296. Paper by the Deputy Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (Fisher)0



In his discussions in Moscow, Governor Harriman will doubtless have to deal with the following four general subjects. There follows the suggested positions which should be taken:


Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty

The initial part of the discussion should deal with a comprehensive test ban treaty. As part of that discussion an attempt should be made to resolve the differences which exist between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. as to the ability to detect and identify underground nuclear tests by seismic means alone. The difference relates to what is solely a scientific question—the ability to make a distinction on the basis of seismic signals between underground nuclear tests and earthquakes, both of which produce seismic signals which often have similar characteristics.

In view of the U.S., events in the Soviet Union producing seismic signals in the range of 4.75-5.00 or below do not produce seismic signals which permit them to be identified as tests rather than as earthquakes. The seismic signals produced by some of these events do have signals which permit them to be identified—with varying degrees of confidence—as earthquakes. The process of identification to determine whether there has been a violation of a test ban by an underground nuclear test, therefore, starts with a process of elimination in which there is eliminated from the total number of events producing seismic signals emanating from the Soviet Union those events which can be identified as earthquakes.

This process of elimination involves not only an analysis of the nature of the seismic signal but a judgment as to the likelihood of a test being conducted in an area where the seismic signals locate the event. This process of elimination is not a definitive one—there are varying degrees of certainty as to the extent to which an event can be identified as [Page 729] natural in cause and there are roughly 25-45 events a year as to which there is no evidence, without an on-site inspection, as to whether any one of them was an earthquake or an underground nuclear test.

The Soviet view is that it is possible, by scientific means alone, to identify all underground nuclear tests. Their statements tend to gloss over the differences between detecting an event and identifying it as either an earthquake or a nuclear test but the references to the French tests clearly imply that they profess to believe we can identify tests as tests by scientific means alone. Under their view an on-site inspection is not necessary and they state that they have agreed to two or three only because of U.S. domestic political considerations.

The current mission may give an opportunity which has not existed in meetings between scientists to point out to the Soviet political leaders the full political significance of the scientific facts as we understand them. It should be pointed out that it makes a great difference in the approach to on-site inspections whether, as the U.S. believes, meaningful on-site inspections are necessary to verify a test ban treaty or whether, as the Soviets contend, they are merely a concession to the U.S. domestic political situation. Although the U.S. delegation should be staffed and prepared to enable it to engage in such technical discussion as may be required with Soviet scientists, its first objective should be to translate the scientific case into terms understandable and convincing to the political representatives of Soviet leadership.

The discussion of the scientific basis of the requirement for on-site inspections will naturally lead to the Soviets raising their objection to such inspections, based on their claim of espionage. The U.S. delegation should use this aspect of the discussion as an opportunity to discuss the form of inspection proposed by them. This might begin with an exposition of the U.S. approach based on national systems and an explanation of specific means along the lines of the April 1 memorandum,1 to ascertain Soviet reaction to specifics. The Soviets could be asked for their suggestions as to additional measures to give them assurance against espionage without impairing the efficacy of the inspection operations.

In discussing the comprehensive test ban treaty there might be two additional elements which could be injected into the discussions, coupled with an understanding on the way an inspection should be carried out. The first relates to the distinction between seismic and aseismic areas. In March of 1962, Ambassador Dean proposed to Ambassador Tsarapkin that the inspections be divided between the seismic and aseismic areas of the Soviet Union. Provisions to this effect were contained in the comprehensive test ban treaty which was tabled at Geneva on [Page 730] August 27, 1962.2 Nothing came of this exploration because it was made at a time when the Soviet position was that there should be no on-site inspections. There have also been informal indications that the Soviets felt that the distinction might be meaningless because increased sensitivity of instrumentation might turn all of the U.S.S.R. into a seismic area.

