as it turned out) that the Geneva experts report had significantly understated the difficulty of differentiating between underground tests and earthquakes. Critics of the moratorium developed elaborate theories on how a test ban could be evaded while the Pentagon constantly pressed for a resumption of testing. Senior officials such as Christian Herter (who succeeded Dulles as Secretary of State) were willing to settle for an "imperfect" system on the grounds that it would provide enough incentives to discourage cheating, but conservative Republicans in the Senate insisted on an ironclad system. (Note 13)

Various efforts to break the stalemate failed and disagreements increased in late 1959 when the U.S. and the British tried to prompt a discussion of the problem of seismic detection in the light of the new data. Nevertheless, differences narrowed during the spring of 1960. The negotiators reached an agreement on a threshold test ban that would forbid atmospheric, outer-space, and underwater tests, except for small underground tests, on which a moratorium would be placed. At that point, the three powers would have to resolve two issues at the highest level: the number of inspections in each country and how long the moratorium would last. (Note 14) The possibility that an agreement would be reached at the Paris Summit in May 1960 disappeared, however, in the wake of the shoot-down of a U.S. U-2 reconnaissance plane flying over Soviet territory on 1 May 1960. While the talks at Geneva continued, disagreements over verification were not likely to be overcome in the harsh post-U-2 crisis environment.

Kennedy and the Test Ban

The administration of John F. Kennedy would continue the test ban negotiations, but with even greater pressures to resume testing. Like Eisenhower, Kennedy had to face pressure from the Pentagon and the nuclear weapons laboratories, on the one hand, and international political pressure favoring a test ban on the other hand. Khrushchev was also under pressure from the Soviet military to break the moratorium and he made the first move on 1 September 1961. The moratorium collapsed during an unfolding U.S.-Soviet crisis over the status of West Berlin and the resumption of testing contributed to the tensions. Kennedy followed with underground testing in mid-September 1961, but delayed atmospheric testing until the spring of 1962. Both sides tested more than 200 weapons during 1961 and 1962. (Note 15)

Besides his interest in meeting international opposition to testing, and political pressure from such Democratic influentials as Senator Hubert Humphrey (Mn), one of Kennedy's central motives in seeking a test ban treaty was to check the proliferation of nuclear weapons. In 1961, only four nations, the U.S., USSR, United Kingdom and France, had tested nuclear weapons. Other countries such as China and Israel were on the verge of attaining independent nuclear capabilities. Kennedy and his advisers, including prominently Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, worried that the global proliferation of nuclear capabilities would make the world far more dangerous. Thus, during a 21 March 1963 news conference, Kennedy expressed his concern when he said, "I see the possibility in the 1970's. . . [of] the United States having to face a world in which 15 or 20 or 25 nations may have these [nuclear] weapons. I regard that as the greatest possible danger and hazard." With a comprehensive test ban in place, however, would-be proliferants would face greater international pressures not to test and the possibility of detection could deter cheating. (Note 16)

Among the would-be nuclear powers that concerned the Kennedy administration, China's nuclear ambitions were the source of great apprehension and a central consideration in Kennedy's drive for a test ban. Mao Zedong and the Chinese leadership had decided to push forward on nuclear weapons development during the mid-1950s, soon after a confrontation with the U.S. over Taiwan. Washington's stance was that the potential threat to global stability posed by a nuclear China necessitated a test ban agreement. Kennedy and his advisors believed that a nuclear-armed China would pose a serious threat to U.S. national security and win greater influence in Asia, limiting U.S. influence in the region. (Note 17)

Senior Kennedy administration officials considered options to prevent the Chinese from obtaining nuclear weapons, including possible military action. They agreed that the best course of action for curbing China's nuclear project, or at least isolating Beijing from the rest of the world, was to sign a test ban treaty with the Soviet Union. Such a treaty would raise international pressure on China, and other countries, to halt their efforts to arm themselves with nuclear weapons. If there was a treaty in place and the Chinese still did not halt their weapons program, Kennedy and his advisors considered the possibility of a joint United States and Russian understanding on military action against China. (Note 18)

Kennedy's staff reasoned that such a deal was possible with the Russians because they, like the US, had to be aware that China's weapons could just as easily strike Russia as they could the United States. CIA official Sherman Kent pointed out that the USSR would be loathe to see atomic weapons in China because in the event that China took aggressive action against a U.S. ally in East Asia, the Soviets would have to make a decision: "Whether to stand by and see China . . . knocked into a cocked hat [by the United States], or whether to come to China's defense. . ." (Note 19) The latter course of action could force the Soviet Union into an unwanted nuclear war with the United States.

The Soviets too, had their own fears of proliferation, which contributed to their interest in a test ban. Soviet concern centered on the possibility of an independent West German nuclear capability as well as the U.S. proposal to establish a Multilateral Force (MLF), which would involve continental Western European allies in a sea-based nuclear force. While the Kennedy administration saw the MLF as a way to check any West German nuclear aspirations, the Soviets continued to view the MLF with alarm. During discussions and negotiations between the two nations, those issues arose repeatedly. When meeting with Soviet Ambassador Anatoliy Dobrynin in August 1962, U.S. Secretary of State Dean Rusk noted that while the U.S. and the Soviets differed in opinion on which countries would be more of a threat with nuclear armaments, "surely we could agree that [the U.S. and Soviet Union] would both be better off if none of them developed nuclear weapons." (Note 20)

Some U.S. intelligence officials were not so confident that Russia could influence the PRC decision to proceed with their weapons program. For example, in October 1962, CIA Deputy Director of Intelligence Ray S. Cline observed that China would continue with its plans, and that the Soviets were not likely to obtain "the leverage to produce a change in this decision." (Note 21)

Whatever impact a treaty would have on China, the Kennedy and Macmillan continued to negotiate with the Soviets. Pressures from the Joint Chiefs to continue testing indefinitely complicated the U.S. position and the verification problem remained a critically important obstacle to agreement. During the early 1960s, a quota of 20 inspections annually was the standard figure in U.S. discussions, based on the idea of a sampling 20 percent of unidentified seismic events in Soviet territory. The Soviets, however, would only accept limited numbers of inspections--three was the usual figure--but in late 1961 they reversed course insisting on reliance on national means of verification. By the end of 1962, however, Khrushchev showed some give suggesting that he was open to 2 or 3 inspections. While the administration had treated 8 to 10 inspections annually as sufficient to deter cheating, it treated the issue with some flexibility and Kennedy was willing to consider 6 or even 5 as long as there was agreement on arrangements for inspection. The Soviets, however, showed no give on this issue. Indeed, Khrushchev hated the idea of international inspectors on Soviet territory; he later wrote in his memoirs that if Moscow had allowed inspectors in, "they would have discovered that we were in a relatively weak position." (Note 22)

Secretary of Defense McNamara saw some risk in the U.S. position on inspections, but believed that the United States would be in a worse situation in a world where nations were free to test nuclear weapons. As he explained during an interagency discussion, "the risk to the United States without a test ban treaty was greater than with a test ban treaty." (Note 23)

Kennedy and McNamara faced fierce internal and external criticism. They could not count on the support of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who were deeply skeptical of the administration's stance during the test ban negotiations. Not only were the Chiefs concerned about verification, especially of underground tests, they believed that continued nuclear testing was central to national security. As they argued in April 1963, "only through an energetic test program in all environments can the United States achieve or maintain superiority in all areas of nuclear weapons technology." If the Chiefs testified against a treaty during Senate hearings, their opposition would doom the administration's plans. Edward Teller, the former director of Livermore Radiation Laboratory, was a prominent critic of the test ban movement; he supported continued testing and, of course, argued that the possibility of clandestine underground testing made a comprehensive agreement unworkable. (Note 24)

The Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, an event that brought the United States and the Soviet Union close to the brink, renewed public concern over the danger of nuclear war. The dangers of the crisis increased interest on both sides in making progress on the test ban treaty. Yet, it also became evident that an agreement on a comprehensive test ban treaty was impossible because the negotiators failed to reach agreement on the modalities of on-site inspection for verification purposes. After U.S., British, and Soviet negotiators had failed to reach an agreement, an irritated Khrushchev told the British ambassador that the U.S. and British scientists who favored an inspection system were "only scientists employed by US and British government which were seeking to introduce spies into USSR." (Note 25) Yet, until the late spring of 1963, Khrushchev rejected out of hand a limited agreement, banning all but underground tests. (Note 26)

Secret backchannel communications between Kennedy, Macmillan, and Khrushchev, then President Kennedy's speech at American University in June 1963, broke the ice. Praising Kennedy's speech, which called for a reduction of Cold War tensions and a fresh effort on the test ban talks, as "balm," Khrushchev said it was the "best speech by any president since Roosevelt." The better political atmosphere reenergized diplomacy and during the following weeks the three powers agreed to a new round of high-level discussions in Moscow, with attention focusing on a three environment test ban (atmospheric, outer space and underwater) agreement that had been broached by the United States in 1959, 1961, and 1962. For the special mission to Moscow, Lord Hailsham and W. Averell Harriman represented London and Washington respectively. (Note 27)

While the Soviets had a complex political agenda, such as an East-West non-aggression pact that they sought to link to the test ban, Harriman and Hailsham only gave Moscow lip service on those issues and focused attention on negotiating a limited agreement while discretely probing Khrushchev's thinking on China. As the treaty negotiations unfolded, the Sino-Soviet quarrel intensified not least because Beijing saw the Soviet role in the test ban talks as explicitly anti-PRC. (Note 28) Harriman believed that Khrushchev wanted to use the test ban against the Chinese to isolate them as "the only nation refusing to cooperate on this highly emotional subject" (not quite the only, France would also refuse to sign). The Chinese understood this perfectly well and during more or less simultaneous talks with Mao's representative, Deng Xiaoping, the latter vigorously attacked Moscow's positions on a range of issues. While Kennedy had instructed Harriman to probe the Soviets on the possibility of joint action against the Chinese nuclear program, Khrushchev was unresponsive to U.S. hints that Moscow ought to be concerned about a Chinese nuclear capability. Indeed, Khrushchev argued that once Beijing had nuclear "means" they would be "more restrained." (Note 29)

By late July, American, British, and Soviet negotiators had reached agreement on the text of the Limited Test Ban Treaty, which the British, Soviet, and U.S. governments signed in Moscow on 5 August 1963. Banning testing in the atmosphere, underwater, and in space, the treaty left open only the possibility of underground testing, a more expensive procedure. Some of Kennedy's advisers, recognizing that a would-be nuclear power could develop weapons through underground tests, were not sure whether an atmospheric test ban could check nuclear proliferation. Nevertheless, they "believed it was worth a try." (Note 30)

Once the treaty was signed, the administration waged a major campaign to win Senate ratification. Neutralizing important opposition, the Joint Chiefs approved the LTBT as long as the White House met its conditions on nuclear testing and expanding national means to monitor the treaty. Like Eisenhower, Kennedy treated the issue as a bipartisan question and lobbied to win over doubtful Senate Republicans. The Republican ultra-right and pro-testing scientists such as Edward Teller attacked the treaty but years of campaigning by anti-nuclear activists and White House efforts to develop support for the treaty paid off; the LTBT enjoyed wide public approval. On 24 September 1963, the Senate ratified the treaty by a vote of 80 to 19. Kennedy completed ratification by signing it into law on 5 October 1963. (Note 31)

In the following years, 108 countries signed the Limited Test Ban Treaty, the major exceptions being France and China. Although the Americans, British, and Soviets stopped atmospheric testing, China and France saw the treaty as an example of superpower hypocrisy and never signed it. (Note 32) The Chinese exploded their first nuclear device on 16 October 1964 and held 22 more atmospheric tests through 1980. France held 50 atmospheric tests in the South Pacific from the mid-1960s through the mid-1970s.

As the Cold War came to an end, the movement for a test ban revived. A new moratorium on testing began in the early 1990s (although later broken by India and Pakistan) and a comprehensive test ban treaty was negotiated under United Nations auspices. The United States, Russia, United Kingdom, France, and China signed the CTBT in 1996. Technologies to monitor and detect underground nuclear tests have improved significantly to the point where tests above one kiloton in any environment are detectable with "high probability." Nonetheless, Senate Republicans blocked the treaty during the 1990s and presidential candidate George W. Bush attacked the CTBT on the grounds that it could not be verified or enforced. Thus, among the 1996 signatories, China and the United States have yet to ratify the CTBT. (Note 33)



Documents

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Part I: The Eisenhower Administration

Document 1: Armed Forces Special Weapons Project, "Technical Analysis: Radioactive Fall-Out Hazards from Surface Bursts or Very High Yield Nuclear Weapons," May 1954, Excised Copy
Source: Department of Energy, FOIA release

This document is an analysis of the effects of radiological fallout produced by the notorious Castle Bravo test held in the South Pacific of 28 February 1954, whose yield, 15 megatons, far exceeded the 8 megatons that the weapons testers anticipated. Producing what has been called the "worst radiological disaster in American history," the fallout from BRAVO spread hundreds of miles touching the crew of the Lucky Dragon and generating a storm of controversy around the world. (Note 34) This technical analysis, prepared by the Armed Forces Special Weapons Project--the predecessor of today's Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA)--discussed the size and patterns of fallout and how variables such as wind can affect the movement and scope of fallout. The conclusions showed the deadly power of the Bravo shot: the detonation of a 15 megaton weapon contaminated "very large areas" on the order of 5,000 square miles "in such intensities as to be hazardous to human life." The "radioactive fall-out hazard [was] a primary anti-personnel effect" of such high-yield weapons.

