Chapter 4 – U.S. “Containment” Strategy from Truman to Johnson - 1950 to 1968

stitute a frustration of the Soviet design. Short of this, however, it might be possible to create a situation which will induce the Soviet Union to accommodate itself, with or without the conscious abandonment of its design, to coexistence on tolerable terms with the non-Soviet world. . . . The objectives outlined in NSC 20/4 . . . are fully consistent with the objectives stated in this paper, and they remain valid. . . . The intensifying struggle requires us to face the fact that we can expect no lasting abatement of the crisis unless and until a change occurs in the nature of the Soviet system. (headings added)2

3.  NSC–68: Current Trends, New Defense Requirements, and Follow-on Directives—1950

The NSC–68 Strategy document of April 1950 continues with an analysis of the Soviet Union’s asymmetric military buildups and a range of corresponding U.S. military requirements. It confronts the reality that the United States could not rely on nuclear weapons alone to deter Soviet advances or to overcome increasing insufficiency of current Western conventional forces and diplomatic leverage to reverse aggressive Soviet hegemonic objectives. It analyzes the varieties and dangers of warfare, the problems of international control of atomic weapons, the futilities and dangers of isolationism, and the need for a decisive course of action thus:

[Specific Actions] A more rapid buildup of political, economic and military strength . . . [necessary to:]

a. To defend the Western Hemisphere and essential allied areas . . . ;

b. To provide and protect a mobilization base while the offensive forces required for victory are being built up;

c. To conduct offensive operations to destroy vital elements of the Soviet war-making capacity, and to keep the enemy off balance . . . ;

d. To defend and maintain the lines of communication and base areas necessary . . . ;

e. To provide such aid to allies as is essential to the execution of their role in the above tasks. . . .

[Taking the Cold War Initiative] . . . [This would be a] renewed initiative in the cold war and a situation to which the Kremlin would find it expedient to accommodate itself, first by relaxing tensions and pressures and then by gradual withdrawal . . . [while] at the same time, we should take dynamic steps to reduce the power and influence of the Kremlin inside the Soviet Union and other areas under its control . . . [to] keep it off balance and force an increased expenditure of Soviet resources in counteraction. In other words, it would be the current Soviet cold war technique used against the Soviet Union. . . . Half-measures will be more costly and more dangerous. . . . A comprehensive and decisive program to win the peace and frustrate the Kremlin design should be so designed that it can be sustained for as long as necessary to achieve our national objectives. (headings added)3

Summary on Changing the Cold War. The following excerpts from the document’s conclusion summarize the thrust of the analysis of the Cold War’s Soviet roots, bipolar course, and required U.S./Western strength and strategy. Thus:

[Poor Negotiations Prospects Require a New Situation] The present world situation, however, is one which militates against successful negotiations with the Kremlin—for the terms of agreements on important pending issues would reflect present realities and would therefore be unacceptable, if not disastrous, to the United States and the rest of the free world. After a decision and a start on building up the strength of the free world has been made, it might then be desirable for the United States to take an initiative in seeking negotiations in the hope that it might facilitate the process of accommodation by the Kremlin to the new situation.

[Rallying Opinion for a Sustained Defense Build-up Against Soviet Domination] Failing that, the unwillingness of the Kremlin to accept equitable terms or its bad faith in observing them would assist in consolidating popular opinion in the free world in support of the measures necessary to sustain the build-up.

In summary, we must, by means of a rapid and sustained build-up of the political, economic, and military strength of the free world, and by means of an affirmative program intended to wrest the initiative from the Soviet Union, confront it with convincing evidence of the determination and ability of the free world to frustrate the Kremlin design of a world dominated by its will. Such evidence is the only means short of war which eventually may force the Kremlin to abandon its present course of action and to negotiate acceptable agreements on issues of major importance.

[The Cold War a Real War] The whole success of the proposed program hangs ultimately on recognition by this Government, the American people and all free peoples, that the cold war is in fact a real war in which the survival of the free world is at stake. (headings added)4

[Book pg. 75]