John Paton

Wu Ningkun




INT: Were you worried that...

INT: We were talking about Eisenhower and Dulles having this policy where they would leave people unsure as to whether they would use nuclear weapons. What did you personally feel - were you worried?

RB:, frankly I was worried about whether or not they might be considering the use... might come to use... One reason was that the military, particularly the air force, were quite clear that if they were asked to defend the islands, they would have to use nuclear weapons in order to knock out the bases from which these Chinese aeroplanes would come, which would try to get air cover for Chinese action on the islands. So there's no doubt about it that the military were considering actively the possible use of nuclear weapons, and essentially were saying that small nuclear weapons, so called, were going to be indispensable for knocking out these airfields within range of Quemoy-Ma-tsu. And I was fearful that they would actually... if... if ... if the Chinese took the gamble, that then the US might, if it determined to hold the islands, find itself in the situation of using these... And in fact, I arranged for a briefing of Dulles, which would sh... which showed, by,, plans, maps, which showed what the distribution of population was and where the ... where these various airf... airfields were, and what would be the effects of weapons, of nuclear weapons, if used on these airfields. I had... all this was laid out for him, to show what would be the very large number of casualties which would inevitably result. I don't know just how much this influenced him. I... I do know that he actually saw it, and I... my purpose was obviously to say that this is really out of proportion, that this... you can't really defend... you cannot really go forward with a policy which would result in this many... casualties - civilian casualties, really - of population near these airfields, for the purpose of simply holding on to these islands. But I think it's only fair to say that I don't know what Eisenhower would have done. Eisenhower had a very lively view about not having these things used. Not very long before, he had refused the pressure of almost the whole Administration, people like Dulles to some extent, but certainly people like Radford and ... and Nixon, to use nuclear weapons to try to protect the (Enbien Fu?) in Indochina, and he had absolutely said, "No, I won't do it." And so I don't... I think it would be a mis...mistake to equate this whole tactic of making the Soviets and the Chinese feel that we just might use them as meaning that he had decided to use them. There are people who claim that he had said things which made it clear that he would in fact use them. I don't believe that myself: I think he was definitely playing a... a game of trying to inhibit them from acting, but I don't think he had necessarily crossed the bridge as to whhe would actually use them.

INT: Presumably, if that had happened, the Russians would have come in as well, the Soviets?

RB: I don't think that's at all sure. I think the Soviets... you must remember that at this point, the new Soviet leadership had only been ... after Stalin, had only been in charge for a very limited period, and I... andthey were trying very hard to create the conception that they wanted peaceful coexistence and that they were reasonable and that they were not threatening, because I think they wanted time to settle things at home, and then carry out some reforms at home, and I don't think it's at all clear that they would have come in. And I think the fact that they... I think they may have made this clear to the Chinese, and I think this may have been one of the early,, frictions or splits, because of the feeling of the Chinese that they were being let down in the fact that the Soviets wouldn't say, "Yes, we would come in if the Americans used these weapons."

INT: So there was never any real worry that the Soviets were going to get involved in the Taiwan Straits crisis at all?

RB: Well, of course, you always have some concern, but I'd say the general feeling was that the Soviets were not going to let themselves be drawn into this by the Chinese attempt to overrun these two small islands. I think they ... I think that we felt that they would feel that much more was at stake with respect to their interests on trying to cultivate toward the West, toward the... Europe, toward the Americans, an atmosphere of peaceful coexistence and co-operation, as being the policy which they were going to follow, to allow themselves to be drawn in by the Chinese over something which I think they would have seen as peripheral or of no interest to them whatever.

INT: Were you aware that the Russians and Chinese started to have differences after the Taiwan crisis, that that was where the split between the Russians, the Soviets and the Chinese began?

RB: My feeling is that the difference of opinion and difference... and the feeling by the Chinese that they were not being supported, as they had hoped, by the Soviets, was a cause, a major cause, of the ultimate split between them. Probably, the first crisis, the 1954 crisis, was merely a source of tension and controversy with them, but by the second crisis in 1958, I think the Chinese probably drew the conclusion that these so-called allies, the Soviets, were really not very helpful allies, and they were only going to be available when it suited them and not when the Chinese thought that it was in their interests. And I think that it was probably at that point that the real split began, I mean, that the split became more open, more... deeper than it had been. I would think there was disappointment and irritation by the fifty... '54, but probably there were other things which held them together up through the next few years, but that the 1958 crisis was kind of a culminating point.

INT: Can we just go back... Could you give me a briefer description of the wedge strategy, how that came about and what actually it was?

RB: The... the Eisenhower Administration, as I ... as I told you earlier, inherited from Truman a policy which was essentially cont... attempting to contain China because of China's participation in the Korean War. In making their post-Korea strategy, Dulles' view that the right approach was to try to promote a split between the Soviets and the Chinese, and for that purpose to try to... and the assumption was that... which was quite... made quite explicit in the policy documents that were generated in 1953, when the first strategy was examined..., that there were inherently potential cri..., sources of conflict between the Soviet Union and China. that their interests were not entirely parallel, and that these differences would manifest themselves over time. Therefore, the purpose was, in order to bring about or facilitate this split, to do things which forced the Chinese to be dependent, more dependent on the Soviet Union. They already were dependent for economic help and for military support and for military supplies and for political support; but the ... that dependence could be acc...accentuated by continuing the embargo on trade which had been started during the Korean War, by not just applying it to military goods, for example, but applying it pretty much across the board, and really help... and preventing them from getting benefits from trade which would facilitate their development. And second, to do all the sorts of things which put them in isolation politically, by not recognising them, by keeping them out of the UN, by treating the Chinese nationalists on Taiwan as the government of China, and so on. And I think the Quemoy-Ma-tsu case was one in which the actual handling of it did accentuate the differences between the Chinese and the Soviet interests, and was... as we've said, was one of the sources of split, particularly, I think, a major source of split by the time we got to the end of the Fifties.

INT: When... were you aware that this was working, that problems were developing between the Soviet Union and China?

RB: Well, I think things actually came to a head after I had left the policy planning staff and gone back to Harvard. I left in late '57, and I don't think it was yet obvious or manifest that the split was taking place. I think it began to be apparent relatively soon after that, within a year or so after that, by the time you got into '58, '59, '60; and I think that, as I remember it, we were... even as an outsider, I was aware that the Soviets were withdrawing their industrial advisers and their... other people who were working with the Chinese on the economic side, and I think there was generally a feeling that the handling of the Quemoy-Ma-tsu '58 crisis had been one which had certainly generated some degree of tension and disagreement between them. That's my general recollection. So I mean, certainly by the end of... by the end of the Fifties, I think people were beginning to feel that there was... there really were splits, were sharp disagreements, which were being reflected in what was being done on both sides.