277. Telegram 9903 From the Department of State to the Embassy in the Soviet Union1 2


  • Soviet Protest on SCHOONER
Soviet Charge Chernyakov called on Acting Secretary Bohlen on January 21 to deliver aide mémoire concerning US nuclear explosion of December 8, 1968. Bohlen replied that he had no basis for considering that there was a violation of the agreement. We have had no representations from the Government of Canada, our nearest neighbor. Moreover, as Bohlen told Dobrynin last April (in response to Dobrynin’s inquiry about BUGGY), there have been a number of Soviet nuclear events which resulted in detectable radioactivity outside the USSR’s borders. Although aware of this radioactivity, we have not complained about it because we did not consider the amounts involved to be large. Bohlen said we would, of course, be replying in writing to the Soviet communication.
Chernyakov indicated Soviets do not rpt not plan to publish their aide mémoire. Full text follows.

BEGIN TEXT According to a communication of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, on December 8, 1968 in the State of Nevada an underground nuclear explosion was carried out, as a result of which a crater was formed, with a diameter of about 220 meters and a depth of 60 meters.

This explosion was also registered by Soviet seismological means. The coordinates of the explosion corresponded to the U.S. nuclear test site in the State of Nevada.

According to data of competent agencies of the Soviet Union, a radioactive cloud from this explosion reached Soviet territory in the Baltic region on December 15, 1968, spread over the European part of the country at different levels, and on December 19 went outside the limits of the USSR.

Radiochemical analysis of control samples gathered showed that radioactive products of the nuclear explosion conducted in the USA on December 8, 1968 were present in the cloud, which caused a two-to-five-fold increase in their fallout in the regions along the Baltic, the Volga, the Northern Caucasus and Crimea.

As is well known, the Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapon Tests in the Atmosphere, in Outer Space and Under Water prohibits the States parties to the Treaty from carrying out nuclear explosions [Page 3]“if such explosion causes radioactive debris to be present outside the territorial limits of the State.” Since, as a result of the nuclear explosion of December 8, 1968, radioactive debris went outside the national territory of the USA, this constituted a violation of this Treaty.

The Soviet side expects that the Government of the USA will present the necessary explanations and will take appropriate measures for the purpose of complying with the provisions of the Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapon Tests in the Atmosphere, in Outer Space and Under Water. Washington, January 21, 1969. END TEXT

FOR OTTAWA We plan Inform Canadian Embassy here in confidence of substance of Soviet aide mémoire and of fact Bohlen told Chernyakov we have received no representations re SCHOONER from GOC. We plan tell Canadians that nature of our written reply is under study.


Acting Bohlen
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–1969, AE 6 US. Secret. It was repeated to Ottawa. Drafted by MacCracken (EUR/SOV); cleared by Toon and Springsteen (EUR), Dubs (EUR/SOV), Scott (EUR/CAN), and Lehman (G/PM); and approved by Bohlen.
  2. Soviet Chargé Chernyakov delivered an aide-mémoire protesting the fallout from a December 8, 1968, U.S. underground nuclear test (Schooner).