91. Memorandum from Kaysen to President Kennedy, March 91

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  • Positions for the Disarmament Conference

1. The ACDA’s preparations have advanced on both fronts since Tuesday’s meeting. On the test ban treaty, the situation is as follows:

a. Careful examination of the April 18th treaty shows that in order to shorten the period between the signature of the treaty and the beginning of the inspection process, new language in the treaty as such is not necessary. On-site inspection could begin as soon as four control posts are in station. This could be done in about nine to ten months from the signature of the treaty. What is required is that the preparatory commission agree to do the job; this in turn, of course, depends on the willingness of the Soviets to do it. New language in the treaty cannot bring this about. Conversely, if the Soviets are willing to cooperate in the preparatory commission, no new language in the treaty is needed.

b. On the questions of location of the control posts and allocation of inspections by zones, we are now willing to discuss both these matters should the discussions on the treaty advance. Our [Facsimile Page 2] technicians consider that there is little to be gained by changing the locations of the control posts. The zonal scheme for allocation of inspection has been agreed in principle by all the technically competent people. We could be prepared to discuss it in detail in Geneva within a week or ten days.

c. Inspection for preparation remains a difficult problem. The best proposal that the experts were able to produce was one that combined declarations, either initially or at six-month intervals by the heads [Typeset Page 272] of governments, that they are not making preparations “for nuclear weapons developmental tests which involve the activation of, or increased activities at, test sites or the gathering of instruments, test vehicles, people, or nuclear devices, at test sites.” This would be combined with a provision for inspection up to four times a year of a declared list of test sites. Treaty language is available for embodying this proposal. Nobody thinks this is a very good proposal from either the point of view of protection or negotiability.

From the point of view of protection, there was an agreement among those technically competent that the best protection against preparations we could get would be the continuation of underground testing in some way. Ambassador Dean felt very strongly that the moratorium on underground [Facsimile Page 3] testing had become a part of the treaty, that we had re-examined our intentions on this so frequently that we could not change our position on it now. The experts offered a final suggestion something like as follows: The threshold should be maintained and tests under the threshold permitted until the inspection process was in operation. Once the control posts and the inspection processes were functioning, the threshold would go to zero and accordingly all tests would be forbidden. This would have the advantage of keeping the laboratories in some state of activity for the first year in which the treaty was in force. Dean considered this no more negotiable and no more consistent with our previous positions than any other change in the moratorium. Others pointed out, however, that negotiability of this was no less than the negotiability of the proposed declarations on preparations and inspection of named test sites.

The issue remains unresolved; the advice you have gotten from the experts has gone full circle and now says that the maintenance of activity in the laboratories previously declared to be impossible is our best guard against secret preparations on the other side.

d. On the question of the threshold itself, there is agreement that, from a technical point of view, abandoning the threshold would not detract [Facsimile Page 4] from the security of the treaty and might add to it. We are presently in a position to detect and locate events much below the present threshold, and our ability to inspect them under the treaty would add to the deterrent power of the treaty against the Soviets’ conducting smaller underground tests clandestinely. This conclusion is subject to the assumption that the three-year moratorium on tests below the present threshold embodied in the treaty would in fact turn into a permanent moratorium from our point of view; we could not at the end of three years say that the moratorium had expired and we were proposing to resume tests below the the threshold. Arthur Dean agreed that this assumption was the only one that could be made. Your instruction on Tuesday made clear that we do not wish to make any [Typeset Page 273] initial offer with respect to the threshold, but that we should be prepared to discuss it. We are, and we are prepared in particular to try to get additional control stations or additional inspection as a quid pro quo for abandoning the threshold.

e. At the moment, the professed positions of the UK are far apart from ours. It is Fisher’s and Foster’s judgment, after conversations with Ormsby Gore that an indication to the British that we are prepared to discuss dropping the threshold at an appropriate point would satisfy them sufficiently that we would not press their other proposals, such as reliance on national inspection, which is totally unacceptable to us.

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2. While there has been considerable advance in thinking about the GCD plan, there has not been as much progress in reducing it to paper. In accordance with your instructions at the Tuesday meeting, ACDA is proposing a plan for a 30 per cent cut, in 3 annual 10 per cent steps, in all armaments. The cut would be measured in both numbers and total weight within defined categories. There is at present no final agreement on the appropriate categories for classifying strategic nuclear delivery vehicles. There are two alternative proposals—one which divides them by range into intercontinental and continental systems and one which divides them by weight into heavy and medium delivery systems. At the moment the Defense Department prefers the first and the ACDA does not yet have a recommendation. The other categories are those which are already defined in the ACDA paper of 3 March.

On the other elements of the GCD plan the ACDA is proceeding according to the results of the Tuesday discussion. There will be no production cut-off in Stage I. We will offer a zonal inspection system in which the amount of inspection will be related to the amount of disarmament. The definition of transition from Stage I to Stage II and the sketch of Stage II are not complete.

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3. There are still some undecided issues for your attention. First, on the test ban treaty there is something of a puzzle of how to deal with preparations. The proposed method of a combination of declarations and inspections of a limited number of test sites meets the need for saying something but it offers little useful assurance. The alternative propositions seem both to contradict what you have said in your speech and to present serious negotiating difficulties in Dean’s view. Second, the GCD plan is still incomplete although some progress has been made since Tuesday and more may be made in the next several days before the Conference formally begins on Wednesday. The delegation, of course, is departing tomorrow morning, but a sufficient part of ACDA is remaining behind to make it possible for more progress to be made by Wednesday.

Carl Kaysen
  1. Positions for disarmament conference. Top Secret. 6 pp. Kennedy Library, President’s Office Files, 18-Nation Committee, 3/6/62–11/20/62.