Document 2: "Report of NSC Ad Hoc Working Group on the Technical Feasibility of a Cessation of Nuclear Testing," 27 March 1958
Source: Dwight D. Eisenhower Library, Records of the Special Assistant for Science and Technology--Bethe Report

In the fall of 1957, as a consequence of the political shock caused by Sputnik, President Eisenhower upgraded the role of scientists on the White House staff by appointing MIT president James Killian as his science adviser and by creating the President's Science Advisory Committee (PSAC). Hans Bethe, the Cornell University physicist (and future Nobel Prize winner), served on PSAC and chaired a special National Security Council ad hoc working group on nuclear tests. The Bethe report was a significant step in the efforts by White House science advisers to mobilize arguments and information that would convince President Eisenhower to support a nuclear weapons test ban. Especially significant was the conclusion that a test ban would leave the United State with important technical advantages over the Soviets: by the end of 1958, the "U.S. should be ahead of the USSR in nearly all weight classes [of nuclear weapons]," although smaller, lighter weight weapons and so-called "clean weapons" will not have "reached ultimate performance." Moreover, the Bethe panel argued that it was technically feasible to verify a comprehensive test ban through a combination of monitoring stations, on-site inspection, and overflights. "With such a system agreed to and implemented the Working Group feels that the USSR could not utilize testing to improve significantly its nuclear weapons capability, except for small yields without running a great risk of being detected." Nevertheless, the panel acknowledged the difficulty of detecting underground tests, a problem that would dog the test ban movement for years. (Note 35)

Document 3: Letter from Philip J. Farley, Special Assistant to the Secretary of State for Atomic Energy, to Joseph J. Wolf, Director, Office of Political Affairs, United States Mission to NATO and European Regional Organizations (USRO), 28 March 1958
Source: National Archives, Record Group 59, Department of State Records (hereinafter RG 59), Records of the Special Assistant to the Secretary of State for Atomic Energy and Outer Space, Records Relating to Atomic Energy Matters, 1944-1963, box 349, 18.14 Weapons Test Moratorium f. Unilateral Suspension by the USSR, 1958

In light of Moscow's campaign for a halt in nuclear tests, analysts at the State Department looked closely at Soviet motives. During mid-1950s discussions, Soviet diplomats had made the argument that a ban on nuclear testing would raise barriers to "countries which do not yet possess [nuclear weapons]" because they could not be developed without testing. Writing on behalf of himself, intelligence analyst Helmut Sonnenfeldt, and European affairs specialist Robert McBride, Farley suggested that the "Soviets probably do believe that a test ban would be a relatively cheap way of stopping or at least inhibiting fourth country nuclear weapons capability." This could raise obstacles to U.S. nuclear weapons cooperation with NATO Europe but it could also help the Soviets "resist any pressure" from China and other "satellites" for the delivery of nuclear weapons.

Document 4: Department of State memorandum of conversation (hereinafter, memcon), "Meeting with Disarmament Advisors," 28 April 1958, excised copy
Source: Dwight D. Eisenhower Library, Office of the Special Assistant for Science and Technology, box 1, Disarmament - General April 1958

During Eisenhower's second term, the Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles and his successor Christian Herter, met regularly with a special panel of disarmament advisers, such former senior officials and Northeastern establishment luminaries as Robert Lovett and John J. McCloy. During this meeting, Secretary of State Dulles expressed his concern about the need for U.S. action to neutralize its international image as a "militaristic" nation. A move toward peace such as a nuclear test ban would give the United States a propaganda coup over the Soviet Union. Besides a test ban, Dulles laid out a variety of disarmament proposals, including a cut-off of fissionable materials production and "the idea that outer space … be used only for peaceful purposes." While Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Lewis Strauss strongly objected to a halt in nuclear testing, Dulles argued that failure to take arms control measures could cause the loss of major allies such as Japan, Germany, and the United Kingdom. "Do we want further refinement of nuclear weapons at the cost of the moral isolation of the United States?"

Document 5: Department of State memcon, "U.S. Policy on Nuclear Tests," 13 August 1958
Source: National Archives, RG 59, decimal files, 1955-1959, 700.5611/8-1358

This discussion, held just as the Geneva Conference of Experts was winding up, further illuminates the internal U.S. government controversy over participation in a nuclear test ban agreement. The Geneva conference had developed a proposal for an international monitoring system that would permit relatively high confidence (80 to 90 percent) in detecting atmospheric and underground tests, but senior scientists in the nuclear weapons establishment engaged in controversy over whether it was possible to conceal underground tests. Thus, Edward Teller, the director of Livermore Radiation Laboratory, a major opponent of a test ban, argued that it would be possible to "dampen" the seismic signals produced by underground tests while Carson Mark, of Los Alamos Laboratory, took a contrary view. During this meeting, strong Defense and AEC views in favor of continued testing surfaced. The new Atomic Energy Commissioner, shipping magnate John McCone argued that the United States should not stop testing because negotiations were "likely to go on indefinitely." Presidential science adviser James Killian suggested, however, that it was worth taking a chance because "the talks at Geneva had accomplished something never achieved before in the way of serious discussions of disarmament controls."

Document 6: Memorandum for the Files of Lewis L. Strauss, 20 August 1958
Source: Herbert Hoover Presidential Library, Lewis Strauss Papers, box 69, AEC Memo for the Record

This record of a meeting with President Eisenhower, prepared by former Atomic Energy Commissioner Lewis Strauss, reflects his displeasure over White House and State Department decisions in favor of U.S. participation in a nuclear test moratorium. Livermore Laboratory director Edward Teller had wanted McCone to lobby Eisenhower, but the new AEC director did not want a confrontation and asked Strauss to intervene. While Strauss saw the decision on testing as a triumph for the Russians and the U.S. Democrat Party opposition, Eisenhower argued that the flaw in the AEC position was that "it offered no prospect except an arms race into the indefinite future." Eisenhower and Strauss did agree, however, to meet Macmillan's request for nuclear weapons design information; that would assure British participation in the test moratorium as well as allow London, in Macmillan's words, to "take [its] proper station in the defense of the free world." (Note 36)

Document 7: Department of State memcon, "October 31 US-UK-USSR Negotiations on the Suspension of Nuclear Tests," 30 September 1958
Source: National Archives, RG 59, decimal files 1955-1959, 700.5611/9-3058

Despite Eisenhower's approval of the moratorium, such influentials as Edward Teller did not hide their doubts. Pointing out to "loopholes" in the Geneva system, such as the problem of detecting small nuclear explosions or "interplanetary" tests, he observed that Livermore Radiation Laboratory was especially interested in the problem of developing small nuclear weapons, with several small-yield "tactical" and "defensive" devices to be tested before the moratorium began. Noting the lack of knowledge about "what the Soviets had "done in this yield range," Teller constructed an argument about the possibility of concealing underground tests by reducing the "coupling of the energy of nuclear explosion by one-third or even one/tenth." Given this problem, Teller sought an opening for underground nuclear tests in a partial test ban system, such as permitting tests "that could not be detected by the system" or with yields below a specified magnitude.

Document 8: Department of State memcon, "Geneva Nuclear Test Negotiations," 18 November 1958
Source: National Archives, RG 59, decimal files 1955-1959, 700.5611/11-1858

On 18 November 1959, PSAC member Hans held a "private, delicate" discussion on the negotiations with acting secretary of state Christian Herter. While the talks were going "slowly" Bethe saw the Soviet commitment to the verification plans developed by the conference of experts as a "hopeful" point. One sticking point was the U.S. insistence that a test ban treaty be linked to progress on disarmament generally; Bethe was not the only one who believed that this position was unworkable and within a few months Washington would officially abandon it. When Herter asked about the impact of a long-term test moratorium on the U.S. nuclear position, Bethe argued that the U.S. nuclear establishment was "in a far better position to continue nuclear weapons development" because it was ahead of the Soviets in understanding of the inner workings of nuclear weapons ("diagnostics"). Perhaps thinking about Teller's arguments in favor of testing, Herter asked whether the U.S. needed to "improve [its] small weapons position." Bethe replied that improvements were possible but that it was not a critically important issue: Washington had weapons of "every type in every yield." He was more concerned about the British position on verification because he believed that they would "be willing to settle for substantially less than we will" on the grounds that any controls that the Soviets accepted would be "gravy."

Document 9: Memorandum from President's Science Adviser James Killian to Acting Secretary of Defense Donald Quarles, "Review of HARDTACK II Seismic Data," 9 December 1958
Source: Dwight D. Eisenhower Library, Special Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, box 13, Nuclear Test Suspension-Seismic Data (1)

A series of underground tests held in 1958, HARDTACK II produced technical data which complicated the status of the Geneva monitoring system but erroneously so. According to a preliminary analysis by AFOAT-1, the Air Force Office of Atomic Energy-1, which was responsible for tracking foreign nuclear weapons developments, the data suggested that "it will be much more difficult to identify a seismic event as a natural earthquake." Moreover, "the number of earthquakes equivalent to a given low yield is considerably higher than previously estimated." Those problems would require a greater number of inspections to determine whether a suspicious event was an earthquake or a nuclear explosion. To analyze further the data and the new conclusions and their implications for the Geneva report, James Killian and John McCone agreed to create a "board of senior seismologists" in cooperation with AFOAT-1. As it would later turn out, AFOAT-1 had based its re-evaluation on estimates of the frequency of small Soviet earthquakes that were "too high by a significant factor." While the Soviets had rightly challenged the numbers and even Air Force scientists were wondering about their validity, their work was so highly classified that it would take several years before a reevaluation would discover the error. (Note 37)

Document 10: U.S Consulate Geneva Cable SUPNU 165 to Department of State, 7 January 1959
Source: National Archives, RG 59, decimal files 1955-1959, 700.5611/7-559

Well before the Hardtack errors were discovered, on 5 January PSAC publicly announced the gist of new data on underground explosions: that "there will be a substantial increase in the number of earthquakes that cannot be distinguished from underground nuclear tests by seismic means alone." This information, which cast doubts upon the findings of the Geneva conference of experts, was duly communicated to the British and Soviet delegations at the Geneva test ban treaties. The Soviets had already expressed disagreements with U.S. proposals on the control system, e.g., they had supported the right to veto recommendations for inspections by control authorities, and made plain their unhappiness with Washington's bombshell. Treating the statement on new data as a "diversion", the Soviets declared that it was "inadmissible that this political [conference] could take up technical subjects which would only protract its work." The "only technical basis on which [they] could proceed" was the report of the Geneva experts.

Document 11: John S. D. Eisenhower, "Memorandum of Conversation with the President January 12, 1959 -- 9:00 AM," 19 January 1959
Source: Dwight D. Eisenhower Library, Ann Whitman File. Dwight D. Eisenhower Diary, box 38, Staff Notes. January 1959 (II) (Published in U.S. State Department, Foreign Relations of the United States 1958-1960, Volume III (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1996), pp. 687-690)

During this White House meeting, Eisenhower agreed on the importance of breaking the disarmament-test ban linkage, supporting the view that the issue of the "control system" was the "heart of the matter and that the "breaking point" with the Soviets had to be the control system. During the course of the discussion, Eisenhower and his colleagues reviewed U.S. motivations for supporting the moratorium ("propaganda mileage"), doubts that the Soviets would ever approve a "true agreement," the importance to the "Free World" of inserting "qualified observers within the USSR," and the difficulties that the United States would have "in carrying out a treaty of this type." If an agreement allowing for many observation posts was not negotiated, Eisenhower believed that the difficulties in test detection could make it necessary for the United States to conduct small underground tests. The more difficult, immediate problem, as Dulles observed, was "our reversal of position as to the size of the explosion which may be detected underground." This "will appear to the Soviets as a breach of faith." The United States was in a "bad spot."

Document 12: State Department Memcon, "U.S. Position in Geneva Test Negotiations," 30 January 1959
Source: National Archives, RG 59, decimal files 1955-59, 396.12-GE/1-359

AEC chairman McCone was less concerned about a "breach of faith" than he was with the impact of the new data on the U.S. nuclear position. During a meeting with Dulles, he pushed for change in the U.S. negotiating position: ban atmospheric nuclear tests but permit underground testing until the verification issues had been resolved. Dulles heard McCone out, but argued that the AEC proposal was politically impossible. Even if there was only a small, one in a hundred, chance that Moscow would accept U.S. terms for a treaty, "public relations" necessities required Washington to stick to the plan for a comprehensive test ban. If the McCone proposal was put on the table, it would "allow the Russians to break off the negotiations with the United States with the United States bearing the entire blame for their failure." As it was, Dulles believe that press coverage had already inflamed tensions with the Soviets with the latter arguing that the articles confirmed that "we were looking for a way to break the negotiations off." Recognizing that he could not win an argument with Dulles, McCone backed away from his proposal although suggesting that Dulles' own State Department may have been the source of the leaks that had inspired the press coverage.