The proposal of seven on-site inspections which was made by Mr. Foster to Mr. Kuznetsov on February 11, 1963 and which was included in the memorandum tabled on April 1, 1963, contained no reference to a division between the seismic and aseismic areas. The analyses of seismicity in the U.S.S.R. points to the conclusion that 70% of all the seismic events detected in the U.S.S.R. occur either in the Kamchatka Peninsula or on or around the Kurile Islands. Another 20-25% of events occur along the southern periphery of the Soviet Union. If the base upon which the percentage is computed is composed of only the most suspicious seismic events (those where there is no confidence based on either seismic or geographic factors) then 33% of the events occur in the Kamchatka-Kurile area and 27% occur in a relatively small area in the vicinity of Tashkent composed of the Kirgiz S.S.R., the Tadzhik S.S.R. and a portion of the Uzbek S.S.R. east of East Longitude 65 degrees.

On the basis of these figures, it is possible that, for purposes of agreement, the inspection quota could be divided into two parts—the first for the entire Soviet Union and the second limited to the Kamchatka-Kurile and Tashkent areas. The inspection quota for the first of these areas might be three inspections per year with the second possibly being four inspections per year. In both cases, of course, the treaty criteria would have to be satisfied.

If there are doubts as to whether making such an offer will do any good, a good means of exploration will be presented by the inevitable Soviet references to the alleged assurances that a number in the range from two to four would produce an agreement. This can be explained by pointing out that what Mr. Dean was discussing was the probable breakdown of his then number of eight into the aseismic and seismic regions of the Soviet Union. In explaining the misunderstanding on this basis, it might be possible to ascertain whether a treaty assurance on this point would be of any value to the U.S.S.R. A decision could be made as to whether to make a proposal in the light of the Soviet attitude.

A second possible variant which might be introduced is the concept of a carry-over of on-site inspections which are not used in one year being used in a succeeding year up to a given number. This concept, it is true, was touched on in the most recent Presidential letter to Khrushchev and was not treated very kindly by him in his response, but it probably [Page 731] should be introduced again in a somewhat more formal context if the talks on a comprehensive test ban are making any progress.


Atmospheric, Outer Space and Underwater Test Ban Treaty With Some Limitation on Underground Tests

The U.S. offer to sign a treaty banning tests in the atmosphere, underwater and in space remains open. Although the preference is for a comprehensive treaty, if the Soviet Union still cannot be persuaded to agree on the number and role of inspections for underground tests, then a partial treaty may be the best solution obtainable in the present international climate.

The problem which is presented by a treaty banning all but underground tests is that it points up a basic asymmetry between the positions of the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. The U.S. knows a great deal more about conducting underground tests but is generally ahead in the type of weapons that can be developed by underground testing. The U.S.S.R. has had relatively little experience in underground testing—and would be harder hit by the added expense of underground testing—but continued underground testing would permit the U.S.S.R. to make progress in an area in which they are behind (but in which their interest is not quite clear). One way of decreasing this asymmetry might be to place a limitation on the underground tests which are permitted—both as to number and as to size of the seismic magnitude.

A possible combination would be to establish a quota of 12 underground tests a year of explosions which would produce a seismic event of not greater than 4.75 and which would not vent radioactivity beyond the borders of the country. A treaty of this kind would permit the U.S. to relax its insistence on compulsory on-site inspections, in view of the fact that the effects of a violation would be much less critical. Under such a treaty it would probably still be advisable to have a provision for exchange of data from strengthened national seismic stations, and to have the national stations supplemented by automatic recording stations. It would probably be necessary to have a provision entitling the parties to demand data concerning events which were suspicious and the right to abrogate the treaty if it were to determine that its requests for data were not being complied with in a satisfactory manner or if it concluded that there had been a violation.


Relationship of a Test Ban to Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons

One of the principal interests of the United States in a test ban agreement is an interest in it as one of a series of steps designed to prevent the [Page 732] proliferation of nuclear weapons throughout the world. It is probable that the U.S.S.R. has a similar interest. It might be advisable to discuss this interest with the Soviet Union with relation to the interests of the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. in a test ban. In the first instance the U.S. should point out that the signing of a test ban treaty would mean that there would be no additional nuclear powers in our camp. We should point out that we would attempt to obtain adherence by the French and as a result a reduction of the intensity of the French nuclear development program. We could then point to the draft declaration on non-dissemination and point out that we would expect the French to sign not only the test ban treaty but the non-dissemination declaration as well.

