163. Memorandum of Conversation, January 22, among U.S.S.R., U.K., and U.S. Interlocutors1

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  • Nuclear Test Ban


  • USSR

    • Nikolai T. Fedorenko, Soviet Permanent Representative to the UN
    • S.K. Tsarapkin, Soviet Representative to ENDC
    • Y. Vorontsov, USSR Foreign Ministry
    • Vladimir N. Zherebtsov, Interpreter
  • UK

    • Sir David Ormsby-Gore, British Ambassador
    • Peter Wilkinson, First Secretary, UK Embassy
  • US

    • William C. Foster, Director, ACDA
    • Charles C. Stelle, Deputy US Representative, ENDC
    • James E. Goodby, ACDA/IR
    • Alexander Akalovsky, ACDA/IR

Mr. Foster noted that the release of the exchange of correspondence between the President and Chairman Khrushchev may have changed the nature of the talks. For its part, US continued to believe that the discussions should be private. Fedorenko agreed that the talks should be private and said that the publication of the letters had been caused [Typeset Page 429] not by the initiative of the Soviet Union. Tsarapkin added that if there were leaks the Soviet Union reserved its freedom of action.

Mr. Foster said he realized that Mr. Gromyko had said no “technical” matters should be discussed in these talks but it was difficult to evaluate the effectiveness of a verification system without having more information about it; [Facsimile Page 2] it was also impossible to judge the appropriate number of on-site inspections and automatic recording stations. Observing that exchanges had already taken place on numbers and locations of national detection stations, Mr. Foster gave the Soviet side a list of locations in the Soviet Union where the US would like to have automatic seismic stations established (attached). Mr. Foster also gave the Soviet side a list of US locations for automatic seismic stations with data on noise level in each of those locations (attached). Mr. Foster noted that the Baker-Oregon station as previously suggested by the US was close to the Spokane-Richland area suggested by the Soviet side and was probably a quieter site. Moreover, the Augusta, Georgia-Columbia, South Carolina area requested by the Soviet side was quite a noisy site and the Soviet Union might wish to substitute for this station a station at Weston, Mass., which was a quiet site. The Albuquerque, New Mexico, station requested by the Soviet side was a quiet location and would suit the purposes quite well. It could be substituted for the Tonto Forest, Ariz., station.

Mr. Foster pointed out that peripheral stations would also be of great importance in properly monitoring any agreement.

Tsarapkin commented that Mr. Foster continued to insist on going into technical details and to argue that on these technical details depended the numbers of automatic stations and the on-site inspection quota. Soviet agreement to 2 or 3 on-site inspections was an expression of its good will and was an effort to overcome US internal difficulties. The figure 2–3 named by the USSR fully answered the desire of the US to have some on-site inspections as a deterrent. The Soviet Union had not specified 2 or 3 on-site inspections as a basis for bargaining but rather as a basis for agreement since the Soviet Union was in principle against even a single on-site inspection. The Soviet Government had opened the way to an agreement. It was a sad fact that all the previous negotiations had been a chain of lost opportunities and Tsarapkin hoped we would not lose another opportunity to [Facsimile Page 3] reach agreement.

As for the locations of automatic seismic stations on Soviet territory, Tsarapkin stated that 10 such stations were not necessary. The Soviet Union would be prepared to discuss the parameters for these automatic stations as soon as agreement had been reached on the locations for automatic stations in the US, USSR, and other nuclear powers and on the quota of 3 on-site inspections. The Soviet Union had no prepared [Typeset Page 430] recipe for these parameters. However, it was clear that there was no need for 10 automatic stations either on Soviet or on US territory.

Tsarapkin then said that the previous comments and questions of Mr. Foster had been sent to Moscow and were under study there. The views of the Soviet Government on these matters would be given later but it would be premature to discuss these technical questions now since this would only make agreement more difficult.

The purpose of automatic stations was to give assurance that the tremendous network of national seismic stations had been operating correctly. To do this, 3 stations in areas named by the Soviet Union was enough, especially when stations around the USSR were considered.