Document 13: John McCone, Memorandum to the File, 23 March 1959
Source: Freedom of Information Act Request to Department of Energy

In March 1959, British Prime Minister Macmillan, concerned about the ongoing Berlin crisis and the test ban stalemate, traveled to Washington to meet with Eisenhower. With Dulles hospitalized and out of action, McCone had another opportunity to lobby for his limited test ban proposal. He believed that Eisenhower supported his position and was confident that "AEC's position is now pretty well recognized as the proper one." Nevertheless, Macmillan believed it was more important to "break on the question of the veto and … not inject these new technical considerations at this time." Macmillan also pointed to the role of non-proliferation concerns in the movement for the test ban treaty. Suggesting that permitting any testing could give a loophole to would-be nuclear powers, Macmillan said that the problem of "Nth power development" made it unwise to permit continued underground testing.

Document 14: State Department memcon, "Nuclear Test Negotiations," 26 March 1959
Source: National Archives, RG 59, decimal files 1955-1959, 700.5611/3-2659
A meeting of the Committee of Principals, the most senior inter-agency group on arms control issues, held a few days later led to agreement that if the Soviets stuck to ideas about a veto on inspections, the U.S. and the British should offer a ban on atmospheric nuclear tests with "collaboration on a program of underground tests to test improvements in the detection system." If, however, the Soviets dropped the veto, acting Secretary of State Herter observed that Washington would have to live with an "imperfect" detection system. "The President feels that we need to be sure only that there is a reasonable level of deterrence." This worried McCone who thought it was a "new concept" but test ban negotiator James Wadsworth and State Department official Philip Farley argued that the notion of deterrence had been part of the government's thinking on the test ban since negotiations began; "the inability to achieve 100 percent perfection was recognized."

Document 15: Department of State cable TOSEC 59 to U.S. Consulate Geneva, 16 May 1959, enclosing letter from Khrushchev to Eisenhower dated 15 May 1959
Source: National Archives, RG 59, decimal files 1955-1959, 700.5611/5-1959

With the impasse over the veto, on 13 April, Eisenhower, with Macmillan's support, presented a new proposal that was close to McCone's suggestions: a ban on tests in the atmosphere up to 50 kilometers, with additional negotiations eventually expanding the scope of the agreement. (Note 38) The Soviets rejected this proposal in the name of a comprehensive test ban, but as this document shows Khrushchev was giving ground on the veto question. He suggested that sending inspectors to investigate suspicious physical phenomenon would be the principal means for verifying the treaty. According to Khrushchev, an agreement on a specific number of inspection team visits would "preclude the necessity of voting on obtaining agreement on that question within the control commission." He did not propose any specific number but suggested that "no large number would be necessary." The fact that they could occur, he argued, would have a "sobering effect" on the signatories, tacitly deterring any cheating. Whether London, Moscow, and Washington could agree on what "no large number" meant would be a decisive issue in reaching a negotiated test ban.

Document 16A: State Department memcon, "Geneva Nuclear Test Detection Negotiations," 17 June 1959
Source: National Archives, RG 59, decimal files 1955-1959, 700.5611/6-1759, excised copy

The Principals met on 17 June for more detailed discussion of the problem of on-site inspection (after first briefly reviewing ongoing studies of high-altitude test detection). Director of Central Intelligence Allen Dulles gave a short and optimistic briefing of the role that intelligence could play in detecting treaty violations, e.g., the relative ease in detecting moving earth for underground tests. While Under Secretary of Defense Thomas Gates was not so sure that intelligence could spot violations, Spurgeon Keeny, on the staff of the White House Science Adviser, saw a hopeful note: the statistician John Tukey was developing concepts for "maximizing the effectiveness of a choice of inspections" and that intelligence could provide data to increase the effectiveness of the "Tukey system". (Note 39) The uncertainties led the group to commission another study that James Killian was already directing. Further discussion of on-site inspection brought out the possibility that a "budget of 100 inspections per year" would provide a "high probability of catching any violations." Even a lower figure would provide a "high probability." McCone suggested that 100 would not be quite enough: "100 inspections would allow inspection of all events above 5 kilotons and about five percent of those under that figure." That plainly innocuous sentence was excised from the 1998 release at the National Archives although it was declassified during the early 1990s at the Eisenhower Library. See Document 16B for a comparison. [Source of 16A: Dwight D. Eisenhower Library, Records of Special Assistant to the President for Science and Technology. Killian-Kistiakowsky Records, box 8, Disarmament-Nuclear Test Policy, May 1958-Oct 1960]

Document 17A: State Department memcon, "Geneva Nuclear Test Negotiations -- Meeting of the Principals," 9 July 1959, excised copy
Source: Dwight D. Eisenhower Library, Office of Special Assistant for Science and Technology, box 8, Disarmament - Nuclear Test Policy. May 1958 - October 1960 (folder 2)

While negotiations continued, the Committee of Principals met to hear a report on detection and on-site inspection of underground tests by Caltech scientist Robert F. Bacher. Noting that the seismology was "still in its infancy", he suggested that theories about evading test detection through decoupling "held forth possibilities which could change the underground detection situation completely." He was skeptical, however, of the "complicated" decoupling theory that had RAND scientist Albert Latter had advanced because it would "require an approximately 1 million-cubic meters hole for a 10 kiloton explosion" at a cost of 2 to 4 million dollars. Nevertheless, Bacher declared that, despite the "Latter hole's" apparent impracticality, it "has stood up against severe theoretical scrutiny." (Note 40) Bacher also made a series of recommendations on the problem of on-site inspections, especially whether inspection should be based on a percentage or a quota. While some of his recommendations are excised, they pointed to the uncertainties of detecting underground tests and the need for continued study on ways to reduce the doubts. Further study would eventually lead to the Vela project findings that U.S. experts had overestimated the problem of small earthquakes in Soviet territory.

This document has been through several declassifications, most recently in State Department records at the National Archives. In 1998, the Department of Energy reviewed it and withheld even more information than it had withheld in 1990. Interestingly, however, it released innocuous language from page 3 that had been excised in 1990. See Document 17B for a comparison. [Source: National Archives, RG 59, decimal files, 1955-1959, 700.5611/7-759)

Document 18: Comments on Bacher panel's report delivered by White House Science Adviser Kistiakowsky during meeting with Eisenhower, 23 July 1959
Source: Dwight D. Eisenhower Library, Office of Special Assistant for Science and Technology, box 9, Disarmament - Nuclear Testing Policy (4)

Not long after the Committee of Principals heard the Bacher panel report, President Eisenhower heard a briefing from science adviser George Kistiakowsky summarizing Bacher's findings. Using the erroneous data about the frequency of small earthquakes on Soviet territory, George Kistiaskowsky, who had replaced Killian as White House Science Adviser, underlined the uncertainties of underground test detection. Unless the United States inspected all seismic events in the Soviet Union that were the equivalent of a half-kiloton explosion, about 1715 annually, he argued that the "probability of identifying at least one out of a series of below 5 kilotons is negligible." The possibility of decoupling the seismic signal from an underground nuclear test through the "Latter Hole" increased the uncertainty. Hypothetically, a nuclear power could test a 100 kiloton weapon decoupling it by a "factor of 200." The resulting half kiloton signal would be virtually undetectable. Briefed on these uncertainties, Eisenhower concluded that it "appeared impossible to control underground tests". (Note 41) During the months that followed, Eisenhower began to favor a limited agreement involving a joint U.S.-British-Soviet study program of underground test detection. It would take some time, however, before the administration was ready to take a step that represented a significant detour from the goal of a comprehensive ban.

Document 19: State Department memcon, "Meeting of the Secretary's Disarmament Advisers," 3 November 1959
Source: National Archives, RG 59, decimal files 1955-1959, 600.0012/11-359

Sharp inter-agency disagreements over whether to publicly abandon the goal of a comprehensive test ban and resume nuclear testing persisted but the State Department's stance against any sudden policy changes prevailed. Instead, the Department supported proposals for technical discussions with the Soviets as a way to "sharpen the issue of underground control to the point where we could propose a limited agreement" that would include provisions for a research program on underground test verification. (Note 42) During an early November 1959 meeting with "establishment" disarmament advisers, Philip Farley reviewed the state of play. At Geneva, the U.S. had presented the Soviets with technical conclusions on underground testing that could bring Washington "face to face with the question of whether we are going ahead with a proposal for a limited treaty and either resume tests or declare our freedom of action with respect to further testing." The Soviets were unlikely to accept a limited treaty while the British were seeking a three year moratorium on underground testing. That concerned the State Department because, as Herter put it, the West would "get nothing in return." Nevertheless, he recognized the need for some give in the West's position because world opinion was suspicious of the U.S. stance. As former Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) General Gruenther explained many believed that the U.S. was pushing the difficulty of underground test verification as a "device to get out of the negotiations." Killian explained the theoretical challenge posed by the "Latter Hole" although McCloy was doubtful because "the difficulties of constructing the big hole were almost insurmountable." The advisers also discussed the UN disarmament committee, the Charles Coolidge study on disarmament, and the problem of "stability in the missile age," which concluded with Gruenther's sardonic statement that to "to proceed with disarmament we will have to increase our defense expenditures."

Document 20: Atomic Energy Commission "Record of Cabinet Meeting, 11 December 1959 Consideration of Test Moratorium Negotiations," 14 December 1959, excised copy
Source: Dwight D. Eisenhower Library, Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, NSC Series, Briefing Notes Subseries. Box 2. Atomic Testing Suspension of Nuclear Testing and Surprise Attack (3)

In mid-December, cabinet and sub-cabinet level officials met with Vice President Nixon to discuss the parameters for a forthcoming presidential decision: whether to extend the moratorium into 1960. While the Soviet delegation had, in November 1959, assented to Anglo-American proposals for technical discussions of the underground test verification problem they would refuse to accept the conclusion that the Geneva monitoring system needed rethinking. In Washington, Secretary Gates and the Defense Department continued to press for resumed testing but other Principals were more focused on the verification problem. Plainly, the resumption of testing was not feasible; as Nixon observed in his wrap-up, given Eisenhower's recent "good-will trip", the anticipated heads of state summit, and a scheduled Presidential trip to Russian, it would be difficult for Eisenhower to announce a program of underground tests without sharpening global tensions. Therefore, at the end of the month, Eisenhower publicly expressed his concern over the state of the negotiations and the "politically guided Soviet experts" who would not take seriously scientific findings on seismic detection. Giving something to McCone and the Pentagon, he announced that the moratorium would end on 31 December, leaving the United States "free" to resume testing; nevertheless, in a bow to anti-testing sentiment, the United States would suspend testing on a voluntary basis and try to negotiate a treaty. (Note 43)

Document 21: Letter from Harold Brown to John McCone, 26 December 1959
Source: Dwight D. Eisenhower Library, John McCone Papers, box 7, Test File - December 1959 (1)

Harold Brown, soon to be director of Livermore Radiation Laboratory and a future Secretary of Defense, served as scientific adviser to the U.S. test ban negotiating team at Geneva during 1958-1959. In this letter, he related his discouragement over the technical talks with Soviet scientists on the problem of underground test detection. While the Soviets had been cooperative in private discussions, even accepting U.S. claims about decoupling, in public sessions "they denied it." Moreover, Brown argued that in recent weeks U.S. scientists in Geneva had concluded that detection "system capability is considerably less than believed even a few months ago." Not only did successful on-site inspection have a "very small" probability of success, but "large hole decoupling" was "much easier than had been thought." Brown's comments on the possibilities of evasion suggested that the demands on U.S. intelligence capabilities were much greater than Allen Dulles had suggested a few months earlier (see Document 17). Just as McCone had suggested a "threshold" test ban in the meeting with Nixon, Brown was thinking along the same lines, in this instance a ban on atmospheric tests and on "underground for yields higher than about 100 or 150 kilotons." These suggestions presaged future policy developments. Thus, in early February 1960, the U.S. proposed a limited test ban treaty banning atmospheric, underwater, and high altitude tests and underground tests above a 4.75 seismic magnitude reading--the equivalent of 19 or 20 kilotons of explosive yield--the threshold at which underground tests could be adequately monitored. Moreover, the three powers would begin a joint research program on improvements of underground test detection below the threshold.

