112. Letter from Amb. Ormsby Gore to Bundy, March 241

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Dear Mac,

The Prime Minister has had a talk today with the Foreign Secretary about the latest position on nuclear tests, and he has asked me to let the President know of the following.

He quite agrees that no statement should be issued for the moment. He has, however, asked me to let you see the attached draft of his idea of the sort of statement which will have to be made at some point, preferably jointly but, if necessary, separately.

The Prime Minister is, however, concerned about the proposed timing of the warning to mariners. He accepts that the warning itself is not an order to test, but it is of course generally assumed that the warning will not be issued unless tests will definitely take place. If a further postponement of this warning is impossible, the Prime Minister would certainly have to make a statement in the House of Commons. There is therefore a strong diplomatic argument for postponing the warnings until the last possible date, which I think everyone agrees to be two weeks before tests take place. There is also a very strong practical argument against giving more than the minimum warning. Our experience has been that the longer the warning the more chance that individual pacifists and neighbouring governments (Japan and New Zealand, for example) will organise demonstrations, send protests and generally create a most awkward local situation. Both the Prime Minister and the Foreign [Facsimile Page 2] Secretary feel strongly that the warning to mariners ought not to be issued more than the minimum two weeks before tests are resumed and certainly not in the course of next week.

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I need hardly say that the Prime Minister realises that the text of the enclosed draft would almost certainly have to be modified to take account of developments.

Yours sincerely,

David Ormsby Gore
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Text of Draft

Mr. Rusk and Lord Home have now reported about their conversations with Mr. Gromyko in Geneva during the first two weeks of the meetings of the Disarmament Committee. They have informed us that in discussions about a Treaty to Ban Nuclear Tests the Soviet representatives have rejected any form of international inspection or verification inside the Soviet Union, whether by static posts or by visits by international teams to verify unexplained events which would otherwise be assumed to be nuclear tests.

This is a point of cardinal importance to the United States and the United Kingdom. From the very beginning of the negotiations on a nuclear Test Ban Treaty, they have made it clear that an essential element of such a treaty is an objective international system for assuring that a ban on nuclear tests is being observed by all parties. The need for such a system was clearly recognised in the report of the scientific experts which was the foundation of the Geneva negotiations. For nearly three years this was accepted by the Soviet delegation at Geneva. There was disagreement about details, but the principle of objective international verification was accepted. It was embodied in the Treaty tabled by the United States and the United Kingdom on April 18, 1961, which provided for such a system. Since the current disarmament meetings began in Geneva, the United States and the United Kingdom have made further efforts to meet Soviet objections to the April 18 treaty. These efforts have met with no success as is clearly shown by the recent statements [Facsimile Page 4] of the Foreign Minister of the Soviet Union, who has repeatedly rejected the very concept of international verification. There has been no negotiation on this point in Geneva; the Soviet Union has flatly refused to change its position.

The ground given seems to be that existing national detection systems can give adequate protection against clandestine tests. But whether or not the present state of scientific instrumentation has reached sufficient perfection as to distinguish between natural and artificial seismic disturbances—and we do not think that it yet has—the Treaty cannot be made effective unless at least verification by visit [Typeset Page 303] is included in it. For otherwise there would be no alternative, if an instrument reported an unexplained seismic occurrence on either side, between accepting the possibility of an evasion of the Treaty or its immediate denunciation. Verification in some form or another is of the very essence of mutual confidence.

This principle has so far been rejected by the Foreign Minister of the Soviet Union, and there is no indication that he has not spoken with the full approval of his Government. If Chairman Khrushchev were to give any clear indication that he had reconsidered the position and was ready to accept the principle of international verification, then it is hard to believe that agreement could not be reached about its application in practice. This in turn could lead to the [Facsimile Page 5] rapid conclusion of a Treaty to ban all nuclear tests. The President and the Prime Minister therefore earnestly hope that Chairman Khrushchev will send the necessary instructions to Mr. Gromyko in Geneva. If, however, the U.S.S.R. cannot accept any form of international verification on Soviet territory in any circumstances then it is hard to see how tests can be effectively banned. The Governments of the United States and United Kingdom would in this case have no alternative but to conclude, with sincere regret, that their most recent efforts to obtain a workable Treaty to ban nuclear tests have failed, and accordingly to carry on with the final stages of preparation for the test series scheduled for the latter part of April.

  1. Macmillan’s thoughts on a proposed statement outlining Soviet non-acceptance of verification and his concerns on timing of warning to mariners. Attached is a suggested draft statement. Top Secret. 5 pp. Department of State, Presidential Correspondence: Lot 66 D 204, MacmillanKennedy.