93. Minutes of Meeting of the Committee of Principals1

Minutes of the Meeting: Secretary Rusk indicated that the meeting would begin with a presentation of background material relevant to consideration of a comprehensive test ban treaty.

Mr. Fisher began by pointing out the importance that an extension of the test ban treaty to cover underground testing would have as a means of dealing with the question of proliferation of nuclear capabilities. With respect to the objectives of the meeting, he indicated that he believed that as a minimum the U.S. should probably be prepared to make available to the ENDC information on improved present and projected technical capabilities for detecting and identifying seismic events.

Dr. Frosch of ARPA began the technical presentation by giving estimates of natural seismic events in the Soviet Union as a function of seismic magnitude, and with a discussion of the relationship between the yield of nuclear explosions and the earthquake magnitude scale. In so doing, he treated as extreme examples the possibility of explosions being conducted on the one hand in hard rock and on the other in dry alluvium, pointing out the range of uncertainty in our understanding with respect [Page 238] to both cases. He indicated that there appear to be limits to testing large yields in alluvium in the Soviet Union because, so far as we know, it is not available in sufficient depth. Dr. Frosch then summarized the results of a recent analysis of present and projected capabilities for detecting and identifying seismic events. [11-1/2 lines of source text not declassified] With respect to each of these systems he gave estimates as a function of magnitude of the number of natural seismic events that could not be distinguished from possible explosions (indicating for example, that with the system of LASA’s and ocean bottom seismometers there would be on an average approximately 30 such events per year in the Soviet Union of magnitude greater than 4.0).

[1 paragraph (31 lines of source text) not declassified]

In response to a query about the State Department paper which examined the effect of a comprehensive treaty on the proliferation question,3 Ambassador Thompson indicated his personal reservation that the Germans might not go along with the treaty.

Dr. Seaborg asked about the possibility of Soviet evasion, to which Dr. Frosch replied that he felt that it would be possible for them to evade successfully at very low yields provided they were willing to make a considerable effort, but he considered it doubtful that very large tests, and in particular more than one or two large tests, could be done clandestinely. Thus, he felt that evasion around 2 kt would be feasible provided there were sufficient effort made, but that at yield levels significantly above that it would be difficult. [2 lines of source text not declassified] In response to a question from Dr. Seaborg, he indicated that clandestine testing at significant yields above ground would be very difficult.

Dr. Howard then presented the results of some analyses of the implications of continuation of the present treaty, a threshold treaty, and a comprehensive treaty.4 In so doing, he indicated those areas where there was a consensus within the Government and where there were differences in view, particularly involving the AEC, JCS, and OSD. He first discussed the implication for the US-USSR balance in offensive strategic systems, then in defensive systems, and then very briefly implications with respect to tactical nuclear weapons, and to the US-Chinese Communist [Page 239] balance. With respect to the last point, he observed that the Chinese position relative to that of the US and the Soviet Union will improve whether or not we and the Soviet Union test or not. Finally, he discussed the effect of the various treaties on the degree to which we would be able to meet requirements of the “Jackson” safeguards,5 including a discussion of the viability of the weapons laboratories and of our confidence in the status of weapons in stockpile.

Secretary Rusk then asked Mr. Fisher to comment on the parliamentary situation in Geneva. Mr. Fisher indicated that we probably should make a presentation of revised estimates on detection and identification capabilities, but that for this session perhaps no more would be needed; it would, of course, be desirable in connection with the presentation of technical capabilities if there were some feeling about the direction in which we might be moving with respect to a comprehensive treaty. He indicated that difficulties in reaching agreement on a non-proliferation agreement and in particular because of difficulties on the MLF, suggested that an extension of the test ban looked increasingly like the most realistic way of actually making progress in preventing nuclear proliferation. He then stated as an issue whether or not the difficulties in a treaty along the lines favored by ACDA6 would be balanced by the gains that might be realized on the non-proliferation front. Secretary Rusk asked whether we could not achieve the same objectives with respect to non-proliferation through the Fanfani proposal.7 Mr. Fisher replied that that remained to be seen, depending on the response of various non-nuclear powers, but that he was not confident that the Fanfani proposal would be acceptable to the nations about whom we were most concerned. He then discussed briefly the three alternatives that had been presented in ACDA background papers.8 With respect to continuing to insist on a treaty [Page 240] involving an explicit number of on-site inspections he felt this was certainly a viable US position—but one that could prove to have been unduly conservative if, by having stuck with it, we would have been confronted a few years hence with a number of new nuclear powers, a possibility which he felt a comprehensive treaty might do much to head off. He conceded that the first ACDA alternative, and for that matter the second as well (a threshold treaty), would require such extensive discussion within the Government that it would be totally unrealistic to expect any decision in the context of the presently projected time scale for this session of the ENDC.

