191. National Security Decision Memorandum 3251


  • The Secretary of State
  • The Secretary of Defense
  • The Secretary of the Interior
  • The Administrator, Federal Energy Administration
  • The Director of Central Intelligence


  • United States Policy Toward Svalbard

The President has considered the response to NSSM 232 on US policy toward Svalbard/Spitsbergen submitted by the Acting Chair-man of the NSC Under Secretaries Committee on April 7, 1976, together with the recommendations relating thereto.

The President has decided that United States objectives with respect to Svalbard are to prevent Soviet encroachments in a region which is part of the NATO area and to protect commercial and scientific rights in the Svalbard area accruing to the United States as a signatory to the 1920 Treaty. The President directs that, in consultations with [Page 609] Norway and other signatories to the Spitsbergen Treaty concerning Norwegian-Soviet negotiations on their Barents Sea boundary dispute and the broader question of the status of the Svalbard shelf, the following guidelines should shape the US position:

—The United States should counsel firmness in defense of Norway’s legitimate rights and should provide diplomatic support to Norwegian efforts to assert more vigorously its sovereignty on Svalbard through expressions of support and encouragement to the Norwegians, encouragement of support for Norway by our allies and other Treaty signatories, and démarches to the USSR. Démarches to the USSR should draw on US-Soviet mutual interest in relaxing tensions and maintaining stability in the northern area and should include assurances that Norway seeks carefully delimited objectives without constraint on legitimate Soviet prerogatives.

—The United States should seek to protect its economic and strategic interests on the continental shelf and those of its allies through guarantees by Norway in the context of full acceptance of Norway’s sovereignty rights over the shelf rather than through extension of Spitsbergen Treaty rights. The United States reservation of rights under the Treaty to exploration and exploitation of mineral resources of the continental shelf should be maintained while eliciting Norwegian views and plans for a regulatory regime to guide exploitation of hydrocarbon resources under the waters of the Svalbard region.

The President has directed that the following specific steps be taken to implement the above policy guidelines:

—The Department of State should inform the Norwegian Government of US views and policy toward Svalbard, consulting with the Department of Defense on related security matters including US law of the sea interests and demilitarization of Svalbard.

—The United States should urge Norway to continue to reject Soviet attempts to use the sector line approach to resolve their continental shelf boundary dispute.

—Discussions with the allies, the USSR and others in support of Norwegian assertions of sovereignty on Svalbard and with regard to the status of the Svalbard continental shelf should be undertaken by the Department of State.

—The Director of Central Intelligence should prepare an intelligence survey of present Soviet dispositions and activities in the Svalbard region to provide a base-line against which to measure future Soviet activity.

—The Department of State and the Federal Energy Administration should prepare a preliminary study of possible regulatory regimes that might be applied to exploration and exploitation of the hydrocarbon re [Page 610] sources in the waters of the Svalbard region under various types of jurisdiction.

Brent Scowcroft
  1. Summary: The President provided guidelines for U.S. policy toward Svalbard.

    Source: Ford Library, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box 65, NSDM 325—United States Policy Toward Svalbard (1). Secret. A copy was sent to the Chairman of the JCS. On May 7, Vine gave Sommerfelt an aide-mémoire outlining U.S. policy on Svalbard. (Telegram 113903 to Oslo, May 10; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, 1976, [no film number].) The text of the aide-mémoire is contained in telegram 114779 to Paris, May 17. (Ibid.) In an October 23 memorandum to Kissinger, Hartman reported on bilateral consultations between Vine and the Norwegians, the West Germans, the British, and the French on Svalbard. (Ibid., Records of the Office of the Counselor, Helmut C. Sonnenfeldt, 1955–1977, Entry 5339, Box 10, POL 2 Norway) The CIA intelligence survey was completed in May 1977 and is entitled “Soviet Presence in the Svalbard Region,” GC 77–10074J. (Central Intelligence Agency, Office of the Deputy Director for Intelligence, Job 78B02822A, Box 1, Svalbard—Norway)