75. Minutes of a Senior Review Group Meeting1


  • Possible International Restraints on Environmental Warfare


  • Chairman

    • Henry A. Kissinger
  • State

    • Robert Ingersoll
    • Wreatham Gathright
    • Helmut Sonnenfeldt
  • Defense

    • William Clements
    • Robert Ellsworth
    • Maj. Gen. W.Y. Smith
  • JCS

    • Lt. Gen. John Pauly
  • CIA

    • Lt. Gen. Vernon Walters
    • [name not declassified]
  • ACDA

    • Dr. Fred Iklé
    • Robert Miller
    • Thomas Davies
  • NSC Staff

    • Lt. Gen. Brent Scowcroft
    • Dr. David Elliott
    • Michael Guhin
    • Col. Clinton Granger
    • James G. Barnum
[Page 242]


It was agreed that:

—The working group would draw up a negotiating scenario based on two premises: (1) that we would accept prohibitions on any military use of environmental modification techniques having long-term, widespread or especially severe effects (Option 2); and (2) that we would accept prohibitions on all military use of such techniques for hostile purposes (Option 3).

Secretary Kissinger: The subject of today’s meeting is environmental warfare. I don’t think this will be a long meeting. What I would like to do is clarify the major positions—see what they are—and then get your judgment as to whether we can send them forward to the President by memo for decision or whether we need an NSC meeting. My instincts are that we can probably do it by memo, but I have no fixed opinion on that. Fred (Dr. Iklé) would you like to sum up the situation?

Dr. Iklé: I guess I should start at the latest development, the Soviet UN resolution, which calls for a broad agreement that would prohibit influencing the environment and climate for military and any other purposes incompatible with the maintenance of international security. This, of course, came after our joint agreement at the Moscow Summit. Prior to the Joint Communiqué, the interagency study came out with three basic options: (1) that there would be no restraints on military use of environmental warfare; (2) that there would be prohibitions on military use of environmental modification techniques if they have long-term, widespread, or especially severe effects; and (3) broad prohibitions against all military use of such techniques. As I see it, there are only two issues we need to discuss: (1) what are the various positions on the three options, and (2) how should we handle the diplomatic part—the negotiations coming up in October—and the Soviet’s UN resolution.

Secretary Kissinger: I’m less worried about the UN than I am about how to handle the bilateral negotiations with the Soviets. What I would like somebody to explain to me is OSD’s position. Would it be unfair to say that OSD would rule out options one and three?

Mr. Clements: Henry, what bothers us—what is at issue now—is that we have no idea of Soviet capabilities and intentions in this field. We just don’t understand what their point is in wanting restraints on environmental warfare.

Secretary Kissinger: Well, it seems to me that it is this—that they want it all banned. I guess you could argue that they are beginning to think about the consequences of no restraints on such type of warfare and that they are sincerely concerned. You could argue that they don’t [Page 243] want an agreement. But, the fact is that we are committed to bilateral negotiations on this thing. What is it that OSD objects to in Option Three? What is Option Two banning? How does Option One differ from the others?

Mr. Clements: Well, we feel that the Soviet decision to have bilateral talks has really preempted Option One.

Secretary Kissinger: This is true if you preclude it as an outcome of negotiations. But, what I’d like to get to—how is Option Two different from Option One?

Mr. Ellsworth: What Option Two does is prohibit the use of such things as earthquakes and tidal waves—that type of thing. Most of those things we’re talking about in Option Two we don’t have the capability or technology to do anyway.

Mr. Ingersoll: We can create earthquakes.

Secretary Kissinger: Not really. I remember all that fuss about the underground explosion in the Aleutians. Everybody thought that would create earthquakes, and it never happened.

Mr. Miller: Basically, Option Two would prohibit actions that would have long-term applications.

Secretary Kissinger: I know, but that’s all double-talk. Just what sort of things would be prohibited under Option Two?

Mr. Ingersoll: Things that we don’t know much about right now. I mean, tidal waves and those sorts of things we can’t do. We’re just speculating on things that we might be able to do in the years to come.

Secretary Kissinger: Then we are talking about things that we are not presently capable of doing.

Mr. Ingersoll: That’s right, except for earthquakes.