In response to a query from Secretary Rusk, Secretary McNamara observed that he felt that it was presently not the time for a new proposal on the part of the US and that we would pay a heavy price for what would ultimately not succeed. Secretary Rusk indicated agreement with the qualification that this would be true, unless of course, the Soviet Union should indicate—as they have not so far—some willingness to move in our direction on the verification issue.

Mr. Fisher indicated that six of the non-aligned nations in Geneva have suggested going ahead with the threshold treaty. He realized that such a treaty might in fact not prevent a determined non-nuclear power from developing nuclear weapons while still complying with the treaty but that the negotiation of such a treaty might nevertheless have some useful political effect. The Vice President said he felt such a treaty would be a mistake—that it would be an invitation to acrimony and distrust.

Ambassador Thompson suggested that perhaps the Soviet Union did not want an agreement of any kind at this time in view of the Vietnam confrontation. Secretary McNamara concurred.

Secretary Rusk asked whether there would be difficulties on security grounds in making information available on detection and identification. Dr. Scoville indicated there would be some difficulty because of the sensitivity of the AEDS system, but felt that such problems could be dealt with.

General Wheeler observed that he felt that the estimates given by Dr. Frosch with respect to a system of LASA’s were overly optimistic. For example, he said he was informed that 16 and not 10 LASA’s would be needed. Dr. Seaborg doubted that a system of LASA’s could be installed as quickly as had been estimated (in from two or three years). Secretary Rusk inquired as to the cost of the system. Dr. Frosch replied that it [Page 241] would be about $250,000,000. General Wheeler observed that this price would not be excessive if the projected capabilities would be realized, but again expressed his doubts with regard to the estimates of projected capabilities considering the data so far available from the system. Dr. Frosch said the prototype in Montana was not operational yet, but that preliminary indications suggested that it would be as good or better than had been estimated. General Wheeler, with Dr. Seaborg concurring, advised conservatism in the use of estimates on projected capabilities.

Secretary Rusk indicated that he concluded: (1) that the atmosphere was presently not encouraging for agreement; (2) that there was no interest on the part of the USSR in grappling with the problem of verification; (3) that the briefing that he had just heard indicated that we still had a verification problem to deal with; and (4) that he did not see that it would be profitable to go through the major effort required in modifying the US position, considering the benefits that could be obtained. He suggested that for the present ENDC our position should remain basically as it is, pending some indication of willingness from the Soviets to deal with the verification problem, but that we should go ahead with technical briefings at the ENDC. He suggested that our problem in connection with a comprehensive treaty was not with such countries as Egypt, but was with the Soviet Union. Mr. Fisher observed that he felt our most immediate problem was with India. Secretary Rusk replied that he felt that the preferred solution there would be along the lines suggested by Fanfani. Mr. Bundy supported Mr. Fisher in his contention that the major immediate problem was India, but suggested that we really do not understand what the Indian position is. He observed that we probably could modify our position on the number of on-site inspections but thought that is a US-Soviet problem that might be best dealt with other than in Geneva. Secretary Rusk raised the question as to why, if it is desirable to stop nuclear proliferation, the non-nuclear powers should not simply go ahead and get together to stop it. Mr. Fisher observed that we cannot take the position that nuclear proliferation is a matter of concern to the non-nuclear powers alone. Secretary Rusk suggested that perhaps a more effective way to prevent India from going ahead with a nuclear weapons program would be to threaten denial of US foreign aid. Mr. Fisher remarked that we had been considering the advisability of a “Sense of the Congress” resolution which would to some degree have had implicit in it such a threat, but that there had been opposition from the State Department to the use of such threats to discourage the Indians. Mr. Fisher argued for the necessity of our taking leadership in attempting to prevent nuclear proliferation and indicated the improbability of our being able to achieve the desired objectives through a non-proliferation agreement, in the light of the difficulties with the Germans regarding the MLF/ANF. Secretary Rusk pointed out that the difficulty was not Germany, [Page 242] but unwillingness on the part of the Soviet Union to accept an agreement. In reply Mr. Fisher cited the recent outburst by former Chancellor Adenauer with reference to the Geneva negotiations. Mr. Bundy replied that if the Soviets would accept reasonable language we could certainly sign such a treaty despite Adenauer’s opposition. Mr. Fisher continued, observing that the point he was trying to make was that it seemed unlikely that we were going to get a joint US-Soviet non-proliferation agreement very soon (though we could be surprised by Tsarapkin’s response next Tuesday) and that, therefore, perhaps we should emphasize other approaches to non-proliferation.

