171. Summary of Conclusions of a Special Coordination Committee Meeting1


  • SALT


  • State
  • Secretary Cyrus Vance
  • Leslie Gelb
  • Defense
  • Secretary Harold Brown
  • Charles W. Duncan
  • Walter Slocombe
  • JCS
  • General George S. Brown
  • Lt Gen William Y. Smith
  • CIA
  • Robert Bowie
  • Howard Stoertz
  • ACDA
  • Paul Warnke
  • Spurgeon Keeny
  • NSC
  • Zbigniew Brzezinski
  • David Aaron
  • William Hyland
  • Victor Utgoff
  • Roger Molander



Paul Warnke described the state of play in Geneva with respect to the Soviet proposals for non-circumvention and non-transfer provisions. The Soviet non-circumvention provision is fairly general and refers to circumvention of the agreement through a third state or in any other manner. Their non-transfer proposal is highly restrictive and includes a commitment not to transfer strategic weapons or to assist in their development by third countries.

Warnke indicated that he feels it is time to consult with our Allies and move on these issues on the grounds that some kind of non-circumvention provision is unavoidable and that facing this issue now is preferable to leaving it to the final stages of the negotiations. He described two alternative non-circumvention provisions that we would hope would serve as a solution to both the non-circumvention and non-transfer provisions. These two provisions differ only in that one refers explicitly to the possibility of circumvention through another country, whereas the other speaks only to circumvention in general.

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Warnke expressed the view that the Soviets would prefer a provision that does call out the possibility of circumvention through third countries, and that we recognize this and could also accept such a provision.

Secretary Vance indicated that he supported Paul Warnke’s proposal that we take up this issue now with the Allies in anticipation of initiating negotiations with the Soviets in the near future. He indicated a preference for starting with the non-circumvention provision that does not refer to third countries and falling back to the one that does when the Soviets raise objections to the first approach.

Dr. Brzezinski raised the issue of just what our intentions were with respect to such a non-circumvention provision. Secretary Brown indicated that he thought it was simply a political assurance that would assuage some of the Soviet concerns with respect to such issues as the Germans obtaining large numbers of GLCMs on which they might put French warheads.

Secretary Vance indicated that we also had an interest in such a provision as a basis for objecting to possible future Soviet actions. Secretary Brown pointed out that there was no danger of the Soviets circumventing the agreement through third countries.

General Brown raised a question of whether we would gain as much politically with the Soviets through such a provision as compared to the cost with our Allies, who in general would prefer no non-circumvention provision of any type. There was general agreement that such a provision is probably unavoidable and will have to be handled carefully with the Allies. Paul Warnke indicated that he thought the approach of covering both non-circumvention and non-transfer with a single non-circumvention provision could be sold to the Allies.

The SCC then discussed how Paul Warnke might respond to Allied questions about the meaning of a non-circumvention provision to include such issues as whether we could transfer cruise missiles, TERCOM, geodetic data, etc. It became clear that some of these questions were difficult to answer. In this context, David Aaron raised the issue of whether we might not be better off with some specific non-transfer provisions to remove some of the ambiguity on this issue. Secretary Brown said that he saw any provision as a vehicle which the Soviets could use for making mischief with the Alliance which he believed to be their principal objective in seeking non-circumvention and non-transfer provisions. It was agreed that we should continue on the track of a general non-circumvention provision, that this should be discussed with the Allies, and that in preparation for this discussion, the [Page 731] Working Group should tune up the Q’s and A’s in the paper which was provided for the meeting.2

Definition of Cruise Missile Range

Dr. Brzezinski then asked for comments on the issue of the definition of cruise missile range. Secretary Brown described the fundamental problem associated with this issue; namely, the differences in flight profiles for various cruise missiles, the difficulty in verifying maximum ranges, etc. His conclusion is that we should pursue a cruise missile range definition based on the maximum system operational range or the maximum demonstrated range, whichever is greater.

