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A Report by the Joint Intelligence Committee on Implications of Soviet
Possession of Atomic Weapons
The explosion of the first Soviet atomic test in August 1949 and the news that
Klaus Fuchs had confessed to giving atomic and hydrogen bomb data to the
Soviets alarmed Washington. The Pentagon issued a report in February 1950 that
assessed the implications of the soviet possession of atomic weapons.
Following are extracts:
Source: Decision on J.C.S. 2081/1
A report by the Joint Intelligence Committee on Implications of Soviet
Possession of Atomic Weapons
...Until such time as the Soviet Union considers that it possesses an adequate
military capability (atomic as well as conventional) as compared with the
United States, it is improbable that the Soviets deliberately will venture any
military action which they might have reason to believe would involve them in
open war with the United States and its Allies. However, with the progressive
increase in their atomic capability, their attitude, may become more truculent,
thus increasing the risk of war.
If the Soviet leaders consider that all other means and methods of obtaining
their objective of world domination have failed, they may attack the United
States and its Allies at the earliest opportune moment. This probably would
occur only after they had developed as effective offensive military capability
compared to the Allies, including their atomic or comparable capability.
However, if at any time they assessed that it was to their advantage to
initiate military action against the United States and/or its Allies, they
would do so.
Today the world power balance favors the Allies, because of the superior atomic
weapon capability of the United States, and the superior Allied economic
potential for support of a major war of global character, even though the
Soviet Union will arrive progressively at a relatively stronger position. The
Soviet Union is now making and will continue to make aggressive use of time to
improve its power position, particularly now that it has developed an atomic
weapon and can build up a stockpile of bombs with which to aid in equalizing
the scales of power...
...The probability of war instigated by the Soviet Union will increase with the
equalization of the ratio of Soviet capability to the United States capability
in the number and means of delivery of atomic weapons. Whether or not the
Soviets would consider that a stockpile of 25-45, 45-90, 70-135, or 120-200
atomic bombs constituted a decisive atomic capability against the Allies is
problematical. It is, therefore, uncertain if the Soviet planners would
consider mid-1951, 1952, 1953. or 1954 as an opportune time to initiate an all
out offensive against the United States and its Allies. In this connection,
the surprise use of the Soviet stockpile of 10-20, 25-45, 45-90, 70-135, or
120-200 in mid-1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, or 1954 respectively, would add greatly
to the effectiveness of an attack. That is, time-wise, the surprise use of a
relatively small number of bombs would be more effective than the expected use
of a much larger number.
Effects Outside the USSR of Soviet Atomic Capabilities
The Soviet Union in pursuit of its objective of world domination, not
only accepts the promise that military warfare is inevitable and essential
thereto, but continues to orient each and every policy and action toward a
constant increase of total Soviet military potential. There can be no doubt
that the advent of a Soviet atomic capability has resulted in a sharp increase
in Soviet total power. Even though the Kremlin were to possess a sizable
stockpile of atomic weapons, it would not follow necessarily that the Soviets
would attack the United States and its Allies by direct military action. The
employment of military force must take into consideration other Soviet
strategic forces already engaged directly, and the current status of
Soviet-controlled areas and peoples. Therefore, an estimate of probable Soviet
concepts for achieving objectives, or strategy, either for the present or
several years hence, will depend on Soviet estimates of the situation...
...The Soviets will continue to try to stir up mass opinion in the West for
disarmament and against the use of atomic weapons in the event of was. In this
way it may hope to create sufficient public pressure on the Western governments
to neutralize the United States bomb.
The elimination of the atomic bomb as a weapon of war would be militarily
advantageous to the USSR, except with respect to a direct Soviet attack upon
the Continental United States. Soviet considerations of security and national
sovereignty preclude the possibility of a sincere agreement for the control of
atomic energy production that would meet the current requirements of the
Western Powers, but the USSR may renew pressure for an international agreement
to outlaw the use of the atomic bomb in warfare.
While outlawing of the bomb might be militarily advantageous to the USSR, in
terms of operations in Europe or Asia, the USSR may estimate that the political
and psychological advantage of retaining the threat of atomic ...military
advantages of excluding it. When the USSR acquires what it considers an
adequate stockpile of bombs, the capabilities for employing threats and
intimidation in an effect to detach individual states from the Western bloc
will be considerably increased. Assuming the continued stockpiling of bombs by
the USSR and the United States, Soviet atomic capabilities have the following
military implications for the security of the United States.
The Continental United States will be for the first time vulnerable to
serious damage from air and guided missile attack.
Soviet military potential is increased relative to that of the United
The loss of the United States monopoly of the bomb has reduced the
effectiveness both militarily and psychologically of the Atlantic Pact.
The United States has lost its capability of making an effective atomic
attack upon the warmaking potential of the USSR without danger of retaliation
The Soviet atomic capability increases the requirements for the defense of
the United States, particularly against atomic air attack.
Soviet possession of a stockpile of atomic bombs will seriously threaten
United States and Allied capabilities for air operations from the United
Kingdom, or other advanced bases and for amphibious operations against the
European continent or other areas within range of Soviet attack.
In view of the preponderance of its conventional military forces and the
damage it would sustain from a United States atomic attack, the USSR might
consider it advantageous not to use the bomb first and hope thereby to
forestall the United States use of the bomb.
If the use of the atomic bomb were eliminated, United States strategic
concepts for the conduct of a war with the USSR would have to be drastically
Should an international agreement be reached to outlaw the use of the atomic
bomb, the USSR would be in a better strategic position than the United States.
The USSR would not hesitate to violate the agreement in the event of war if it
considered it advantageous to do so, while the United States would abide by
the agreement until broken by the Soviets. Under these circumstances the USSR
would have the option of using the bomb or not, according to its strategic
plans, and thereby acquire initiative and surprise. If neither side used the
bomb, the United States would lose its capabilities for immediate effective
attack upon the Soviet war potential.
The political and psychological effects on United States security of a
continuing Soviet atomic capability are estimated as follows:
The possession of the bomb and the resultant increase in Soviet military
power will increase the effectiveness of Soviet subversive activities and
propaganda in the "cold war."
Intended Use of Atomic Weapons
Air Bursts- The large contemplated stockpile of bombs, combined with the fact
that the Soviets have developed B-29 equivalent aircraft, indicates the
intention to use airborne delivery in large quantities. Air bursts may,
therefore, be assumed as these give the greatest land target damage.
Covert Use- The evidence that the Soviets made a test explosion on or near the
surface of the ground suggests their interest in placed bombs. Thus, the
possible use of smuggled bombs by covert agents against selected targets in the
United States should be considered.
New Atomic Weapons- The large heavy water production program initiated in the
USSR suggests that the following new weapons may be under consideration:
Heavy water pile can also be used to enhance the efficiency of the production
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