82. Memorandum From Helmut Sonnenfeldt of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1


  • Possible Proposal for a CW Agreement at the Summit

As you requested, attached is a proposal on chemical weapons as a possible agreement between the President and Brezhnev during the latter’s visit. It builds on the 1972 Moscow Joint Communiqué which indicates the USA and USSR would “continue their efforts to reach international agreement regarding chemical weapons.”

The Senior Review Group just considered the NSSM 157 study,2 US position on chemical weapons prohibitions, and I understand that a draft memorandum for the President will be forwarded to you shortly on this matter. If the President decides to ban at least CW agent production (State and Defense’s choice), this would provide the opportunity for proposing a relatively short moratorium on the production of such agents as an impetus to negotiations at the Geneva Conference of the Committee on Disarmament (CCD). (Including open-air testing of lethal agents themselves in the moratorium might be considered, but this would probably involve a bureaucratic struggle.)

If a decision is reached soon on NSSM 157, we would probably be in a position to table a draft treaty in Geneva at the CCD either in late April or early May after our consultations with NATO Allies and Japan. Thus, an agreement with Brezhnev would follow soon thereafter and would be related to the CCD negotiations.

You should be aware that it is quite well known that we have produced no stocks since the mid-1960’s and plan no production for stockpiling purposes at least for the next two years (but, subject to Congressional approval, production of binary artillery shells could probably begin in 1975). Therefore, a moratorium of about 2–3 years would not require a significant change on our part. Of course it cannot be verified, and this might raise Congressional problems.

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You should also be aware that although the Soviets have asked us for counterproposals at the CCD and suggested they are open to limited treaty proposals, they have to date supported the comprehensive approach to prohibit the development, production, and stockpiling of CW agents and munitions. Thus, a ban on production may not satisfy the Soviets.

Attached (Tab A)3 is a paper you could give to Dobrynin. It suggests two points: a moratorium and a commitment to achieving more permanent international agreement. The language is somewhat technical but this must be carefully drawn in view of the widespread production of chemicals for peaceful use.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Kissinger Office Files, Box 67, Country Files—Europe—USSR, Map Room, Aug. 1972–May 31, 1973 [1 of 3]. Secret; Exclusively Eyes Only.
  2. For NSSM 157, “Review of U.S. Position on Chemical Weapons Prohibitions,” July 28, 1972, and the NSSM 157 study, see Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume E–2, Documents on Arms Control and Nonproliferation, 1969–1972, Documents 263275. The minutes of the March 5 SRG meeting are scheduled for publication ibid., volume XXXV, National Security Policy, 1973–1976.
  3. Attached but not printed.