Dr. Brzezinski raised the verification issue with respect to these definitions and there was general agreement that verification [less than 1 line not declassified] was extremely difficult. Paul Warnke indicated that we had no idea as to how the Soviets viewed this issue, although their proposals for cruise missile range limits were consistent with a maximum system operational range definition. He also described his recent discussions with Dobrynin and, in particular, Dobrynin’s reaction to his emphasis on the distinction between the testing limitations and the deployment limitations in our cruise missile position. He came away with the impression that Dobrynin may, in fact, understand our position although it is still not certain. He noted that Dobrynin had once described the testing limitations as meaningless. This led to a discussion of our cruise missile range requirements and their impact on the range definition.

There was general agreement in the end that a range definition was required, that the preferred range definition appeared to be maximum system operational range or maximum demonstrated range, whichever is greater, that there was no urgency in getting to the Soviets on this issue, and that the Working Group should review its analysis of this issue on the basis of the SCC discussion.

Cruise Missile Definition

Secretary Vance offered his view that we should go with a cruise missile definition that includes all armed cruise missiles, but that unarmed cruise missiles (i.e., reconnaissance vehicles) should not be included. Secretary Brown raised the problem of using the same airframe for reconnaissance vehicles and weapons delivery systems. This led to the discussion of the possibility of demanding that reconnaissance vehicles use different airframes from armed cruise missiles.

Secretary Brown offered his view that cruise missile limitations should apply only to nuclear-armed cruise missiles, since otherwise the [Page 732] impact on conventional weapons systems was potentially too great. This led to a discussion in which David Aaron questioned whether we had really thought out what we really wanted in terms of cruise missiles. Paul Warnke defended our current approach on cruise missiles as being consistent with permitting consideration of this issue while we negotiate cruise missile limitations in a follow-on agreement. Secretary Brown expressed skepticism that we would be able to change the cruise missile limitations in such a follow-on negotiation, and that we really did need to consider at this time what the impact would be if these limitations were made part of a long-term agreement. Warnke disagreed with this view on the basis that the proposed protocol did not prejudice the eventual cruise missile limitations to that degree.

Secretary Brown expressed strong concerns about the cruise missile range/payload trade-off problem and its lack of verifiability. He argued that in the light of this problem, we should propose a cruise missile definition which was in our interest—which in his view was a definition that only covered nuclear-armed cruise missiles.

David Aaron again raised the question of when we will know what we really want in terms of cruise missiles, which led to a discussion of the tradeoff between cruise missiles and aircraft and at what point in terms of aircraft attrition (e.g., five percent) cruise missiles became a more attractive alternative.

William Hyland raised the possibility of deferring the cruise missile definition issue until the follow-on negotiations. Under this approach, the cruise missile definition would be considered at the same time that long-term cruise missile range and platform limitations were under negotiation. This approach could provide some additional negotiating leverage in the follow-on negotiations. Paul Warnke raised the question of what we would say if the Soviets accepted our current position and then asked whether the limitations covered both conventionally-armed and nuclear-armed cruise missiles. This led to further discussion about what our long-term interest was on cruise missiles. Dr. Brzezinski questioned whether we were using them to exact concessions from the Soviets or whether we really needed these weapons systems. Discussion on this issue was inconclusive, but there was general agreement that at this point in time, it was very difficult to make a judgment about what cruise missile requirements for us and the Allies would be in the long term. On the issue of what the Soviets’ interpretation might be, it was pointed out that our Moscow proposal for a 2500 km across-the-board cruise missile range limitation was explicitly stated to cover both conventionally-armed and nuclear-armed cruise missiles.

It was finally agreed that views on the cruise missile definition issue would be prepared and provided to the President, with Secretary [Page 733] Vance and Paul Warnke providing the argument for a definition covering all armed cruise missiles and Secretary Brown providing the argument for a definition that applied only to nuclear-armed cruise missiles.

It was also decided to notify the Congress of our intent to move on the non-circumvention issue with the Soviets.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Brzezinski Office File, Subject Chronology, Box 113, SALT: 5–6/77. Top Secret; Sensitive. The meeting took place in the White House Situation Room.
  2. Not found.