Document 22: State Department memcon, "Geneva Nuclear Test Negotiations: Meeting of Principals," 22 March 1960
Source: National Archives, RG 59, decimal files 1960-63, 397.5611-GE/3-2260

The Soviets, not wanting to break the momentum behind the negotiations, accepted the threshold proposal on the condition that Washington accept a moratorium on sub-threshold underground tests while the parties conducted joint research program on test detection. Meeting on the eve of a visit by Prime Minister Macmillan to Washington, the Principals reviewed the issues. Macmillan strongly supported extending the moratorium; while his support was not necessarily determining that made it more difficult to reject the Soviet offer outright. McCone and Deputy Secretary of Defense Douglas argued against a commitment to extend the moratorium without "controls" but they did not persuade other officials who believed that Washington had to address positively this "first magnitude" problem. Acknowledging that the Soviet proposal was not a good one, that Eisenhower could not commit his successor to a moratorium, and that Moscow had made no concessions on on-site inspection, Herter and his colleagues reminded the Principals that "the international state of mind is one of opposition to nuclear tests." Science adviser Kistiakowsky observed that a three year research program "could result in major progress on the detection and identification" fronts, but there was no "guarantee" that it would. As it turned out, Eisenhower rejected some elements of the Soviet proposal but disregarded AEC-Defense advice by accepting a one-year moratorium on underground tests (with the next president deciding on whether to continue it). He realized there were risks but that "he could not stand out against some kind of reasonable solution on this issue." The final arrangement would have to be negotiated at the summit, including the number of inspections which Khrushchev would not discuss except at the highest level. (Note 44)

Document 23: State Department memcon, 29 March 1960
Source: National Archives, RG 59, Policy Planning Staff Records, 1957-1961, box 140, Great Britain, 1960-1961

With Eisenhower and Macmillan in agreement on an approach to the Soviets on the test ban, it was necessary to discuss the problems of a joint research program with Moscow on underground tests detection. Kistiakowsky believed that more research might enable the 180 station network to reach the 90 percent level of certainty posited by the Geneva experts, although the problem of "muffled or decoupled shots" would remain. Eisenhower remained unruffled about the low prospects for a 100 percent certainty and Kistiakowsky assured him that with a "reasonable number" of on-site inspections, "any potential violator would face a real risk of getting caught." The participants also discussed the problem of special nuclear weapons tests for research purposes and agreed that it was possible to establish safeguards so that the Soviets would not think that Washington was trying to improve its nuclear stockpile. In what would turn out to be a short-lived proposal, Kistiakowsky suggested declassifying for this purpose a "simple gun-type of nuclear weapon which would be of little value to a potential Nth country" proliferant. Apparently, he assumed that a would-be nuclear power would be interested in acquiring more efficient, advanced-design nuclear weapons. That the problem of nuclear proliferation was assumed to preoccupy the Soviets is also plain from Macmillans' statement that the Soviets wanted a sound agreement because of their concerns about the spread of nuclear weapons. Noting the development of gas centrifuges for producing highly-enriched uranium, McCone implied that the nuclear proliferation problem could become a serious one.

Document 24: State Department memcon, "Nuclear Test Negotiations - Meeting of Principals," 10 May 1960
Source: National Archives, RG 59, decimal files 1960-63, 700.5611/5-1060

By early May, the U-2 crisis was unfolding which doomed the Paris summit. Nevertheless, in the hope that something might turn up, the Principals met to discuss black boxes and seismic research, high altitude tests, and the U.S. position on inspection quotas. Interestingly, the participants had second thoughts about declassifying nuclear weapons designs for special tests; as Herter observed, "black box" seismic stations would "obviate the necessity of declassifying devices which might have served to increase the nuclear capability of other States." Detecting high altitude tests and missile launches had been a continuing concern and the Principals discussed the latest research which would permit ground-based systems to detect the former and Midas satellites that could discern the latter. Doyle Northrup, Technical Director for Air Force Technical Application Center (AFTAC), the organization responsible for detecting nuclear weapons programs abroad, startled the Principals when he stated that a recent cost estimate for establishing 22 control posts in the Soviet Union with 100 seismic arrays at each one was between one and five billion dollars. Northrup promised the budget-conscious Principals more research on costs noting that no one had tried to estimate the expense of establishing "unmanned stations" in the Soviet Union. The number of inspections received inconclusive discussion, although the Principals eventually agreed to a proposal for inspection of 20 percent of unidentified events above the 4.75 threshold, about 20 inspections annually. The group also heard a briefing by Albert Latter on a RAND Corporation study on ways and means to increase the effectiveness of control posts in identifying seismic events. Through redistributing and increasing control posts on Soviet territory, Latter suggested that it would be easier to identify earthquakes and narrow the range of events that required inspection. Herter received the RAND briefing with enthusiasm suggesting that it pointed to "tremendous" possibilities in identifying seismic events.

Document 25: Central Intelligence Agency, Office of Current Intelligence, Current Intelligence Weekly Summary, 24 August 1960, excerpt on "The Nuclear Test Ban Talks"
Source: National Archives, RG 59, Records of Charles E. Bohlen, 1952-1963. Box 16. Miscellaneous 1960

This CIA document provides a useful account of the verification issues that divided the United States and the Soviet Union during first two years of the test ban negotiations. It is particularly useful for summarizing developments after the collapse of the summit. Abandoning their position that the number of inspections could be discussed only at the heads of state level, in July 1960 the Soviets offered three "veto-free" annual inspections inside the Soviet Union of any suspicious events. They rejected the U.S.-British proposal for 20 inspections a year. These positions set the stage for a protracted debate on on-site inspection that would force both sides back to a limited test ban proposal.
[Note: a typographical error occurs on document's first page, second column: December 1959 should read December 1958.]

 

Part II: The Kennedy Administration


Document 26: Glenn Seaborg, Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission, Journal Entry for 19 April 1961
Source: Journals of Glenn T. Seaborg, Volume 1, February 1, 1961-June 30, 1961 (Berkeley, CA: Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, 1989)

At a meeting of the National Security Council, Eisenhower's successor, John F. Kennedy, showed his lack of enthusiasm for the early resumption of nuclear testing. Not only would world opinion likely to be "very adverse", other factors had to be considered, one of which--whether the Soviets were covertly cheating--was raised by Kennedy's national security assistant McGeorge Bundy. DCI Allen Dulles could not give any assurances either way; it would be a "matter of luck" whether the intelligence system detected a low-yield Soviet test. Kennedy raised a number of issues that would have to be addressed before he was ready to make any decision, such as whether there was to be any give in the Soviet position, the location of testing, and how long testing would continue.

Document 27: Memo from Woodruff Wallner, Bureau of International Organizations, to Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizations, Harlan Cleveland, "Meeting of the Principals on Future United States Policy on Nuclear Test Negotiations," 24 May 1961
Source: National Archives, RG 59, decimal files 1960-63, 711.5611/5-2461

The NSC meeting on 19 May included a briefing by Director of Defense Research and Engineering Harold Brown (formerly, director of Livermore Radiation Laboratory and a member of the U.S. delegation to the Geneva test ban talks); Seaborg did not include any details in his journal, but some of Brown's points may appear in this record of a Committee of Principals meeting from a week later. After the Committee heard negotiator Arthur Dean on the "dim" prospects for an agreement, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara argued that a new round of tests would reduce the costs and increase the effectiveness of the weapons stockpile. While the intelligence on Soviet intentions was ambiguous but laden with suspicion, the feeling among scientists and defense officials was that the United States "could not afford not to move forward in the nuclear testing field because we don't know what others will do." Some observers found this less than convincing and, like his predecessors, Secretary of State Rusk "pointed out the serious political reaction that we would have to expect were we to resume testing." Rusk left the meeting early and the meeting was inconclusive, but the momentum to end the moratorium would prove irresistible, especially when tensions with Moscow sharpened during the summer of 1961.

Document 28: State Department Instruction to U.S. Embassy Japan, W-24, "Briefing of the Japanese Government Concerning Developments in Nuclear Test Ban Negotiations," 22 July 1961
Source: National Archives, RG 59, decimal files 1960-1963, 600.0012/7-2261

While pressure for resume testing mounted, the Kennedy administration continued the negotiating track at Geneva. The Japanese government had a special interest in the test ban and the Kennedy administration realized that it was critically important to show Tokyo that it was making a good faith effort on this issue, in order to assure Japan's support for securing a UN General Assembly endorsement of a treaty with "effective controls." With this message to the embassy in Tokyo, the State Department sent briefing material showing its efforts to negotiate a treaty. Included in the briefing paper was a description of the "compromise proposals" that the Americans and the British had tabled in March and May. As before the treaty posited a threshold test ban but the moratorium on underground tests was increased from two to three years, the number of on-site inspections could be as low as 12 (instead of 20), while the number of number of control posts in the Soviet Union would be reduced to 19 (instead of 22). From the State Department standpoint, the Soviets had "made no constructive response" to this proposal.

Document 29: McGeorge Bundy, "Memorandum of decision, July 27, 1961: test ban scenario," 28 July 1961
Source: National Archives, RG 59, decimal files 1960-1963, 600.0012/7/2859 (also published in Foreign Relations of the United States, 1961-1963, Volume VII, Arms Control and Disarmament (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1995), pp. 114-115

The deepening crisis over West Berlin, in the wake of the chilly Kennedy-Khrushchev Vienna summit made the White House far more interested in testing. Against the background of decisions on military preparations for a possible confrontation over Berlin, Kennedy requested science advisers to prepare a study on the technical issues associated with the resumption of testing. The report, chaired by Stanford University physicist Wolfgang Panofsky, did not see any urgent necessity to resume testing and acknowledged that without tests, "the U.S. would retain a degree of technological superiority in nuclear weapons for some time." Whether the Soviets were secretly testing, as some in the military were charging, was an unknown. Given the ambiguous picture, the panel concluded that "non-technical"--that is, political and military considerations--would have to shape a final decision on testing. As this decision memo suggests, Kennedy believed that the problem of international opinion made it difficult to start testing soon, without another stab at test-ban diplomacy and appearances before the United Nations. Nevertheless, measures should be taken to prepare for tests "not earlier than 1962." A few days later, the State Department recommended the "achievement of a state of technical readiness" for "significant test series", although the problem of international opinion made it necessary to defer any announcement of testing. In light of this recommendation and even stronger one from the Joint Chiefs (who were highly critical of the Panofsky report), Kennedy told the National Security Council in early August that "we have here a major political problem. We should clearly resume testing fairly soon, but the UN problem is a serious one." (Note 45)

Document 30: State Department cable 6955 to U.S. Embassy India, 24 August 1961
Source: National Archives, RG 59, decimal files 1960-1963, 600.0012/8-2461

In late August, the negotiating track at Geneva continued, with Ambassador Dean offering a new proposal that involved lowering the threshold as well as clustering monitoring stations in earthquake zones. President Kennedy was worrying about the position of the neutral Third World nations, not least the government of India, which had supported a United Nations resolution in favor of an unlimited moratorium without the controls that Washington found essential. Writing to his close acquaintance, the famous economist and Ambassador to India John Kenneth Galbraith, Kennedy wanted Prime Minister Nehru to understand that despite the U.S.'s efforts, the Soviets had "lost interest in any effective treaty." Kennedy expected that any renewed U.S. initiative at Geneva would be rebuffed and that Washington would have to approach the United Nations for a "good resolution of our own on nuclear testing." While Kennedy hoped that Galbraith's "strong effort" could persuade Nehru to support the U.S. position, a few months later the Indian government would win UN support for a resolution favoring a comprehensive test ban without inspections.

Document 31: Draft "JAEIC Statement, 1430 Hours, 1 September 1961"
Source: National Archives, RG 59, Records of the Special Assistant to the Secretary of State for Atomic Energy. Country and Subject Files Relating to Atomic Energy Matters, 1950-1962, box 5, 1961 USSR Test Papers and Memos

The Soviets solved the White House's political problem by testing first, which they announced a day ahead on 31 August 1961. Acoustic sensors that were part of AFTAC's Atomic Energy Detection System (AEDS) identified the first Soviet detonation almost as soon as it had occurred. Other sensors, electromagnetic and seismic, had not yet yielded any information so the analysts could only guess that the detonation's yield was about 150 kilotons. The Joint Atomic Energy Intelligence Committee (JAEIC), which was responsible for coordinating nuclear intelligence, promulgated the first details as soon as they had been assessed. A few days later, on 3 September, Kennedy and Macmillan publicly responded to the Soviet tests with a joint statement calling for an atmospheric test ban that would be policed by national verification systems. (Note 46)

Document 32: Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Glenn Seaborg, Journal Entry for 5 September 1961
Source: Journals of Glenn T. Seaborg, Volume 2, July 1, 1961-December 31, 1961 (Berkeley, CA: Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, 1989)

Khrushchev formally rejected the Kennedy-Macmillan proposal on 9 September, but events a few days earlier convinced Kennedy that the Soviets had already made a decision. On 5 September, during a talk with AEC chairman Seaborg, he discussed plans to resume underground testing later in the month. To avoid "adverse comment" about U.S. military power; he wanted the first test to have a yield that was "larger" than the first Soviet test whose explosive yield was 100 kilotons. Seaborg told him that the AEC could not arrange a large test before 15 September; a larger one involving the Terrier air defense missile would occur later. Kennedy did not make a decision at the meeting, but when he learned that the Soviets had held their third test, he ordered the resumption of underground testing, with the first detonation to occur on 15 September. Kennedy was not sure if it was the "right decision," he later explained to UN Ambassador Stevenson, but "What choice did we have? They had spit in our eye three times. … [Khrushchev] wants to give out the feeling that he has us on the run. The third test was a contemptuous response to our note." No doubt Kennedy was disappointed by the explosive yield of the first test that occurred on 15 September: 2.6 kilotons. (Note 47)

Document 33: State Department memcon, "The International Situation," 8 September 1961
Source: National Archives, RG 59, decimal files 1960-1963, 600/0012/9-861

This conversation between Robert Matteson, a Foreign Service Office assigned to the U.S. mission to the United Nations, and one of his Soviet counterparts, Igor Usatchev, highlights the tensions over Berlin and nuclear testing. Soviet threat to sign a treaty with the GDR, which would "do away with the occupation rights in West Berlin," remained a source of great anxiety in the West, even after the East Germans had started to build the wall. Usatchev also shed light on the concerns motivating Moscow's decision to break the moratorium; he saw Soviet military activity as a "reaction" to President Kennedy's military buildup but also to the more advanced U.S. nuclear weapons program. While the U.S. had tested "over a hundred" (actually, closer to 200), the Soviets had conducted 70. The Soviet diplomat may have astonished his interlocutor with his emphasis on Moscow's interest in a 100 megaton weapon, which he saw as advantageous militarily, partly because it would conserve scarce fissile materials. The Soviets did not test a 100 megaton device but some weeks later tested one of half that strength, an event that would shock the world.