Sir David said that the UK approach to automatic seismic stations was different from the Soviet approach. The UK and the US attitude was related to the scientific advice that the two governments were given. The UK and US were not in a position to ignore their scientific advice. The UK knew of no Western or Soviet seismologist who would say that all seismic events could be identified by national networks. He wondered what the Soviet Government’s objection was to increasing the number of automatic stations since one advantage of such stations would be to increase the capability of the control system. The UK believed that 10 automatic seismic stations would cause no security problem for the Soviet Union and that these stations would help identify and locate seismic events.

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Tsarapkin answered that automatic seismic stations had been suggested not for the purpose of detecting and identifying seismic events but rather to check on national networks of seismic stations. The Soviet side was sure that 3 automatic stations was enough, taking into account the peripheral stations.

Mr. Foster noted Tsarapkin was placing too great an emphasis on just one aspect of automatic stations, whereas such stations could also help in locating events and reducing somewhat the number of unidentified events. Also, they might help reduce to a certain extent the area which would have to be inspected. He then said that he felt there were four important elements to consider in the verification system we were talking about. These were: 1) number of on-site inspections; 2) character and procedures for carrying out on-site inspections; 3) the number of automatic recording stations and national seismic stations; 4) the location and quality of all such stations.

The Soviet side had said that one of the important things to discuss was the number and location of automatic stations. The US therefore felt the Soviet Union should consider whether an adequate number of automatic seismic stations was not in the interest of both sides.

The verification system was an integrated structure in which any ineffective element would have an effect on the whole system. There [Typeset Page 431] was a scientific, as well as political, necessity for on-site inspections and, as President Kennedy had stated in his letter to Premier Khrushchev, 2 or 3 on-site inspections would not be acceptable. The number should be such that all parties to the agreement would have confidence in it. The US must know the general parameters of the inspection system since only by knowing what the general approaches of the two sides were could joint recommendations be made to the principals.

The US hoped for a quick agreement but it would be unhelpful if in these talks agreement was reached on a quota [Facsimile Page 5] of on-site inspections which we later found out could not take place. The Soviet Union’s 2, 3 or 4 on-site inspections and the US’s 10, 9 or 8 on-site inspections left a narrow gap. Perhaps this question should be put aside so that we could see if the other matters could be worked out. The US needed to understand the general outline of the entire verification system so that on-site inspection numbers could be talked about within a more specific range.

Fedorenko repeated the Soviet position that national detection systems were entirely adequate, noting that the US had been able to register all tests on the territory of the Soviet Union. This proved that national systems of control were enough. There was no need for any scientific meeting to prove this.

The data from national stations could be sent in a uniform manner to an international center. The Soviet side, incidentally, agreed with its US colleagues that there was no need to send data from all national detection stations. As for the automatic seismic stations, this was a Western idea which the Soviet Union accepted not of necessity but to meet the desires of the US and to overcome difficulties in the way of agreement.

The Soviet Union had adopted a political approach in meeting the desires of the West and it had also taken a scientific approach in that these automatic stations would be a means of checking national systems. If the task of the automatic seismic stations were taken as one of duplicating the work of the national systems, it would be impossible to determine the number which should be located on the territories of the nuclear powers. Three automatic stations were completely sufficient to serve as a check on national networks, taking into account the fact that there would also be stations on the periphery of the US and of the USSR.

Finally, on the question of on-site inspections, Fedorenko stressed that the USSR had taken a political [Facsimile Page 6] approach in solving this problem since until recently the Soviet Union had not accepted on-site inspections. Soviet agreement to 2 or 3 inspections a year on Soviet territory was exclusively for the purpose of removing the difficulty in the way of ending all nuclear tests. Fedorenko thought the Soviet side was [Typeset Page 432] entitled to hope that this move by the Soviet Government would be properly appreciated.