Mr. Miller: And we can’t do that unless the enemy moves onto the fault first!

Mr. Ingersoll: Well, we really don’t know what we can do yet.

Secretary Kissinger: Just for my own education, is it possible to start an earthquake here and have it produce results somewhere else? I mean, you can’t start an earthquake in Nevada and send it to Siberia, can you?

Mr. Ellsworth: No, you can’t.

Gen. Pauly: The military utility of such an action is questionable anyway.

Mr. Clements: Earthquakes are disruptive things, Henry. They create a lot of havoc under the ground. They shear off oil drilling equipment, pipes, that sort of thing. Besides, they have to occur where there is a fault, like San Andreas.

Secretary Kissinger: Then you would have to get close to create an earthquake, no?

[Page 244]

Mr. Clements: That’s right, right on the spot.

Secretary Kissinger: We’d have to do it in Siberia then?

Mr. Clements: Yes.

Secretary Kissinger: Well, in this case, it seems a pity to me to ask for a bunch of studies just to have to give them up later. How do we conduct the negotiations with the Russians? How does OSD understand the options?

Mr. Clements: Our problem is that we don’t understand the Russian motivation for an agreement.

Secretary Kissinger: I can understand their motivation. Number one, they probably wanted something to sign at the Summit. Number two, their technology is behind ours in almost all fields. They just might be worried about what we are doing and this would be a way to find out. Number three, they might be on to something and they want to prevent us from following them into it. Which of the three, I don’t know, but I would think it would be one of the first two. That’s just a gut feeling. Hal (Mr. Sonnenfeldt) what do you think?

Mr. Sonnenfeldt: Well, first I think they are under some pressure to think about twenty years from now. No more than us, they don’t want to spend billions of dollars on projects that may have no application. I think they must be doing some work of some kind on weather modification that we don’t know about.

Secretary Kissinger: Clearly. Does Option Three prevent everything?

Mr. Ingersoll: Only techniques intended for hostile purposes.

Gen. Walters: And that is difficult to verify.

Secretary Kissinger: It seems to me that in peacetime there is no difference between Options Two and Three. In wartime, yes.

Mr. Clements: Yes, that’s right.

Secretary Kissinger: Well, whatever options we present to the President for decision, the operational results would not show up until there is a war, anyway. Research and development could go forward.

Mr. Ingersoll: It’s impossible to distinguish whether research and development are being used for peaceful purposes or war in this circumstance.

Secretary Kissinger: In the event of a major war, I think we would have to reassess our position. I think they would too. Would someone here write a negotiating scenario that we can give the President. I think that Option One is excluded, we really have to decide only between Option Two or Three. Option Three is easy, it prohibits everything. Option Two centers on military uses that would not be prohibited. What we need is clearer instructions for our delegation.

[Page 245]

Mr. Clements: We can work up the scenario.

Secretary Kissinger: Do we have a working group? Let’s have the working group do this and have it in a couple of days. Then I can move it on up to the President for decision. I’d like a negotiating scenario to send along.

As I understand it, the OSD option prohibits long-term uses of technical means to change the environment. The State and ACDA option would prohibit all hostile uses. Both positions permit research and development. The practical differences are really quite negligible.

Dr. Iklé: Would you like to consider the Russian UN resolution in the scenario?

Secretary Kissinger: Frankly, the bilateral negotiations are being used as a device to block discussion of this issue at the UN. We want to get that into a UN study group or something. So, we really won’t face the UN problem. Okay, thank you.

  1. Summary: The Senior Review Group met to discuss and clarify multiple agency views concerning restraints on environmental modification. At the conclusion of the meeting, Kissinger asked for the preparation of a negotiating scenario based on two premises: the acceptance of prohibitions on any military use of environmental modification techniques having long-term, widespread, or severe effects, and the acceptance of prohibitions on all military use of such techniques for hostile purposes.

    Source: Ford Library, National Security Council, Institutional Files—Meetings, Box 23, Meeting Minutes—Senior Review Group August 1974. Secret; Sensitive. All brackets are in the original except those indicating text that remains classified. The meeting took place in the White House Situation Room. No drafting information appears on the minutes.