Document 34: "Policy Planning Council-JCS Joint Staff Meeting," 14 September 1961, with enclosures: State Department cable to U.S. Embassy Moscow, 7 September 1961 and Moscow embassy cable to State Department, 9 September 1961
Source: National Archives, RG 59, Policy Planning Staff Records, 1957-1961, box 133, State-Defense Relationship

During one of their regular consultations, State and Pentagon officials considered possible Soviet motivations for resuming nuclear test. Besides Moscow's interest in the development of smaller yield weapons, the Soviets wanted to test anti-ballistic missile weapons as well as a "triggering device for a huge nuclear weapon." "[P]sychological" reasons were briefly mentioned; the participants may well have agreed that Khrushchev was trying to overawe the West during the Berlin crisis. This did not perturb the Joint Staff representatives who believed that the Khrushchev "must know that we have enough power now to knock Russia `off the map'." The Joint Staff agreed with an assessment signed by Ambassador Lwelleyn Thompson, the State Department's astute Khrushchev watcher. Noting Moscow's "defensive" posture and the possibility that the Soviets "consider their position relative to our as worsened", Thompson nevertheless cited Khrushchev's private statements that "we are substantially equal in our ability to damage each other." Like other observers, Thompson saw the Soviet test series as an effort to "obtain more sophisticated warheads which would require less material for the same effect."

Document 35: AEC Chairman Glenn Seaborg to President Kennedy, 19 October 1961
Source: John F. Kennedy Library, National Security Files, box 267, Atomic Energy Commission

While the U.S. was conducting its underground test series, the directors of the AEC nuclear weapons labs reinforced earlier pressure to resume atmospheric nuclear testing, to test large yield weapons but also a variety of tactical nuclear weapons. Testing would occur in the Pacific, although some at the Nevada test site, with total fission yield limited to reduce fallout. Despite the interest in atmospheric testing, costlier underground testing would continue "to improve our techniques" in the event an atmospheric test ban came to pass. Seaborg suggested that President Kennedy approve atmospheric tests while the Soviets were holding their own series because the "reaction and pressure against it might be much more severe" if Washington held such tests later. Kennedy had authorized preparations for them, although he would not make a final decision for several months.

Document 36: State Department Circular Cable 728 to All U.S. Diplomatic Posts, 18 October 1961
Source: National Archives, RG 59, State Department Decimal File, 761.5611/10-1861

As Igor Usatchev had noted, the Soviets had plans for enormously high-yield nuclear tests; the State Department got word that Khrushchev had announced, at the Party Congress, an impending test of a 50 megaton weapon at the end of October. Washington quickly seized this development by instructing U.S. diplomats to attack the planned test as "nuclear blackmail", as "totally unnecessary" and "irresponsible" and "motivated primarily by desire for political rather than military advantage." Mindful of preparations to resume atmospheric testing, the Department cautioned diplomats to focus on the problem of high yield atmospheric tests and to take care to avoid a "situation in which it would not be politically possible for us to conduct certain atmospheric tests should be it … prove essential to do so." The U.S. campaign against the test was highly successful and resulted in a UN General Assembly resolution urging Moscow not to hold the test. In addition, the General Assembly supported a test ban treaty with the verification and control measures that London and Washington had supported. Nevertheless, on 30 October the Soviets exploded a 50 megaton monster bomb at a height of 4,000 meters. "The flash of light was so bright that it was visible at a distance of 1,000 kilometers, despite cloudy skies. A gigantic, swirling mushroom cloud rose as high as 64 kilometers." (Note 48)

Document 37: Memorandum from Air Force Chief of Staff Curtis LeMay to Gerald W. Johnson, Assistant to the Secretary of Defense (Atomic Energy), "USAF Briefing for Dr. Teller on Nuclear Testing," 31 October 1961, with enclosing memoranda by Generals Victor Haugen and Roscoe Wilson and report on "Priority of Nuclear Weapons Tests of Primary Interest to the Air Force," 25 October 1961
Source: Library of Congress, Curtis LeMay Papers, box 127, Chief Scientist, 1961

General Curtis LeMay, the Air Force Chief of Staff, the founding father of the Strategic Air Command, and a fervent proponent of nuclear testing, sought scientific support for testing of Air Force weapons. His advisers turned to the Air Force's official scientific advisers but also to Edward Teller, then serving as Professor at Large in the University of California system. Indeed, Teller and the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board "strongly" supported atmospheric testing in order to provide scope for a variety of tests. Among those experimental items (X) on the wish list were the XW-50 (deployed on the Pershing I missile in 1963), XW-56 and 59 (later deployed on Minuteman), and the TX-43 bomb (later deployed on a number of aircraft). (Note 49) When commenting on the Soviet 50 megaton test, Teller and his associates observed that that event had "reawakened interest in high-yield testing by the United States." Astonishingly, they suggested consideration of weapons with yields up to 1000 megatons (!) "for their possible military use." The subject of high yield weapons would generate much thinking and planning in the following years, but the fantastic notion of 1,000 megaton weapons appears to have dropped by the wayside.

Document 38: State Department cable 3639 to U.S. Embassy France, 29 December 1961
Source: National Archives, RG 59, decimal files 1960-63, 700.5611/12-2959

In November 1961 the Soviets proposed a three environments test ban, with an indefinite moratorium on underground tests while a control system was developed. National verification systems would monitor the treaty; there were no provisions for inspection. In early 1962, when the Geneva talks reconvened, the Americans and British rejected the proposal and the conference adjourned indefinitely. The doubtful future of negotiations made a decision for atmospheric testing likely; during meetings held in Bermuda, Kennedy and Macmillan reviewed the situation. This State Department cable summarizes the key discussions. Informing Kennedy's views was the consensus among American and British technical experts that, despite the Soviet test series, the United States "retains over-all nuclear advantage," without U.S. atmospheric testing, the Soviets could "gain over-all advantage in two or three years," especially in anti-intercontinental ballistic missile (AICBM) weapons tests. Appalled by the "risks" and "waste" of the arms race, Macmillan urged Kennedy to reach out to Khrushchev to reach a test ban agreement. Kennedy believed, however, that a personal appeal to Khrushchev would reduce U.S. freedom of action to make "nuclear advances necessary to our security." Yet Kennedy had not made a firm decision to resume atmospheric testing; he wanted to keep his options open. (Note 50)

Document 39: Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Glenn Seaborg, Journal Entry for 18 April 1962
Source: Journals of Glenn T. Seaborg, Volume 3, January 1, 1962-June 30, 1962 (Berkeley, CA: Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, 1989)

While the Geneva talks had folded, a new forum for the negotiations, the Eighteen-Nation Disarmament Committee (ENDC), emerged in March 1962 although talks held there failed to break the impasse. With diplomacy failing, a reluctant Kennedy headed toward final decisions on atmospheric tests. Even after 2 March, when he gave a speech announcing the government's plans to begin a new test series, he collaborated with Macmillan in an early April, last ditch effort, to win Soviet acceptance of the principle of international verification. Otherwise, testing would resume at the end of April. On 18 April, he privately met with McNamara and authorized an atmospheric test series, beginning 25 April. He then met with the NSC to review the test program, with most of the participants unaware of Kennedy's decision (and some, such as UN Ambassador Stevenson, vainly hoping they could head it off). (Note 51) Having given the go-ahead, Kennedy was concerned about the public relations implications of atmospheric testing; he was plainly concerned that a test scheduled for the Nevada Test Site would produce a mushroom cloud that could be photographed. While Seaborg suggested that the explosion might not produce such a cloud, Kennedy wanted the test to be placed at the end of the series, perhaps hoping that it then would attract less attention. An inconclusive discussion of the timing of an announcement followed, with Kennedy assuring the Council that the AEC would get at least five days of "lead time" making it possible to announce the tests just as they were beginning.

Document 40: Walt W. Rostow, Policy Planning Council Director, to Secretary of State, "Prospective Results of New Series of Soviet Atmospheric Tests," 26 April 1962
Source: National Archives, RG 59, Records of the Special Assistant to the Secretary of State for Atomic Energy. Country and Subject Files Relating to Atomic Energy Matters, 1950-1962, box 5, 1962 USSR-Test

What the Kennedy administration saw as an obdurate Soviet position on inspections led to suspicions in Washington that the Soviets were "marking time" as if "waiting for something to happen." Khrushchev, who was readying his decision to deploy nuclear missiles to Cuba, was aware that something would "happen" but Washington officials wondered if the Soviets might make a technical "breakthrough" from nuclear testing that could significantly increase their global influence. A group of intelligence and politico-military analysts examined that proposition and concluded that such a technical breakthrough was unlikely. For example, Moscow could make "solid progress" in developing an AICBM, but it would lack the resources needed for developing a weapons system that could do more than defend such "key centers" as Moscow. In any event, the United States would find it "technically manageable" to counter an AICBM with decoys (a point still made by critics of National Missile Defense). The "advantage in missilery is still with the offense." In light of the "political and psychological advantages" that the Soviets had gained from their nuclear tests, the analysts believed that Washington needed to develop a political strategy in response to the Soviet test series.

Document 41: Memorandum from Secretary of Defense McNamara to President Kennedy, "US-USSR Military Balance With or Without a Test Ban" circa July 1962
Source: John F. Kennedy Library, President's Office Files, box 100a, Disarmament - Nuclear Test Ban Series, 7/30/62 Meeting

Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara shared the relative optimism of the intelligence analysts (and PSAC in 1958) that the United States was holding its technical advantage over the Soviets in the nuclear weapons realm. After reviewing the status of U.S. strategic and tactical nuclear weapons programs, McNamara advised the president that a comprehensive test ban "is likely to be to the advantage of the United States" because it was already ahead of the Soviets in developing smaller, high-yield nuclear weapons. Under a comprehensive test ban, the rate of increase of yield-to-weight ratios would slow and the United States would be unable to continue investigations into nuclear weapons but the Soviets would have the same disadvantage. A test ban limited to the atmosphere would allow the United States to continue underground tests without having to worry about Soviet cheating.

Document 42: John McCone, Memorandum for the Record, "Meeting of Principals," 24 July 1962; excised copy
Source: U.S. Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1961-1963, Volumes VII, VIII and IX Supplement: Arms Control; National Security Policy; Foreign Economic Policy (Washington, D.C., Government Printing Office, 1997) (hereinafter cited as FRUS 1961-1963, Supplement)

With the test ban talks stalemated, senior Kennedy administration officials considered possibilities for breaking the deadlock. (Note 52) Their discussions took place in the light of advances on seismic detection stemming from Project VELA, which was sponsored by the Defense Advance Research Projects Agency (DARPA). VELA found that there were fewer small seismic shocks on Soviet territory that could be confused with explosions than had been previously estimated, that the type of rock surrounding an underground explosion would determine the signal's strength, and that there were promising new technical means to detect underground tests. With the new data becoming public, the Soviets argued that it showed that on-site inspection and international control stations were unnecessary. Nevertheless, Kennedy's foreign policy advisers believed that both were necessary to deter cheating and measure compliance even if VELA findings eased verification. (Note 53)

As McCone's record of this discussion suggests, the Committee of Principals agreed to table a new draft CTBT to find a basis for agreement on verification. It would ban all nuclear tests (with allowance for "peaceful" explosions), but there would be no threshold. Rather than specifying numbers of control posts and inspections, those issues would be left open to see whether it would be possible to reach agreement on the necessity for inspection. The discussion shows considerable concern about the problem of nuclear proliferation and the degree to which a CTBT or an atmospheric test ban could deter new national nuclear capabilities. The enduring strong Soviet position against inspection encouraged the Principals to look closely at an atmospheric test ban as a "fall-back position." By the end of August, Washington and London had reached agreement on the text of a CTBT and a fallback three environments treaty (no atmospheric, underwater, and outer space tests), both of which they presented to the Soviets on 27 August. The concept of a limited treaty as a fall-back presaged developments in the negotiations the following summer. In the meantime, Washington began to prepare for more atmospheric tests in the Pacific. The Soviets quickly rejected the alternative treaties because of their objection to outside inspection and international control posts. (Note 54)

Document 43: State Department Memcon, "1. Nuclear Test Ban 2. Non-proliferation," 30 November 1962
Source: State Department Freedom of Information Release

The unfolding of the Cuban crisis prevented new initiatives but post-crisis talks with Soviet Deputy Premier Anastas Mikoyan showed the gap between the two sides. Mikoyan brought up an interesting issue, the possible use of "sealed" or "black box" automatic seismological stations for detecting underground tests as a substitute for "manned stations" which the Soviets assumed would be used for espionage. Rusk refused to put major reliance on black boxes because he did not believe that the technology could, by itself, differentiate nuclear tests from earthquakes. Nevertheless, he welcomed evidence from the Soviets about the capabilities of "unmanned boxes." Rusk and Mikoyan had mutual concerns about nuclear proliferation but the former was reluctant to concede to anything that would undercut nuclear sharing arrangements with NATO. Nevertheless, because Kennedy's nuclear sharing policy opposed physical transfer of the weapons to allies in peacetime, Rusk undoubtedly saw common ground in the proposition that the United States "is not interested in increasing the number of governments who have nuclear weapons." No doubt Rusk also believed that Mikoyan would endorse the proposition that the United States did not "want other governments to be in a position to use nuclear weapons by their own decisions."