Fedorenko noted that Mr. Foster had earlier referred to the statement of Mr. Gromyko who had said that technical details should not be the task of this meeting. The task was to come to an understanding on the basic questions of the locations of automatic seismic stations and the quota of on-site inspections. This task corresponded to the understandings reached in the exchange of letters between the President and Chairman Khrushchev.

Fedorenko then asked whether Mr. Foster had talked to the President and whether he could say what the results of any such talks had been. Specifically, how did Mr. Foster view the prospects for the work here in Washington?

Mr. Foster replied that he had seen the President and that the President believed there had been some progress made in clarifying the situation with respect to a nuclear test ban agreement. Mr. Foster said the President had recalled that in his letter of December 28th he had said that two or three on-site inspections would be unacceptable and had inquired whether the Soviet Union had given a response to the questions Mr. Foster had put to Mr. Fedorenko. The President felt that the conditions under which on-site inspections would be carried out were very important and constituted a requirement with respect to the acceptance of any quota. Mr. Foster said the President had suggested that in view of the small difference between the two sides on the on-site inspection quota, this question might be put aside in order to see if the other conditions of an agreement could be generally determined. Mr. Foster emphasized that the US was not attempting to determine all the technical details but rather was interested in knowing more about the [Facsimile Page 7] general conditions of the verification system. The President continued to hope that the negotiations could be further advanced, particularly as a result of the Soviet acceptance of the principle of on-site inspection.

Mr. Foster said that because of the deep desire of the US to move forward toward an agreement, the US government had considered how automatic seismic stations could be helpful in a test ban agreement. The US believed it had made a significant finding in its determination that a combination of national seismic stations and automatic recording stations could be helpful.

Sir David then commented that the fact that a Soviet underground explosion had been detected did not prove much since the yield of that explosion, it was understood, was about 50 kilotons. As far back as 1958, it was known that events of that size could be detected. The magnitude of the events being talked about was something under 5 or even 2 kilotons yield. Even above seismic magnitude 4.0, UK scien [Typeset Page 433] tists could not positively identify all events as either earthquakes or explosions. For its part, the UK had to take these facts into account in its approach to these problems.

Fedorenko repeated his assertion that national means of detection and identification were quite sufficient.

He then asked whether Mr. Foster could say more specifically about the work of the meetings in the near future.

Mr. Foster replied that since the US had still not heard Soviet views on procedure and arrangements for carrying out on-site inspections, this should be one of the matters discussed in the near future. He reiterated that the gap with respect to the inspection quota should be left aside for the moment. Since the US had also mentioned something today about automatic recording stations and their noise levels at various locations in the US, perhaps [Facsimile Page 8] the Soviet side might wish to comment on this and also on the locations suggested for the Soviet Union.

Tsarapkin replied that the Soviet Union was not opposed to a discussion of questions of the kind raised by Mr. Foster previously. The Soviet Government, however, did wish to come to an agreement and this was why it proposed the order for the discussions that it had already suggested. The procedure suggested by Mr. Foster would lead to an impasse. As soon as the two sides had agreement on these questions in their pockets, they could immediately proceed to a discussion of the things mentioned by Mr. Foster and resolve them without any difficulty. The Soviet Government thought it would help progress toward an agreement, if agreement could first be reached on the basic questions of the on-site inspection quota and the numbers and locations of automatic seismic stations. If the two sides could agree on these two questions, the remaining technical questions would be the cause for frustrating agreement.

Frankly speaking, Tsarapkin said, the reason the US insisted on the priority it did was that it hoped to increase the number of on-site inspections and the number of automatic seismic stations. The Soviet Union, however, would not go further than the number of on-site inspections and the number of automatic seismic stations which it had stated. If the US wanted agreement, both sides should record agreement on 2–3 inspections and 2–3 automatic stations. Technical discussions had frustrated an agreement for almost 5 years and now the talks seemed to be back in the old rut.

Tsarapkin stressed that the Soviet proposal for 2 or 3 on-site inspections were made purely to facilitate an agreement. If this fact were not appreciated properly, hope for an agreement would fade away. He repeated that the Soviet Union would not go beyond the proposals it had made.