Secretary Rusk then asked Mr. Fisher to draft some instructions along the lines of the attached summary of conclusions and desired actions.9 With respect to the question of making available at the ENDC information on detection and identification capabilities, Commissioner Tape noted that we would be giving information on projected, rather than presently reliable, capabilities. His view was supported by Dr. Seaborg.

[1 paragraph (6 lines of source text) not declassified]

Secretary Rusk then suggested that he and Mr. Fisher should talk further about whether and how there should be a review of our position on a comprehensive treaty. We could not do this for the present ENDC, but the problem would not die with that session.

The Vice President observed that we ought not always to assume that we need come up with a new position and that he did not necessarily agree that because the Soviets have been recalcitrant with respect to verification we should necessarily look for something new. He suggested their attitude could change as it did abruptly in the case of the partial test ban treaty. He indicated his support of the Fanfani idea, and he agreed that it would not be realistic to expect a new Government position between now and September 9 (estimated date of adjournment of the present ENDC). He said we ought not to include in any treaty those things that build distrust, and suggested that a treaty that had no on-site inspections would suffer from that defect. He also strongly opposed a threshold treaty for that reason, and also because it did not do much toward preventing proliferation.

Secretary Rusk observed that he felt that not many countries were really very much interested in disarmament.

Ambassador Thompson suggested the possibility, assuming neither China nor France would be a party to a treaty, that some day political relations might even change so greatly that China might conduct tests for the Soviets and the French might test US devices.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Subject File, Disarmament, Committee of Principals, Vol. 2, Box 14. Secret. Drafted by George W. Rathjens (ACDA/D) on August 28. The meeting was held in the Secretary of State’s office. Seaborg’s notes of this meeting are in Seaborg, Journal, Vol. 26, pp. 304-307.
  2. According to Secretary of State Rusk’s Appointment Book, he attended this meeting beginning at 4:38 p.m. (Johnson Library, Rusk Appointment Book, 1965)
  3. Keeny’s August 24 memorandum to Bundy and Hornig states that this paper by Raymond L. Garthoff (G/PM) “concludes that all significant powers except China, France, and Indonesia will probably sign a comprehensive test ban agreed to by the U.S. and the Soviet Union.” (Ibid., National Security File, Subject File, Disarmament, Committee of Principals, Vol. 2, Box 14) The paper by Garthoff was possibly transmitted by the memorandum from Fisher to the Deputies to the Committee of Principals, August 19. (Meeting of the Committee of Principals, August 25, Agenda; Washington National Records Center,RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 70 A 1266, 388.3 (2 Feb 65), Aug. 1965)
  4. According to the agenda of the meeting this item was entitled “‘The Military Consequences of Alternative Test Ban Proposals,’ dated August 11, 1965 (being reviewed in light of JCS and AEC comments) by Jack Howard, Assistant to the Secretary of Defense.” (Johnson Library, National Security File, Subject File, Disarmament, Committee of Principals, Vol. 2, Box 14)
  5. The “Jackson” safeguards, presumably by Senator Henry M. Jackson (D-WA), are not further identified.
  6. That is, one in which there would be an understanding that failure to provide adequate assurances of compliance through on-site inspection would be grounds for withdrawal. [Footnote in the source text.]
  7. In a statement to the Eighteen-Nation Disarmament Committee in Geneva on July 29, Italian Foreign Minister Amintore Fanfani said: “It is quite conceivable that the non-nuclear countries might agree to renounce unilaterally equipping themselves with nuclear weapons for a specific length of time, it being understood of course that if their aforementioned demands were not complied with during that time limit, they would resume their freedom of action.” The demands consisted of “having certain safeguards against nuclear attack” and “some progress in the nuclear disarmament of the nuclear countries.” (Documents on Disarmament, 1965, pp. 288-289)
  8. According to Keeny’s August 24 memorandum to Bundy and Hornig, at the August 25 meeting of the Committee of Principals, ACDA would present “the following four separate proposals for consideration by the Principals: #1—The comprehensive ban with no inspections except in connection with the withdrawal process. #2—An uninspected partial ban with a threshold at Mag. 4.5. #3—a comprehensive test ban with a reduced number of inspections. #4—An uninspected threshold treaty that would become comprehensive without inspections provided a sufficient number of states adhere to it.” (Johnson Library, National Security File, Disarmament, Committee of Principals, Vol. 2, Box 14) The background papers are memoranda from Foster to the members of the Committee of Principals, dated July 16 on Nuclear Test Ban Proposals (not found), and July 19, on Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban With Small Quota of On-Site Inspections. (Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 70 A 1266, 388.3 (2 Feb. 65), 1 July 65-31 July)
  9. Document 94.