The discussion of the non-dissemination will, of course, raise the question of the future of the NATO Multilateral Nuclear Force. We should point out that the multilateral nuclear force is a proposed substitute for the acquisition of a nuclear weapons capability by individual NATO countries. We should point out that in view of the continued Soviet nuclear threat to Europe, the MLF offered our European allies a substitute to the acquisition of their own nuclear capabilities and to that extent it was designed to prevent proliferation. We should point out, however, that if we could work out an understanding that there would be no more nuclear powers in either the Western camp or in the Socialist camp perhaps the Western powers would not feel the need for an MLF but could work out some other arrangements for European security.

As to actual steps to be taken to prevent the Chinese from becoming a nuclear power we certainly cannot expect the Chinese to sign any non-dissemination declaration as a non-nuclear power although it is not clear that we should indicate this to the Soviets. We possibly should also not expect any formal adherence to either a comprehensive or limited test ban agreement but should expect that there would be no testing by the Chinese. We should indicate to the Soviets that we would not expect to make any public announcement of a joint U.S.-U.S.S.R. campaign to prevent the Chinese from acquiring a nuclear capability but would consider that a tacit understanding that we would do so as part of the understanding between us. It should be noted then, in this context, the limited ban is preferable to the comprehensive ban because its limited enforcement machinery makes de facto adherence possible.

As to what we were prepared to consider as a possible incentive to the Chinese, which would make it easier for the U.S.S.R. to obtain de facto adherence to a test ban, various possibilities should be considered.


NATO-Warsaw Non-Aggression Pact

The Soviet Union’s interest in a NATO-Warsaw non-aggression pact is likely to be raised at the Moscow meeting. It was agreed at Ottawa [Page 733] that the various participants in the Ambassadorial group should study the situation in the Soviet Union and in the Communist bloc and in the light of their conclusions decide whether a NATO-Warsaw non-aggression pact is something which is worth exploring. No decision has been reached on this point and it is unlikely that by July 15 the matter will have progressed to a point where there can be an affirmative response to any Soviet suggestions. The U.S. response should not be one of a totally negative nature, however, but rather we should be prepared to identify those areas in which the pact would be inimical to our interests, would be superfluous or might be the basis for future negotiations.

It might be indicated, for example, that to have any chance of favorable consideration a pact would have to be worded to the effect that nothing in the situation in Berlin and Germany could be changed without agreement.


Other Measures of Arms Control and Disarmament

If it appears to be appropriate, the U.S. Delegation can discuss the measures which have been authorized for presentation at the Geneva conference but which either have not yet been presented or fully developed there. These include such measures as:

Production stoppage of fissionable material for use in weapons.
Transfer of given amounts of fissionable material from stockpiles to peaceful uses including different ratios for U.S. and U.S.S.R.
Agreement not to place in orbit weapons of mass destruction.
Agreement, as part of a first stage disarmament measure, to place certain limitations on military expenditures as part of other disarmament activities.

In addition, if it seems appropriate, the Delegation should be in a position to ask questions designed to elicit the Soviet attitudes on such matters as substantial reduction of strategic nuclear vehicles, production stoppage of strategic nuclear delivery vehicles, together with the verification machinery necessary for such measures. The purpose of these questions should be to aid the U.S. Government in arriving at a position in those areas in which active work developing possible measures is now in progress.

  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Kaysen Series, Harriman Instructions. Top Secret. In a June 20 memorandum to the President, Kaysen stated that the paper was “Fisher’s report on the line of thought that has evolved from several discussions among Harriman, Foster, Fisher, Nitze, Haworth, Bundy and myself.” (Ibid.)
  2. For text, see Documents on Disarmament, 1963, pp 141-145.
  3. See ibid., 1962, vol. II, pp. 792-804.