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If the Western powers were trying to avoid a discussion and decision on the basic issues, the question arose whether there was any sense in carrying these negotiations further. [Facsimile Page 9] Perhaps it would be better to transfer the talks to the Committee of Eighteen right now. Today’s meeting had shown once again that nothing was being accomplished and so the question of returning to Geneva inevitably arose.

Mr. Foster replied that the Soviet Government had known from the beginning that 2 or 3 on-site inspections was not acceptable to the US Government. The questions the US side had been asking were not purely technical but were also political in nature. The questions had been asked because it was necessary that the US know a dependable agreement could be reached. Mr. Foster added that he had been surprised that Tsarapkin appeared to be issuing an ultimatum. The US was prepared to go to Geneva at any time, although we had hoped that we could move here more expeditiously.

Sir David added that he was amazed at Tsarapkin’s statement. The UK agreed that two “basic questions” cited by the Soviet side were two of the most important questions to be settled. It was not a negotiation, however, to say that the West had to agree to the Soviet figures. There was no need for Tsarapkin to come to the US to talk about figures which had already been rejected by the President of the United States.

Sir David repeated that the West had to pay attention to its scientific advice. The Soviet Union had to take this fact into account if it really wanted an agreement.

Tsarapkin, speaking in English, said that what he had previously stated was that if the US avoided a decision on the basic questions, which were the subject of the letters between President Kennedy and Premier Khrushchev, in such a case the question arose whether it would not be better even now to transfer the discussions to the Committee of Eighteen.

Mr. Foster replied that there was a number “x” which the two sides might agree upon. However, was “x” of any value if the political conditions were such that the on-site [Facsimile Page 10] inspection could not be carried out? So far, in 5 meetings, the US side had asked whether the general procedures as outlined by it were such as to cause any problems for the Soviet Government. There had been no answer to this question, and therefore it was impossible to say what the “x” should be. Mr. Foster felt that the discussions had moved the two sides closer to an understanding on the numbers and locations of automatic seismic stations; he hoped the same sort of understanding could be reached on the number of on-site inspections, which was the more important issue of the two, although both were integrated parts. Mr. Foster reiterated that, as the President had told Mr. Khrushchev, 2–3 on-site inspections were unacceptable.

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Tsarapkin, again speaking in English, said he wished to stress that the difference between the two sides was that the US had an “x” for automatic seismic stations and for on-site inspections. For the Soviet side there was no “x” at all, the numbers acceptable to the Soviet Government were the ones mentioned by it. Now the US was trying to draw the talks into a technical jungle and it appeared that the hope of reaching agreement was fading away.

Mr. Foster replied that the “x” he was talking about was a very small unknown and that before one decided that the meetings were of no value one should have a response from the USSR on the various parameters mentioned previously, and these were not technical details. He hoped the two “x’s” could be placed in the context of other things generally understood, and observed that the various heads of state might be better able to determine what the “x” should be than this group.

It was agreed that the next meeting would be held at three o’clock Wednesday, January 23, 1963, in Mr. Foster’s office. The meeting adjourned at 7:00 p.m.

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Proposed Locations for Automatic Recording Seismic Stations in the USSR

Northern Kamchatka

Southern Kamchatka

Amur River Mouth Area

Susuman Area

East of Lake Baikal

West of Lake Baikal

Tadzhik Area

Western Tadzhik Area

Turkmen Area

Northern Caucasus

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Site Noise, Millimicrons
Western Aleutians perhaps 50
Eastern Aleutians perhaps 50
College, Alaska 3 to 4
Baker, Oregon 1–2
Southern California 5 or higher
Tonto Forest, Arizona 1–2
Vernal, Utah 2–4
McMinville, Tennessee 8–10
Palisades, New York about 25
Weston, Massachusetts 10–20
  1. Nuclear test ban issues. Two attachments provide a listing of proposed locations in U.S.S.R. and in U.S., including noise levels, for automatic seismic stations. Secret. 12 pp. Department of State, Central Files, 700.5611/1–2263.