Documents 44A, 44B, and 44C: Arms Control and Disarmament Agency memcons, "Nuclear Testing," 23, 29, and 31 January 1963
Source: National Archives, Record Group 59. Department of State Central Records, 1960-1963. 700.5611/1-2963 and 1-3163

At the close of 1962, Khrushchev wrote Kennedy a letter about nuclear testing that accepted the principle of "reasonable inspection"; what turned him around, he claimed, was a statement allegedly made by U.S. negotiator Arthur Dean on 30 October to Soviet diplomat V. Kutzensov that Washington would accept "two-to-four concessions." (Although no U.S. record of the discussion exists, the interpreter Alexander Akalovsky supported Dean's claim that he had never mentioned such a small number.). (Note 55) The U.S. position was 8-10 inspections, a significant reduction of the 12-20 inspections that had been previously offered. On the question of international control, Khrushchev tilted to the Western position by acknowledging that foreign personnel could play a role in managing "black boxes." In his reply, Kennedy welcomed Khrushchev's acceptance of the "principle of on-sight inspection," but a new round of talks held in late January 1963 at the Soviet UN Mission in New York between U.S., British, and Soviet diplomats showed that there was no agreement. These three representative records of the discussions brought out sharply the basic disagreement on the number of on-site inspections that would be necessary to verify compliance with a comprehensive test ban. The Soviets would agree to only two or three on-site inspections while the Americans and the British argued that 8-10 inspections were necessary. Significantly Kennedy had authorized Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA) chief William C. Foster to settle at five inspections but the Soviets were not interested in numbers other than two or three. Even if a compromise could have been reached, no doubt other problems would have thwarted an agreement. (Note 56)

Document 45: Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, "Relationship of Nuclear Test Ban to Problem of Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons," 13 February 1963
Source: National Archives, Record Group 359, White House Office of Science and Technology, box 215, Disarmament--Nuclear Test Ban--1963

As noted, the relationship between a test ban treaty and the problem of nuclear proliferation received considerable attention from the Kennedy administration. ACDA analysts did not believe that a test ban would pose a significant obstacle to nuclear proliferation; nevertheless, they believed that with a test ban in place, "the chances of taking other measures which might successfully cope with the problem of non-proliferation are significantly greater." Moreover, a test ban, ACDA experts argued, mistakenly as it turned out, could put pressure on China and France to bring nuclear testing to an "early halt", which would help the cause of "non-dissemination" of nuclear capabilities. Along with others at the time, the analysts stressed the need for a "withdrawal clause" in a test ban treaty that would "protect the United States from being trapped in a treaty …which we no longer wanted because the Chinese Communists were conducting an extensive test program. One possibility was exploring with the Soviets a withdrawal clause that would "become operative [after] only a given period of time", such as two or three years. This would give the French time to "finish testing before the Chinese really got started."

Document 46: "Maintenance of a Condition of Readiness Under a Test Ban Treaty," Attached to Memorandum from Atomic Energy Commissioner Leland Haworth to McGeorge Bundy, 14 February 1963
Source: John F. Kennedy Library, National Security File, box 257, ACDA-Disarmament General 1/1/63-2/14/63

In order to win over the Joint Chiefs and the weapons labs to the concept of a test ban treaty, it became necessary to assure them that, if Washington found it necessary to withdraw from the treaty (because of , for example, extensive Chinese testing), and resume testing, an infrastructure would be in place that would make that possible. The state of play on plans to maintain "test readiness" is described in this Atomic Energy Commission memorandum from early 1963. Prepared before the White House had decided to negotiate a limited test ban treaty, the AEC developed an ambitious readiness plan that included "strong" weapons labs (including a new one to focus on weapons effects), low-yield "nuclear experiments", underground testing capabilities in Nevada, and atmospheric testing facilities in the Western Pacific. The AEC would not get all of its wish list, but in tandem with the Limited Test Ban Treaty, the AEC established what became known as the "Safeguard C" program which maintained facilities in Nevada, Hawaii, and Johnston Island for the emergency resumption of atmospheric testing. Until Congress terminated Safeguard C in 1993, the AEC and its successors maintained ships, labs, aircraft, and a "dedicated staff" at a total cost of between $1.6 and 3 billion. (Note 57)

Document 47: Memorandum for the President from the Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, "The Diffusion of Nuclear Weapons with or Without a Test Ban Agreement." 16 February 1963
Source: National Archives, Record Group 359, Records of White House Office of Science and Technology. Box 215. Disarmament-Nuclear Test Ban-1963

McNamara provided Kennedy with an estimate of the number of countries that had the capability to develop nuclear weapons in the coming years and the general motives for countries to or not to do so. Owing to the heavy costs of nuclear programs and the likelihood of international pressure, he believed that it was unlikely that all countries able to produce nuclear weapons would do so during the next decade. Like the ACDA analysts, McNamara believed that a comprehensive test ban was necessary but not sufficient to deter countries from developing atomic weapons. He also discussed the problem of the Chinese nuclear program. China, of course, was unlikely to sign a test ban agreement, but the possibility of Moscow putting pressure on Beijing to sign was no more likely than Washington joining with Moscow to place pressure on France to halt its nuclear program.

Document 48: "Khrushchev-Trevelyan Talks March 6," United States Embassy, Soviet Union, cable 2236 to Department of State, 11 March 1963
Source: National Archives, Record Group 59, Department of State Subject-Numeric Files, 1963, POL 17-1UK-USSR

A talk between Khrushchev and British Ambassador Sir Humphrey Trevelyan illustrated the conflicted nature of the test ban dialogue. Still interested in relying on "black boxes," Khrushchev would make no further concessions on inspections; he "would add not a single one." To the British argument that scientists saw inspections as crucial, Khrushchev responded with the familiar argument that U.S. and British scientists were part of a plan to "introduce spies into the USSR." Khrushchev may have been especially fixated with espionage because only a few months earlier, the KGB had caught Oleg Penkovsky, a military intelligence officer who had provided American and British intelligence with highly significant information on the Soviet strategic position. Moreover, given the top-level U.S. statements about the intelligence benefits of inspection, Khrushchev's suspicions were not completely off the mark. It would be years before senior Soviet officials would countenance the degree of domestic openness that was compatible with the acceptance of on-site inspection.

Document 49: ACDA memcon, "Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Meeting of Committee of Principals," 17 April 1963
Source: FRUS 1961-1963 Supplement

This Committee of Principals discussion suggests the bleak political climate for the test ban negotiations during the spring of 1963. The U.S. negotiating position was under attack from Republican and Democratic conservatives who argued that its verification procedures were insufficiently tough. While Kennedy, Macmillan, and Khrushchev had secret exchanges of correspondence on the possibilities of further negotiations, top policymakers continued to treat the CTBT as a legitimate goal because they saw nowhere else to turn. (Note 58) For Rusk and McNamara a CTBT, even without ironclad verification provisions, was better than any alternative: as McNamara put it, "the risk to the United States without a test ban treaty was greater than with a test ban treaty." As bad as the problems with Congress was the opposition by the Joint Chiefs, who saw a treaty without a threshold as an invitation to cheating. While declassifying information on the relative U.S.-Soviet nuclear weapons position would show the U.S. lead, the Principals were not willing to take that step (which, in any event, could have complicated the Soviet position in the negotiations). Whether a treaty would include provisions for peaceful nuclear explosions (PNEs) was one of the most contentious issues during this discussion. The Atomic Energy Commission anticipated using "clean" nuclear devices for a variety of public works project, but critics among the Principals thought that a PNE development program raised too many problems, such as the possibility of disguising weapons tests.

Document 50: Commencement Address by President John F. Kennedy at American University in Washington, DC, 10 June 1963
Source: Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy Containing the Public Messages, Speeches, and Statements of the President. January 1 to November 22, 1963. (United States Government Printing Office: Washington, DC. 1964), pp. 459-464

In this famous speech, Kennedy broke the ice with Khrushchev by making a public declaration in favor of peace and arms control. An important influence was the writer and editor Norman Cousins who had met secretly with Khrushchev several times since 1962 in an attempt to get the two powers beyond the dispute over the number of inspections. Even some of Cousin's own language, such as "making the world safe for diversity" found its way into the text. (Note 59) Toward the end of the speech, after Kennedy discussed the test ban negotiations and the problem of nuclear proliferation, he announced that the United States would not conduct any more atmospheric tests as long as other nations refrained from doing so. Drawing upon the understanding that he, Macmillan, and Khrushchev had already reached about high-level talks, Kennedy also declared that Washington, London, and Moscow would soon resume negotiations on a test ban treaty and that United Kingdom and the United States would send a senior delegation to Moscow for the discussions. While Kennedy did not name any names, he quickly settled on Ambassador-at-Large W. Averell Harriman, who had met with Khrushchev before and had the stature needed for a mission of this sort.

Document 51: CIA Information Report, "Soviet Reaction to June 10 Speech of President Kennedy," 11 June 1963, excised copy
Source: John F. Kennedy Library, box 100, Disarmament-Nuclear Test Ban Negotiations, 4/62-8/63

That President Kennedy's speech had an immediately favorable impact on Soviet opinion is suggested by this CIA information report based on intelligence gleaned from a Soviet official working for the secretariat of an international organization, probably the United Nations. The source believed that the speech improved prospects for a test ban, although he (or she) was too confident in believing that the problem of inspections could be easily resolved. The source was also overoptimistic in believing that impending Sino-Soviet talks "can only be a step forward" because the discussions turned out to be among the most acrimonious in the history of the relationship. (Note 60)

Document 52: ACDA Memcon, "Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Meeting of Committee of Principals," 14 June 1963
Source: National Archives, RG 59, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Politico-Military Affairs, Records Relating to Disarmament and Arms Control, box 6, Def 18-8 Testing and Detection, 1963-1966 (Also published in FRUS 1961-1963, VII, pp. 719-726)

A few days after the President's speech, Kennedy's advisers discussed the significance of the Harriman mission to Moscow and the prospects for a comprehensive agreement. While Rusk had "no illusions" about the prospects, he cited Kennedy's thinking that the Harriman trip was a "last chance" for an understanding with the Soviets; Rusk also believed that the Soviet concern about "bloc problems"--which ranged from Sino-Soviet tensions to growing divergences between Eastern Europe and Moscow-- might produce some flexibility. The administration had tabled various CTBT drafts since 1961, but the Principals were now reluctant to publish the latest draft for fear that it invite controversy--a "head-on collision"--especially if the Joint Chiefs of Staff criticized the draft when testifying before Congress. That the Joint Chiefs, according to Chairman Maxwell Taylor, were possibly more amenable to an atmospheric test ban offered some hope, but only if the Soviets switched gears. Plainly Rusk was unhappy about some of the critics such as Edward Teller, whom he thought was not "talking as a technical man when he talked about the test ban." A continuing element of controversy was whether a treaty would authorize PNEs, which the AEC continued to support. When Seaborg mentioned a program to build a new Panama Canal with nuclear explosive, a skeptical White House staffer Spurgeon Keeny observed that building a canal "would require dozens or hundreds of shots, which would be wholly inconsistent with a test ban treaty." Seaborg, however, hoped that such a provision would interest Moscow.

Document 53: ACDA memcon, "July 15, 1963 Moscow Talks," 20 June 1963
Source: National Archives, RG 59. Department of State Subject-Numeric Files, 1963, DEF 18-3 USSR (MO)

Kennedy's and Macmillan's correspondence with Khrushchev in the spring of 1963 led to a mutual decision to hold high level talks in Moscow on the test ban problem, with Harriman representing the U.S. and Lord Hailsham the U.K. (Note 61) This meeting, between Harriman, Foster, and the president's longtime friend, British Ambassador Ormsby-Gore, showed the latter trying to find a basis for an agreement on inspections. While Foster raised the possibility of a limited agreement with a numerical quota of underground test, Ormsby-Gore questioned whether the Soviets would climb down from their comprehensive agreement or nothing position. The discussion of agreements on side issues---U.S. proposals on non-proliferation and Soviet proposals for a NATO-Warsaw Pact non-aggression pact (NAP)--suggested that significant problems, such as the U.S. multilateral force (MLF) proposal and Western European concerns about a NAP, were likely barriers to any agreements on those proposals. In any event, as Ormsby-Gore suggested, the possibility of a test ban agreement depended on the outcome of high-level Sino-Soviet discussions.

Document 54: U.S. Embassy in United Kingdom cable SECTO 20, to Department of State, 28 June 1963
National Archives, RG 59, Department of State Subject-Numeric Files, 1963, DEF 18-3 USSR (MO)

At the end of June, as President Kennedy's visit to Western Europe, including West Berlin unfolded his party had substantive discussions with the British which produced an agreed U.S.-UK position for the Harriman-Hailsham trip to Moscow. As before, the two sides would try to reach a settlement on a comprehensive agreement; to minimize disagreements with Khrushchev, they would initially avoid discussing numbers of inspections, but emphasize the principle of inspections and offer safeguards against espionage. If a comprehensive agreement could not be negotiated, then the "next object" should be a limited, three environments agreement, with no restrictions on underground tests. If the Soviets also rejected that, other fallback positions were possible. If the Soviets brought up proposals for a non-aggression pact, Harriman and Hailsham would emphasize the importance of prior agreement on test ban and non-proliferation treaties.

Document 55: Memorandum from Acting Secretary of State George W. Ball, "Analysis of Language of Khrushchev Speech Regarding Test Ban and NATO Warsaw Pact," 2 July 1963, excerpt
Source: National Archives, RG 59, State Department Subject-Numeric Files, DEF 18-4

On 2 July, Nikita Khrushchev refocused the test ban debate when he gave a speech in East Berlin. Accusing the West of using the inspection issue as a cover for "intelligence purposes", he called for a three environments test ban that made the inspection issue irrelevant. Arguing that a test ban was not enough to ease Cold War tensions, Khrushchev also called for a "nonaggression pact between the two main military blocs -- the NATO countries and the Warsaw Pact States." The signing of two agreements, Khrushchev argued, would "create a new international atmosphere, more favorable for settling the outstanding issues of our time." Although State Department analyst wondered whether Khrushchev would insist on simultaneous agreement on a limited test ban and a non-aggression pact (NAP), they believed that the language was ambiguous enough to "permit Khrushchev freedom of maneuver." For the State Department, an NAP was something to avoid because it raised "issues very divisive in the Alliance", such as the prospect of the "acceptance and stabilization of an unsatisfactory status quo, including the division of Germany."

Document 56: Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Glenn Seaborg, Journal Entry for 9 July 1963
Source: Journals of Glenn T. Seaborg, Volume 6, July 1, 1963-November 22, 1963 (Berkeley, CA: Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, 1989)

Early in the evening of 9 July, Kennedy met with the NSC to discuss the Harriman mission. Still unsure whether a limited three environments test ban treaty was negotiable, the participants briefly discussed an agreement that permitted a quota of underground tests. Nevertheless, if an atmospheric test ban was feasible, Rusk wanted Harriman to be able to conclude an agreement "on the spot." Bundy wondered whether the French should be consulted, which raised the question of whether it would be possible to induce Paris to sign a limited test ban treaty. Maxwell Taylor's comments questioning the advantages of an atmospheric test ban raised the continuing problem with the Chiefs, but Kennedy declared that the issue was settled: "such a ban is to the advantage of the U.S." Nevertheless, Taylor vainly pushed away on the issue.

Document 57: Memorandum, "Instructions for Honorable W. Averell Harriman," 10 July 1963, attached to National Security Council Record of Actions, NSC Action 2468. Instructions for Harriman Mission (Revised Draft July 9 Instructions for the Harriman Mission)
Source: National Archives, RG 59, Conference Files, Box 319, CF 2284 Moscow Negotiations of Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons Tests 7/11-27/63 (Also published in FRUS 1961-1963, VII, pp. 785-788)

The instructions that Kennedy and his advisers approved on 9 July gave Harriman great discretion to negotiate a limited test ban agreement, if a comprehensive agreement proved unreachable. On other issues, such as non-proliferation (or "non-dissemination"), Harriman was to express U.S. interest in an agreement, but that progress depended on Moscow and Washington winning acceptance of a test ban on the part of "those powers associated with it." In other words, the United States would have to work with West Germany and other allies to contain any nuclear ambitions on their part, while the Soviet Union would be expected to curb Beijing's nuclear efforts. While the instructions do not mention the MLF, Kennedy gave Harriman considerable discretion in using it as a "bargaining chip" to make progress on such issues as China or nuclear non-proliferation. Harriman also received instructions for exploring Soviet intentions in a number of areas, including the proposal for a NATO-Warsaw Pact non-aggression pact. Harriman was to separate a NAP from the test ban issue and to make the Soviets understand that the former could not be considered seriously because it raised too many difficult questions about Central Europe. (Note 62)

Document 58: U.S. Embassy to Soviet Union Cable 154 to Department of State, 16 July 1963, Summary of Harriman/Hailsham/Khrushchev/Gromyko Meetings on 15 July 1963
Source: National Archives, Record Group 59. Department of State Subject-Numeric Files, 1963, DEF 18-3 USSR (MO)

Not long after Harriman and Hailsham had arrived in Moscow, a long meeting with Khrushchev settled the test ban problem, if not all the details. This was Khrushchev's day and he talked and talked about the Soviet Union's economic progress and his diplomatic agenda: a test ban, a NATO-Warsaw Pact nonaggression pact (NAP), a freeze in military spending, and a peace treaty between the two Germanies. Hailsham and Harriman were mainly interested in the test ban and nuclear proliferation but they politely heard Khrushchev out, making only a few interjections, with Harriman showing strong interest in determining Khrushchev's thinking about the Chinese nuclear program.

On the test ban issue, Harriman and Hailsham raised a comprehensive test ban to show that it was their preference, but the desultory discussion showed that it was a non-starter because Khrushchev took back all concessions relating to inspection. The two Western negotiators suggested that a treaty could include safeguards against espionage, but Khrushchev would hear none of that: "this reminded him of cat saying he would not eat mice and not bacon lying in [the room." Not that Khrushchev opposed espionage; he happily and indiscreetly disclosed [see page 17, section VIII, paragraph 1] Moscow's success in intercepting a cable that showed the U.S. role in stopping West German pipeline sales to the Soviet Union. (Note 63)

Khrushchev would only accept a three environments test ban, which he believed met the demands of world opinion. The question of an atmospheric test ban was settled and Harriman, Hailsham, and Russian Foreign Minister Gromyko negotiated a treaty "on the spot" within a matter of days.

Document 59: U.S. Embassy to Soviet Union Cable 211 to Department of State, 19 July 1963
Source: National Archives, Record Group 59. Department of State Subject-Numeric Files, 1963, DEF 18-3 USSR (MO)

During the following days, Gromyko, Harriman, and Hailsham (who was instructed to follow the U.S. lead (Note 64)) fleshed out the details of a treaty. While the U.S. side had agreed to language for an article on peaceful uses for nuclear explosions, it was quickly dropped. Khrushchev believed that it was premature to include any language permitting nuclear explosions because world opinion would not understand it. As this cable shows, Gromyko pushed on the non-aggresion pact question but Harriman and Hailsham successfully delayed serious consideration; as they noted, London and Washington would have to consult with their allies before anything could be done. Thus, the NAP was left to the communiqué. A more difficult problem was Article IV, which would allow signatories to withdraw from the treaty. For the White House, this had central importance because it was a condition for Senate support. Harriman came to Moscow with language that was specifically related withdrawal from the treaty to "nuclear explosions" violating it. For Washington, that could mean testing by such countries as China, but for the Soviets it would mean tests by France. The Soviets had proposed more general language but it made withdrawal look too easy and Washington rejected it. Gromyko, however, rejected any references to nuclear explosions possibly because of the inference that Moscow was under pressure from Washington "to do something about [the] Chinese nuclear threat." The Soviets came back with language linked withdrawal to "extraordinary events" related to the specific subject of the treaty, which could only mean nuclear explosions. That Harriman and the White House found acceptable. As long as the treaty suggested that the United States could withdraw from the treaty if "extraordinary events … jeopardized the supreme interests", it would be enough to win Senate support. (Note 65)

Document 60: CIA Cable 243 to CIA Station, Moscow, 19 July 1963, excised copy
Source: National Archives, RG 59, Subject-Numeric Files 1963, Def 18-4

While Harriman was in Moscow, the CIA sent him (and Ambassador Kohler) "eyes only" daily reports, which included digests of the Chinese and Soviet press and related intelligence information. In this report, Chinese opposition to the test ban and the deleterious impact of the test ban negotiations on Sino-Soviet relations is evident.

Document 61: U.S. Embassy Soviet Union cable 303 to Department of State, 24 July 1963
Source: National Archives, RG 59, Subject-Numeric Files 1963, Def 18-4

In an "eyes only" report to the State Department, Ambassador Kohler reported on a brief exchange with the "outspoken" Mrs. Gromyko during a Polish embassy reception. The foreign minister's spouse elucidated the anti-Chinese aspect of Moscow's interest in the test ban, as a way to "call [Beijing] to account" when it had its first nuclear test.

Document 62: "CIA Presentation to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 30 July 1963"
Source: National Archives, Record Group 200, Robert McNamara Papers, box 63, Test Ban Treaty Safeguards 1963

Apparently the text of a briefing by DCI McCone to the Chiefs, this report includes analyses of Khrushchev's possible motivations for supporting a limited test ban, the impact of the agreement on the nuclear policy of other countries, and European reactions to the test ban. For the CIA, a variety of considerations shaped Soviet interest in negotiating the treaty: non-proliferation, anti-PRC, and détente in Europe which could facilitate defense cuts at home. The CIA also considered the treaty's impact on the nuclear programs and ambitions of France, Israel, and India. France was unlikely to sign the treaty, even with such inducements as the provision of "complete designs and materials." Significantly, the Kennedy administration had already tried this; in a letter to de Gaulle, Kennedy made a general, but highly leading, offer: "the United States government would be willing to explore alternatives which might make French testing in these three environments unnecessary." DeGaulle refused to sign the treaty and rejected Kennedy's offer: France could not receive assistance from any government "without conditions which would limit right to use such weapons" because that would be "incompatible with sovereignty." (Note 66)

Document 63: U.S. Embassy to Federal Republic of Germany Airgram 250 to Department of State, "Secretary McNamara's Conversation with Chancellor Adenauer," 2 August 1962
Source: Freedom of Information Appeal Release by Department of State

DeGaulle's close ally, West German chancellor Konrad Adenauer, showed his pique over the LTBT during a conversation with Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. The administration's relationship with Adenauer had been strained, involving quarrels over the Berlin question, among other issues, so the Chancellor's dissent could not come as a surprise. Adenauer was bitter that Washington had not consulted with Bonn about the treaty, which came as a shock. Although the LTBT implicitly checked any nuclear weapons interests that West German leaders might have entertained, Adenauer steered clear from that issue and focused on a perennial complaint: the possibility that some Western action, in this instance, the test ban treaty, might tacitly involve the recognition of the East German regime. No doubt aware that Harriman had reached an understanding with Gromyko that no such recognition was implied if the GDR signed the treaty, McNamara rejected Adenauer's charge. He emphasized what he saw as the positive value of the treaty: "it will leave the United States with an atomic technology which the Soviets will never be able to obtain." (Note 67)

Document 64: Statement of the Position of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the Three-Environment Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, 12 August 1963
Source: FRUS 1961-1963 Supplement

The negotiation of the LTBT proceeded relatively quickly and Dean Rusk was soon on his way to Moscow for the formal treaty signing on 5 August. A week later, the Joint Chiefs signed off on an analysis of the impact that the treaty would have on US national security. Looking at the pros and cons of the treaty, the Chiefs saw some military disadvantages, for example, they believed that Moscow was ahead of the United States in testing high-yield nuclear weapons. Like Adenauer, they saw political disadvantages: "euphoria in the world" could erode the "vigilance" needed to wage the Cold War. But for the Chiefs, the advantages outweighed the disadvantages, not only would the treaty exacerbate the Sino-Soviet split, it would help stabilize international politics. The Chiefs believed that any disadvantages could be reduced if four safeguards were in place. As Carl Kaysen later remarked, they charged a "high price" for supporting the test ban: 1) an "aggressive" program of underground testing, 2) maintainance of the nuclear weapons laboratories to assure steady progress in weapons technology, 3) a state of readiness to test in the atmosphere should national security require it, and 4) improvements in capabilities to monitor overseas nuclear activities. (Note 68)

Document 65: Memorandum, Adrian Fisher, Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, to John McNaughton, General Counsel, Department of Defense, "Verification of Compliance of the Nuclear Weapons Test Ban Treaty," 19 August 1963
Source: National Archives, Record Group 359. Records of the White Office of Science and Technology, box 215, Disarmament--Nuclear Test Ban 1963, vol. II

As the ink on the treaty was drying, senior officials considered ways and means to expand and improve the U.S. Atomic Energy Detection System. Adrian Fisher commented on AFTAC plans to expand the AEDS by establishing monitoring stations in Scandinavia, East Asia, and the Southern Hemisphere, so as to permit world-wide coverage. Fisher cataloged the major AEDS techniques for detecting underwater, atmospheric, and space nuclear tests and described plans to expanding and improve those capabilities. In particular, he was interested in plans to deploy satellites, in part because the "mere existence of surveillance satellites in orbit provides evidence of our determination to police all environments." In addition, Fisher strongly supported ARPA-VELA's ongoing research and development activities on verification technologies, but requested major emphasis on remote seismic detection as well as the detection of underwater and atmospheric events. During the years that followed, AFTAC was significantly beefed up so that its monitoring apparatus could detect nuclear activities in China, the Soviet Union, and elsewhere.


Notes

1. Tom Squitieri, "Bush Pushes for New Nukes, USA Today, 7 July 2003; Editorial, "Nuclear Doubts in the House," New York Times, 16 July 2003; Jake Thompson, "Big Guns Will Discus Nuke Policy," Omaha World-Herald, 31 July 2003; William J. Broad, "Facing a Second Nuclear Age, New York Times, 3 August 2003.

2. For the text of the treaty, see <http://www.ourdocuments.gov/content.php?page=transcript&doc=95>.

3. The State Department's historical document series, Foreign Relations of the United States, provides critically important starting points for research on the subject. See U.S. State Department, Foreign Relations of the United States 1958-1960, Vol. III (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1996), and U.S. Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1961-1963, Volume VII, Arms Control and Disarmament (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1995) (herein cited as FRUS 61-63, VII).

4. Natural Resources Defense Council, Archive of Nuclear Data, at <http://www.nrdc.org/nuclear/nudb/datab15.asp>. For more details on U.S. nuclear tests, see U.S. Department of Energy, United States Nuclear Tests July 1945-September 1992 at <http://www.nv.doe.gov/news&pubs/publications/historyreports/pdfs/DOENV209_REV15.pdf>.

5. McGeorge Bundy, Danger and Survival: Choices About the Bomb in the First Fifty Years. (New York: Random House, 1988), p. 329; Barton C. Hacker, Elements of Controversy: The Atomic Energy Commission and Radiation Safety in Nuclear Weapons Testing, 1947-1974. (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1994), pp. 148-152, 157-158; Lawrence Wittner, The Struggle Against the Bomb, Vol. 2: Resisting the Bomb: A History of the World Nuclear Disarmament Movement, 1954-1970 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997), pp. 146-148, 153-154, 157-159. See also Richard G. Hewlett and Jack M. Holl, Atoms for Peace and War: 1953-1961: Eisenhower and the Atomic Energy Commission. (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1989), pp. 271-295.

6. Hacker, Elements of Controversy, pp. 181-182, 198, 222-230; Wittner, The Struggle Against the Bomb, pp. 134-140; Peter Eisler, "Fallout Likely Caused 15,000 Deaths," USA Today, 28 February 2002; James Glanz, "Almost All in the U.S. Have Been Exposed to Fallout, Study Finds," New York Times, 1 March 2002; For material relating to the National Cancer Institute-Center for Disease Control studies, see the Web sites of the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability, <http://www.ananuclear.org/falloutrelease.html>, the Center for Disease Control,
<http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/radiation/fallout/default.htm>, and the National Cancer Institute,
<http://rex.nci.nih.gov/INTRFCE_GIFS/WHTNEW_INTR_97.htm>. For the executive summary of the NCI-CDC study that suggested 11,000 extra deaths, see <http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/radiation/fallout/report.pdf>. For the National Research Council's assessment of that study, see "Cancer Risk Study was Competently Performed," Nuclear News, April 2003.

7. Wittner, The Struggle Against the Bomb. For an early major study, see Robert A. Divine, Blowing on the Wind: The Nuclear Test Ban Debate 1954-1960 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1978).

8. Gregg Herken, Cardinal Choices: Presidential Science Advising from the Atomic Bomb to SDI. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), p.82.

9. Herken, Cardinal Choices, p. 84.

10. For useful background on these developments, see Divine, Blowing on the Wind, pp. 174-212.

11. Ibid. pp. 225-227; Greg Herken, Brotherhood of the Bomb (New York: Henry Holt, 2002), pp. 325-327.

12. Robert J. Watson, History of the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Volume IV. Into the Missile Age, 1956-1960. (Washington, D.C.: Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 1997), pp. 699-700.

13. Ibid., pp. 702-704; Divine, Blowing on the Wind, pp. 243-244.

14. Ibid., p. 303; McGeorge Bundy, Danger and Survival, pp. 332-333.

15. For useful sources on the Kennedy administration and the test ban, see Glenn T. Seaborg, Kennedy, Khrushchev, and the Test Ban (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1981), and Kendrick Oliver, Kennedy, Macmillan, and the Nuclear Test Ban Debate, 1961-63 (New York: Macmillan Press, 1998). See also Carl Kaysen, "The Limited Test Ban Treaty of 1963," and Bernard J. Firestone, "Kennedy and the Test Ban: Presidential Leadership and Arms Control," in Douglas Brinkley and Richard T. Griffiths, eds., John F. Kennedy and Europe (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1999). For tests during 1961 and 1962, see Natural Resources Defense Council, Archive of Nuclear Data. Nuclear Weapons & Waste: In Depth: Index, at <http://www.nrdc.org/nuclear/nudb/datab15.asp>.

16. Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy Containing the Public Messages, Speeches, and Statements of the President. January 1 to November 22, 1963. (United States Government Printing Office: Washington, DC. 1964), p. 107.

17. William Burr and Jeffrey T. Richelson, "Whether to 'Strangle the Baby in the Cradle': The United States and the Chinese Nuclear Program, 1960-1964," International Security, Vol. 25, No.3 (Winter 2000/2001), p.61

18. Gordon Chang, Friends and Enemies: The United States, China, and the Soviet Union, 1948-1972. (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1990), pp. 245-246.

19. Memorandum from the Assistant Director of Central Intelligence for National Estimates to the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, 8 July 1963, FRUS 61-63, VII, p.771.

20. Memorandum of Conversation, 8 August 1962, FRUS 61-63 VII, p.541. For the impact of the West German nuclear question on U.S. and Soviet policy, see Marc Trachtenberg, A Constructed Peace: The Making of the European Settlement, 1945-1963 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999), Part III, passim.

21. Deputy Director for Intelligence, CIA, to Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, 1 October 1962, FRUS 61-63, VII, p. 582.

22. Seaborg, Kennedy, Khrushchev, and the Bomb, pp. 40-41, 180-181; Kaysen, "The Limited Test Ban Treaty of 1963," p. 108; Oliver, Kennedy, Macmillan and the Nuclear Test Ban Debate, pp. 154-155; Wittner, Resisting the Bomb, p. 400..

23. See document 49 below.

24. Memorandum from the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Secretary of Defense McNamara, 20 April 1963, FRUS 61-63, VII, p. 684; Edward Teller, The Legacy of Hiroshima, pp. 200-201.

25. See document 48 below.

26. William Taubman, Khrushchev (New York, 2003), pp. 583-584

27. Ibid., pp. 602-607.

28. Burr and Richelson, p. 75. During an October 10 meeting with President Kennedy, Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko agreed that the treaty would, "make China's political situation more difficult and delicate, presumably by increasing the PRC's isolation and raising pressures on it to follow nonproliferation standards." Ibid.

29. Vladislav Zubok, "Look What Chaos in the Beautiful Socialist Camp: Deng Xiaoping and the Sino-Soviet Split, 1956-1963," Bulletin of the Cold War International History Project 10 (March 1998): 153-162, <http://wwics.si.edu/topics/pubs/ACF185.pdf>; State Department telegram to Embassy in Soviet Union, 15 July 1963 and Embassy Telegrams to State Department, 18 and 27 July1963, FRUS 61-63, VII, pp. 801, 808, and 858-860.

30. See document 42.

31. Firestone, "Kennedy and the Test Ban: Presidential Leadership and Arms Control," pp. 91-93; Wittner, Resisting the Bomb, pp. 424-432; William J. Broad, Teller's War: The Top Secret Story Behind the Star Wars Deception (New York: Simon & Shuster, 1992), p. 51. See document 64 for details of the JCS position.

32. Wittner, Resisting the Bomb, p. 430.

33. For the text of the CTBT, see <http://www.state.gov/www/global/arms/treaties/ctb.html>. For a 2002 report by the National Academy of Sciences on the "good" verification capabilities of the CTBT system, see <http://www4.nas.edu/news.nsf/isbn/0309085063?OpenDocument>. For candidate Bush's opposition, see Dan Balz, "Bush Favors Internationalism; Candidate Calls China a 'Competitor,' Opposes Test Ban Treaty." Washington Post, 20 November 1999.

34. For details on the Bravo Castle test, see <http://nuketesting.enviroweb.org/hew/Usa/Tests/Castle.html>.

35. For background on the creation of PSAC and the Bethe report, see Herken, Cardinal Choices, pp. 101-109. The idea of "clean" thermonuclear weapons that would produce little or no fallout and could be used for major construction projects was a pressure point against a test ban but led to no significant results. Early tests of "clean" bombs produced much more fallout than the weapon dropped on Hiroshima. See Broad, Teller's War, pp. 45-49, and Herken, Brotherhood of the Bomb, pp. 324-325.

36. Ibid, p. 327.

37. Memo from Carl Kaysen to President Kennedy, "New Data on Detecting Underground Nuclear Explosions," 20 July 1962, FRUS 61-63, VII, pp. 489-491.

38. Editorial note, U.S. State Department, Foreign Relations of the United States 1958-1960, Vol. III (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1996), p. 730.

39. Tukey, the famous inventor of the "bit" concept, would play a key role in developing methodology for distinguishing nuclear tests from earthquakes. See obituary in Physics Today at <http://www.physicstoday.org/pt/vol-54/iss-7/p80.html>.

40. Even Hans Bethe "confirmed Latter's decoupling theory, admitting that he had erred in his own earlier assumptions that it made no difference how an underground test was detonated." Divine, Blowing on the Wind, p. 254.

41. Memorandum of conference with the President, 23 July 1959, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1958-1960, III, National Security; Arms Control and Disarmament (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1996) (hereinfafter cited as FRUS 1958-60, III) pp. 759-762.

42. State Department memcon, 6 October 1959, FRUS 1958-60, III, pp. 777-789.

43. Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Dwight D. Eisenhower Containing the Public Messages, Speeches, and Statements of the President. January 1 to December 31, 1959. (United States Government Printing Office: Washington, DC. 1960), p. 883; Wittner, Resisting the Bomb, p. 408.

44. Memorandum of conference with President Eisenhower, 24 March 1960, Ibid, pp. 861-863.

45. FRUS 1961-63, VII, pp. 106-109, 124-127, 131-132, and 137.

46. Ibid., pp. 149, 160.

47. Ibid. p.162; Kennedy quoted in Carl Kaysen, "The Limited Test Ban Treaty of 1963," p. 103.

48. Wittner, Resisting the Bomb, p. 412; quotation from Victor Adamsky and Yuri Smirnov, "Moscow's Biggest Bomb: The 50-Megaton Test of October 1961," at <http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/CWIHP/BULLETINS/b4a13.htm>.

49. For a list of nuclear warheads, deployed or otherwise, see Stephen I. Schwartz et al., Atomic Audit: The Costs and Consequences of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Since 1940 (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1998), pp. 86-92.

 

50. Oliver, Kennedy, Macmillan, and the Nuclear Test Ban Debate, pp. 58-61.

51. FRUS 1961-1963, VII, p. 441; Kaysen, "The Limited Test Ban Treaty of 1963," pp. 104-105. For statistical data on U.S. (as well as Soviet) atmospheric tests during 1962 and 1963, see the compilation by the Natural Resources Defense Council at <http://www.nrdc.org/nuclear/nudb/datab15.asp>.

52. President Kennedy taped White House discussions of the test ban during the summer of 1962 and printed renditions of the recordings are available in Timothy Naftali, ed., The Presidential Recordings John F. Kennedy The Great Crises, Volume One (New York, W.W. Norton, 2001), pp. 80-185.

53. Seaborg, Kennedy, Khrushchev, and the Test Ban, pp. 161-163.

54. Ibid., pp. 168-171; FRUS 1961-1963, VII, pp. 559-561 and 566-568.

55. Editorial note, ibid., pp. 622-624; Oliver, Kennedy, Macmillan, and the Nuclear Test Ban Debate, pp. 146-147.

56. "Second Oral History Interview with Carl Kaysen," July 1966, by Joseph E. O'Connor, John F. Kennedy Library, p. 123; Kaysen, "The Limited Test Ban Treaty," p. 112.

57. Schwartz, Atomic Audit, p. 83.

58. Oliver, Kennedy, Macmillan, and the Nuclear Test Ban Debate, pp. 169-174.

59. Wittner, Resisting the Bomb, pp. 416-419.

60. Zubok, "Look What Chaos in the Beautiful Socialist Camp: Deng Xiaoping and the Sino-Soviet Split, 1956-1963,"pp. 153-162, <http://wwics.si.edu/topics/pubs/ACF185.pdf>

61. For Macmillan's choice of Hailsham, whose performance during the Moscow talks had mixed reviews, see Oliver, Kennedy, Macmillan, and the Nuclear Test Ban Debate, p. 189.

62. Trachtenberg, A Constructed Peace, pp. 388-389.

63. In April 1964, the U.S. Embassy in Moscow discovered a number of listening devices that the Soviets had installed some years before. See "Estimate of Damage to U.S. Foreign Policy Interests (From "Net of Listening Devices in U.S. Embassy Moscow," 2 October 1964, U.S. Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964-1968, Vol. XIV, The Soviet Union (Washington, D.C, , Government Printing Office, 2001), pp. 111-114.

64. For Hailsham's role during the talks, see Oliver, Kennedy, Macmillan, and the Nuclear Test Ban Debate, pp.197-198.

65. FRUS 1961-1963, VII, pp. 813-814, 816-817, and 823-824.

66. Ibid., pp. 851-853, 866-868.

67. Trachtenberg, A Constructed Peace, pp. 394-395.

68. Kaysen, "The Limited Test Ban Treaty of 1963," p. 111.